On November 3 last year, NSW state coroner Michael Barnes read through his 30-page finding into the death of Phillip Hughes.
The four-day hearing had been brutal. Within the first few hours, it developed into a standoff between the cricketers on the field that day at the SCG in 2014 when Hughes was felled by a bouncer and a grieving family sitting in the front row, often in tears, shaking their heads in disbelief and mouthing obscenities.
Ultimately, Barnes saw the incident for what it was: a tragic accident with nobody at fault. Yet he made one observation that stood above the rest.
"Hopefully, the focus on this unsavoury aspect of the incident may cause those who claim to love the game to reflect upon whether the practice of sledging is worthy of its participants," Barnes said. "An outsider is left to wonder why such a beautiful game would need such an ugly underside."
Just over a year later, as the Ashes series takes hold of us all, that advice has seemingly been ignored. The lack of respect shown by Australia and England towards each other is concerning.
We tread carefully here because, even three years later, the heartbreak of Hughes' death remains raw. But the "ugly underside" Barnes spoke about is being exposed the longer this series goes on.
It started with Australian vice-captain David Warner talking about "war" and finding within himself "hatred" of the opposition; continued with off-spinner Nathan Lyon wanting to "end careers"; coursed through the first Test with the supposed "bullying" of England keeper Jonny Bairstow over a headbutt that doesn't really sound like it was a headbutt; and then reached its nadir in the final session on day four in Adelaide when Australian captain Steve Smith and keeper Tim Paine engaged in some animated tongue-fu with England skipper Joe Root, who was pointing his bat like a lightsabre.
Meanwhile, off the field, former England gloveman Matt Prior has been fuelling the hate, too, claiming without any attribution that the Australians have "crossed the line" with their "personal" sledging.
Prior, it seems, is referring to some growing chatter about what really is the root of the conflict between Bairstow and the Australian side. Only those on the field really know what has been said, although it's all over social media.
Indeed, none of what we've witnessed and heard so far is comparable to what the Hughes family alleged at the inquest when it was claimed NSW quick Doug Bollinger had told Hughes: "I'm going to kill you". Bollinger and others denied it was uttered while Barnes, in his finding, said it had no bearing on Hughes' death.
Yet the line is being crossed in this series. Admittedly, we all have different lines when it comes to sledging on a cricket field. I prefer clever missives like Steve Waugh's apocryphal line "You just dropped the World Cup" to Herschelle Gibbs rather than Glenn McGrath's, "What does Brian Lara's d--k taste like?" to Ramnaresh Sarwan. Some of us are old-fashioned like that.
There's strategic missives to intimidate, chirping from the slips cordon and death stares from the quicks after the ball has missed the edge of the bat by millimetres. Then there's schoolyard bullying that sounds dreadful over a stump mic and looks even worse from the myriad television cameras that take us out onto the centre square.
Smith and Root – two of the main protagonists spitting fire at each other – can change the tone for the remaining three Tests.
"As I've said previously there's a line we're not to cross and I've got no issues there," Smith said after the Gabba Test. "I think the umpires and match referees are there to determine that."
I find that statement extraordinary. The captain is in control of his team. He determines how his players behave, the manner in which they play. Smith lost control of his emotions late on day four in Adelaide and it filtered through his side.
As this series plays out, it's hard to ignore a remark from England quick James Anderson.
"It was a tragic accident," Anderson said in reference to Hughes' death. "I think it shook the whole world at the time and it is still there. I think when we get out on the field things like that will make sure the game's played in the right spirit."
He said that in July 2015, on the eve of the last Ashes series. Time for both sides to abide those words.
No stadium backdown, Premier
So, Premier Gladys Berejiklian's $2.3 billion stadium announcement is going well, isn't it?
Ms Berejiklian needs to stand strong despite the very angry and passionate criticism coming her way over the state government's decision to knock down and rebuild Allianz and ANZ stadiums.
If she changes her mind on this one, it will be the third backflip on Sydney's stadium policy in the past three years.
Some wonder if NSW is getting bang for its buck. They ask, "What possible return could it get on these big fancy schmancy stadiums?"
Fact: the NRL has a memorandum of understanding in place with the government that keeps the grand final in Sydney for the next 25 years.
If securing that event over the next quarter of a century doesn't cover the $2.3 billion, with the tens of millions it brings into the local economy each October long weekend, then what will?
Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has been particularly rabid on the issue, saying there's nothing wrong with these venues.
Which surprised one reader, who saw her attend a Sydney FC match at Allianz last season after being dropped off right at the turnstiles at the Moore Park Road entrance, ushered through the crowd by security staff and whisked up an elevator to a function.
Under those circumstances, I'd never want Allianz to change, either.
No tears for cheats Russia
For those of us covering the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014, one thing clearly stood out: vodka ...
No! Not vodka, you fool, but how much pressure the Russian athletes were under to win gold medals; all of them mere pawns for Russian President Vladimir Putin as he two-finger saluted the rest of the world. The World, mostly, had condemned the IOC for awarding hosting rights to Russia because of its appalling human rights record.
The Russian athletes merely shrugged their shoulders. With a cash incentive of $US200,000 per medal, as well as a Mercedes-Benz (GL-Class for gold, ML-Class for silver, GLK-Class for bronze), what are you going to do?
Putin was seated right near the media tribune for the ice hockey clash between Russia and the USA. When the under-strength Americans won in a shootout, he stormed out in disgust.
A year later, it was revealed just how much pressure those Russian athletes were under when systematic doping, including the tampering of urine samples passed through a hole in a wall at the drug-testing lab, was revealed.
This week the IOC banned Russia from competing in the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang next year. Russia doesn't deserve to be there. It shouldn't have been allowed to compete at all at the Rio Olympics last year.
As Australian sprinter Raelene Boyle, who was cheated out of gold medals because of similar institutionalised doping from East Germany, said: "I'm glad the IOC did it. It only took them 40, 50 years."
And, maybe soon, other sporting bodies like, say, FIFA, will stop awarding Putin's country hosting rights to events like, say, the World Cup until its state-sponsored doping program is irrevocably wound up and never seen again.
"I'm very disrespected in the league. Commentators, announcers don't talk about me. I'm still making plays. Nobody talks about that. That drives me. Don't talk about me. That makes me hungry. They talk about Gronk, Kelce, but not me. They don't talk about Delanie Walker." – They don't have to. Tennessee tight-end Delaine Walker sounds like he's doing a good enough job talking about Delanie Walker.
As the first ball was being sent down in the second Test, ABC Radio's Jim Maxwell mused it wouldn't be long before all Tests would be played with a pink ball over four days and nights. Let's hope not. The Boxing Day and New Year's Tests can never be touched. Yet there's something undeniably electric about the way Adelaide now does Test cricket.
Meanwhile, Kevin Pietersen's high-pitched laugh that can be heard just off-camera during Channel Nine's cricket coverage replaces the KFC bucket ad – "There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza!" – as the most annoying sound of the summer so far. Stay tuned for more updates during the WACA Test next week.
It's a big weekend for … Western Sydney Wanderers, who meet Sydney FC in the derby at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night. Sitting second-last on the ladder, a win could not come at a better time for Josep Gombau's team.
It's an even bigger weekend for … those attending the Hong Kong International Races carnival, culminating in Sunday's meeting at Sha Tin. Australian horses have been banned for bio security reasons but that hasn't halted the yearly pilgrimage of soon-to-be skint punters to Honkers and her many delights.