A hairless Sphynx cat. This is a breed not often featured on sporting club crests – Photo: The Pug Father, 2008. The Pug Father is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.
I have a weird smell that has been following me all day. Which probably means that it is coming from me, or more precisely my clothes. This isn’t a cause for panic – I’ll figure it out when I get home. For now the folks around me are just going to have to live with occasional wafts of something that they’ll not quite be able to work out.
This is a triumph for me. Not that I have acquired eau de something, but that I’m able to just carry on without getting freaked out. Partly this is because of medication, but also it’s because I’ve grown and I’m more capable of discerning what’s important in life. For instance I’m not in a job that requires a heap of contact with others – If I was, I’d have a spare shirt on standby in my office.
I think I’ve narrowed it down to the back of my shirt.
But I don’t have a spare shirt and so I recognize that there is nothing I can do about this smell. Also, I live in a house with 2 small kids, a puppy and 2 cats. Finding weird stains on my clothes is not something I bat an eyelid at any more. Quite frankly if I can get out the door in the morning and I’m able to identify the source of that squishy purple bubble in my shoe, then I’ve had myself an ok start.
This smell though is enigmatic and it has an edge to it that is a little sharper than a blueberry-tainted sock.
I kind of think it might be a small patch of cat urine.
That I ironed into my shirt this morning.
Yep, I’m getting occasional bursts of an odour that is like I imagine cat urine would be if you reduced it in a hot pan. I guess that this doesn’t immediately read as a good thing – It probably makes me seem like 1 of those weird cat people. This though is the beauty of having ironed cat urine into your shirt, the pale yellow lining if you like – I feel remarkably free because of it.
The limits of society have been already stretched for me so I now have more latitude in which to operate. I can now spill relish on my shirt front and that’s relatively ok. I can sing Tom Waits’ numbers to myself in public and it’s eccentrically acceptable. I can even ramble barely coherent sentences at colleagues, suggesting for instance, that our organisation is a little horse that is competing against Jaguars. As in the car brand.
Like Chelsea FC manager José Mourinho did.
Now I don’t imagine that José’s cats took a leak on his attire. I’m not even sure if José is the kind of guy to own cats – If he does I reckon those hairless 1s would be his type as that would eliminate the danger of an errant hair being out of place on his person. José you see, is 1 snappily dressed dude. Immaculate and fashionably black turtle-neck jackets seem more José’s style.
Yet José feels unconstrained by society’s mores – When discussing his team’s title chances, as opposed to those of Arsenal and Manchester City, he can explain that the triumvirate are made up of:
‘Two horses and a little horse. A little horse who needs milk and to learn how to jump’
Chelsea are the little horse who needs milk and to learn how to jump. Presumably the milk is for calcium to strengthen bones, while the jumping is because they are vulnerable at set-piece attacks.
Then, less than a week later, he can announce that, no, Manchester City is no longer a horse. Instead, that rival club is:
‘…a Jaguar. You cannot put an ‘L’ plate on a Jaguar.’
Presumably he’s referring to a Jaguar that has no need of milk and that has learned to jump. Although why you’d want a car that runs on milk and that jumps is lost on me.
As is a lot of what José has said, including that you can’t put learner plates on a Jaguar – I’m sure I’ve seen that. He can say nonsensical things like this though and nobody, even the confused me, will do more than chuckle at him. There will be no cat urine and no recriminations, because José is a modern football manager, doing what modern football managers do – He’s stretching the limits of what society expects so as to give his team more latitude in which to operate.
It’s more than giving them the freedom to spill relish on their shirt-fronts though – Take his ‘little horse’ analogy. This is patently wrong – Chelsea is not Seabiscuit, the unlikely equine champion of the people. No, Chelsea is War Admiral, the big money favourite of the well-heeled crowd. The Blues are 1 of the English Premier League’s (EPL) big 4 clubs – They are backed by billionaire Roman Abramovich and have at their disposal a frankly ridiculous amount of money, some of which has already been parleyed into a conglomeration of some of the world’s best players. Today, they’re about as closely related to Seabiscuit as I am to fresh-smelling clobber.
José knows this and he knows that we know it too. What he’s doing though is getting us to focus on the silly thing that he said, while creating the freedom for his team to believe that they are Seabiscuit. It’s not a new strategy – EPL managers have been using it for a while, most famously Sir Alex Ferguson, formerly of Manchester United, who frequently suggested that his club, arguably the largest in the game, was just a small outfit taking on the world. He launched tirades against the referees, the media, the EPL, FIFA and whoever else happened to wander vaguely into the bellicose Scot’s focus. All of this gave his team the freedom to believe and almost all of it was a load of cock and bull.
And Sir Alex has an archetypal disciple in his heir at Manchester United, David Moyes. The current favourite of David is to vehemently deny all of the evidence that suggests his team was not the best 1 out there. Moyes will in fact utter illogical praise of his side, even when they have been comprehensively beaten. In doing so he might seem like a clueless idiot, but that will be the story – His players meanwhile will be shielded to some extent from the potentially wounding realisation that they have in fact been playing like clueless idiots.
Belief in your self is a valuable commodity – It’s how you turn from a horse into a Jaguar. Apparently it’s also how you wean, which may be a surprise to millions of breastfeeding women but there you go, because José managed that transition in a week. He even went so far as to start off the press conference, at which he described Manchester City as a Jaguar, with a brutal dismissal of the horse talk:
‘It’s time to kill the horses.’
I hope he was being metaphorical and I’m almost certain from the resultant chuckles that he was – He was merely announcing that the horse claptrap had outlived it’s usefulness – It was in danger of becoming a pastiche and so was metaphorically run over by an F-type Jaguar.
I can be specific about the model of Jaguar because José was the guest of honour at the launch of the F-type scant days after his reference to the car-maker and he subsequently became the 1st in Britain to own the much-hyped coupe. The timing is uncanny.
The good news is that Chelsea are themselves not a literal Jaguar – Either the brand of car, nor the cat. If in fact they were to be a cat, they’d most likely be a lion, as that is the symbol on their crest. Even that is just a symbolic link though – Lions are not native to London and they don’t do so well at soccer. Soccer is just not what a lion is about.
They are about taking a leak from time to time though and I’m wondering if 1 of the big-maned cats in the crest relieved himself on José Mourinho’s branded club jacket. The garment would be fashionably black so you’d hardly notice and so I reckon the smell could’ve been unwittingly ironed in.
Happens to the best of us.
This is either, a. The aftermath of a supernova, SNR 0519, that occurred in the constellation of Dorado around 150,000 years ago or, b. The aftermath of a supernova, SNR Perth, that occurred in the constellation of Longworth72 around 6 nights ago – Photo: ESA/Hubble & NASA, 2013. ESA/Hubble & NASA are not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72, who has mastery over the universe, or at least some images of it.
It was hot in the world of Longworth72 this Friday night just past. Damn hot – The kind of night that gives rise to a sizzling shimmer, dancing across the sky.
It wasn’t meteorological – The day’s top temperature in my home town of Perth, Western Australia, had been a balmy 30 C – Not cool but by no means a physical trial. Instead the warmth I was feeling had come from a series of events around this city, each adding degrees until it appeared to me as if the whole metropolis had reached an agreeable searing – Like the 1st swallow of a fine whisky going down in front of a crackling fire.
The 1st log on that fire came from the Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) Ground where the finals of the Australian domestic T20 competitions were held. The early game was the women’s final and it saw the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Meteors bat 1st. That outfit had already gained a significant triumph by making the final – They hadn’t been favoured by many pundits. Yet here they were, taking to the crease against the Queensland Fire.
Generally meteors don’t do well with fire.
Which is how it played out for the ACT women, who never managed to light up enough with the bat and then failed to crash through some atmospheric Queensland batting, losing by 7 wickets.
If that got the Fire started, then the next game cranked up the radiant temperature a further notch. The men’s T20 final featured the visiting Hobart Hurricanes taking on the home-town heroes, Perth, in front of a capacity and parochial crowd. The Perth T20 outfit were in their 3rd consecutive final – They’d lost the 1st 2 and were looking to make amends at the 3rd time of asking.
In spite of that hot streak of finals appearances, the Perth men had only been coolly fancied when the season started. This was pretty much as it had been before the start of the previous 2 seasons – Each time though, they have defied the pundits and forged a mostly successful season out of a fusion of disparate but noble elements. For this term those included an aged spinner and a relatively obscure slogger who’s day job involved being an electrician.
Electricians are sometimes known as ‘sparkies’ down here, which is fitting because the sparks from Craig Simmons lit the fuse for a decent 1st innings in this final. And it was a fuse that had Shaun Marsh on the end of it ready to explode and drive Perth to a formidable 192.
It was to be a total that never seemed to be under Hobart’s control – The visitors started slow and lost wickets as the required run-rate climbed ever more out of reach. Of particular note was veteran Perth spinner, Bradley ‘George’ Hogg – The 43 year-old turner bagged 2 wickets and gave up just 17 runs from his 4 overs. With bowling like that, by the time the final over had rolled around, Hobart required an insurmountable 48 runs to win and they went on to lose by 39, sending a capacity WACA crowd into warm celebrations.
Maybe they were more than warm – After all, the Perth side are known as the Scorchers and the celebratory flames that rocketed into the air to acclaim the triumphant locals would have fired up a few post-game parties.
So by now it was cooking in Perth, but in the suburb of Thornlie, in the southern part of the metropolitan area, there was a danger of the heat being quenched – For there, the Australian Baseball League (ABL) Championship Series was getting under way, with the visiting Canberra Cavalry (Another ACT team) taking on the local outfit, the Perth Heat.
The Heat were not unfancied by anybody – They almost never are, having won 4 of the previous 5 national titles. Adding to this hot record was a season that left a fiery trail of carbonised baseballs across Australia – The Heat went 32 and 14 across the regular season for a sweltering 0.696. The next best record belonged to the Sydney Blue Sox, who had an off-the-boil 23 and 23 (.500). Canberra, who finished 3rd couldn’t even register a winning season – A barely tepid 22 and 24 (.478) enough to get them into the play-offs.
Still, for all of that, the Cavalry looked to have warmed up nicely early in Friday night’s Game 1. They had disposed of the Blue Sox so had some form and they parleyed this into a 3-0 lead by the middle of the 6th. By the middle of the 8th they still lead 3-2 and an upset to open the 3-game series was brewing.
It was a hot night in Perth though and just when it looked like Canberra would cool off the town, the Heat got turned back on – The home side levelled things up in the bottom of the 8th and then smoked a decisive line drive in the 14th for a walk-off.
All of this made the town sizzle – There was 1 final event though that got some of us walking on hot coals – Dancing across them even.
Yeah, it’s not really sport but I reckon there’s some lessons in this for any aspiring champions – For Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band owned the Perth Arena – Dominating in any kind of statistic you’d care to measure and throwing in something extra beside.
I’ve previously written about my fancy football boots theorem and I’ve always figured that nobody really ever gets the right to wear those boots.
I was wrong.
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band can wear whatever kind of boots they damn well want.
Because they have game. The game.
It’s not just that there are highlights (there are) it’s more that there is an absence of lowlights or even averagelights. Every song, no matter how much you’ve expected it to be performed well, is a surprise that leads to a re-interpretation of what constitutes ‘awesome’.
I now really get the new single ‘High Hopes’ – I see what they did there.
Stuff that I thought would be tired and hackneyed, like the Courtney Cox moment that goes with ‘Dancing in the Dark’, felt like it was fresh and never seen before. And the banter and interplay between this tight group came across as spontaneous and improvised, even when you know that Bruce, Max, Nils, Gary, Stevie and Roy have done this so many times in the past.
For all that, I can pull out some moments that stoked the flames above others: The cover of The Saints ‘Just Like Fire Would’ was so brassily polished and heartfelt that you’d swear that it was originally written for Bruce and Company, rather than an Aussie band from Brisbane. ‘The Girls in Their Summer Clothes’ was pared back to a solo acoustic rendition that fit the hot night to a perfect degree, while the re-worked ‘Ghost of Tom Joad’ featured some Tom Morello guitar work, that if it didn’t quite outshine Bruce, at least was able to hold up a candle to him.
2 more moments – The catchy refrain from ‘Pay Me My Money Down’ delivered in a raucous New Orleans style, complete with a ramble through the crowd by the horn and backing sections, and then the final act of the night – The house lights up and the band having made their farewells, Bruce was left alone on the stage with his guitar. After 3 hours of non-stop rock, the evergreen Boss still had a couple of numbers left in him, the 2nd of which was the stunning ‘Thunder Road’. When it was done the man turned alone and wandered off stage and on this hottest of Longworth72 nights, that was about the coolest end you could imagine.
Epilogue: The radiant warmth stretched through Saturday as the Perth Heat won the decisive Game 2 of the ABL Championship Series, earning them their 5th Claxton Shield in the past 6 seasons. Not quite as successful but just as entertaining were the Perth Glory Women, who finished off a disappointing term in some style that night – In front of a decent home crowd, the women in purple played with an abandon not seen all season, creating the kind of open entertainment that fans of all teams appreciate. For a bonus they won that entertainment too – Rallying from 0-1 down at the half to snatch a late 2-1 triumph over the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Longworth72′s fine whisky had surely runneth over.
Taking the London Underground, you get on the eastbound District line at Upton Park, the home of West Ham United FC, changing to the Jubilee line at West Ham. From there you roll to Waterloo (above) and then on to Westminster, before a return to the District Line and the Wimbledon branch. Alighting at Fulham Broadway and it is a short walk to Stamford Bridge, where can be found Chelsea FC. These 2 London football clubs are surely linked by Waterloo then – Photo: Chris McKenna (Thryduulf), 2006. Chris McKenna (Thryduulf) is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.
On Wednesday the 29th of January, a week or so just past, English football heavyweights Chelsea welcomed fellow Londoner’s West Ham United to their Stamford Bridge home for a crucial English Premier League (EPL) clash. Chelsea needed a win to keep pace with the Premiership’s leaders, whilst the Hammers needed to gain any points that they could in order to aid them in their struggle against relegation.
With more to lose, West Ham were defensive from the off and is as often the case in such circumstances, Chelsea struggled to break their desperate opponent’s stubborn resistance. The result was a goal-free stalemate that gave West Ham a precious away point, while Chelsea effectively dropped 2 points in their hunt for the title.
After the game, Chelsea’s manager José Mourinho was not happy at what had transpired. He explained why he was unamused in a post-match press conference whereby he provided his own variation of Bill Woodfull’s famous line:
‘There are two teams out there. One is playing cricket and the other is not.’
Obviously José didn’t mention cricket in his paraphrasing – He was not suggesting that either team was playing cricket during a football match, although this confusion would have explained the lack of a scoring shot as neither team seemed to have brought a bat. Instead he was claiming that by being so defensive and thus stifling the artistic flair of his own team that West Ham were not playing football as it should be played in the EPL or indeed in the modern game.
Or the not-so-modern game. In fact José went on to clarify that West Ham’s stultifying approach was:
‘…football from the 19th century.’
Which is a long time ago.
This is an alarming prospect. If correct then it would imply that, as they apply to football, the cultural and technological advances of the past 100 to 200 years have been for nought.
Or, more accurately, nought-nought.
To ascertain then if José might be on to something, I thought I’d analyse a game from the 19th century. This admittedly is difficult as film only really started to gain prominence at the end of the 19th century and earlier inventions, such as zoetrope, would have required a ridiculous number of on-the-fly animations to be accurate.
Fortunately though, there exists enough written accounts so as to make at least 1 match-up worth comparing to José’s 21st century experience – An international, between France and England in the early part of that past age.
It was not, in spirit or in actuality, a friendly international. There was little love lost between the opposing sides and the outcome of this match would settle a European title. Consequently both outfits travelled with large squads to the ground – Travelling was necessary as previous encounters had seen extensive crowd trouble and so a relatively neutral venue was selected for the occasion.
The English side was not exclusively English – All of the home countries were represented in the playing list and there were also some continental brethren, particularly from Germany and the Netherlands, in the ranks. This is a rough approximation of both the modern day clubs, Chelsea and West Ham. However, as this English team of yore was perhaps over-matched in personnel and started the match with a defensive intent, I think they were more like West Ham than Chelsea.
That means that I’m equating ye olden-day French outfit with the present-day Chelsea. The comparison is vague – The latter outfit was predominantly Gallic in staffing, while Chelsea does not have a single Frenchman on its current list – Ironically the modern West Ham does.
Still, like José’s skilled aggressors, this French club of the 19th century was determined to play with flair and style. Attack was the mantra for them, with their tempestuous manager favouring forward thrusts through direct channels. In an ironic echo of José’s comments, the English manager would later deride this as:
‘…the old way.’
At 1st this meant attacking drives down the flanks. The English club’s wing-backs though were up to that challenge – They made each side of the pitch into a bulwark of resistance, blocking repeated raids with stubborn tackling and the occasional wall. This was to be critical – Without control of those flanks the French team were forced inboard, where they were susceptible to an offside trap.
This was not a crippling blow though – The French team still had the numbers to swamp the midfield, with the resultant potential for potent attacks through the centre channel and into the heart of the English defence.
But what a defence it proved to be. The English outfit had deployed a flat back-line across the park. Because it was so flat, this defence looked thin, however this seeming frailty was misleading. Where the French team strode forward, restricted to narrow channels, their opposite numbers could overlap and tackle these laterally limited attacks in relative strength. Imagine every member of the defence is agile enough to act as both a centre-back and a sweeper – This is what faced that French club.
This was a pivotal tactical distinction – The French manager, perhaps lacking mental fitness from a period of suspension on the sidelines, or perhaps just jaded by the length of the overall campaign (He’d lead his team in away matches as far afield as Egypt and Russia), was unable to adapt. Without variation from their opponents, the English side were able to absorb each attempted strike by the French. Like West Ham, they had stultified their opposition, refusing to let them play their natural game and thus negating their pomp and flair.
The French manager was as miffed by this as his modern-day counterpart José was by Chelsea’s inability to break down West Ham.
So he called for a redoubling of his troop’s efforts, surging forward in 1 final all-out and seemingly overwhelming attack.
It got close, bulging the defensive line and forcing the kind of goal-line scramble that is less about tactical nous and more about desperation.
The French strike-force could not score though and as so often happens when 1 side commits so heavily to attack, they became exposed to a counter. The English manager saw his team’s chance and roared them on, urging his men to take over their opponent’s territory. In this task they were aided by the addition of some quality German substitutes, who, with fresh legs, were able to attack down the flank and fire crosses into the centre at will.
The back-pedalling French team were broken, mentally and physically distraught. They had ceded possession of the momentum and, despite a last-ditch rally, conceded the winning strike in the dying minutes.
It was a near run thing though. Damn near.
Just how close can be demonstrated in the toll taken on the men who had donned the kit and fought for 1 of the teams. A fair number of the brave souls suffered leg or arm injuries, while heads and torsos were also not spared. Sadly, neither team was able to field the kind of medical care that exists today and so many injuries would lead to infections. More than 1 player had a leg or an arm subsequently amputated, which hardly happens at all in modern football.
Because of this rate of attrition, the substitute’s bench was significantly larger than you will find in today’s game. In fact, it seems that more than 140,000 men took part in this game, of which some 45,000 were so stricken that they received the ultimate red card from the central referee, 1 Mr. G. Reaper.
As I write that, it occurs to me that I may have mashed up the Battle of Waterloo with a football game. The former conflict was a long time ago (199 years past or so) and maybe because of that you can understand my confusion. Given the passage of time it is sometimes difficult to gain perspective with such comparisons.
Unless you’re Sam Allardyce, the present-day manager of West Ham United. When José Mourinho’s comments had been relayed to him and he was asked for a response he simply offered up the kind of terse reply that might have been favoured by the Duke of Wellington, had Napoleon griped at him before his final exile to St Helens:
‘I don’t give a shite, to be honest.’
The Stadio Renato Dall’Ara in Bologna. The home stadium of local football outfit Bologna F.C. 1909, this stately bowl was also the scene for 1 of football’s most astonishing goals. It came in a 1994 World Cup qualifier, played in late 1993, between minnows San Marino and traditional giants England. San Marino has a population of around 30,000, and consequently couldn’t even field a national team until 1990. England by contrast invented the modern game of football in the 19th century and has somewhere around 50,000,000 people to call on. In spite of this Sammarese striker Davide Gualtieri took just 8.3s to score a goal, which remains the fastest ever World Cup score on record. Sadly for San Marino they then conceded the next 7 goals without reply. Neither they, nor England, were to qualify for the 1994 World Cup Finals – Photo: Udb, 2008. Udb is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.
As I write this it is now officially Super Bowl Sunday throughout the continental United States. That mammoth football event, the 48th of it’s kind, is not the only Super Bowl on my mind though – I’m also thinking of 1 that features spaghetti bolognese.
When I was a poor starving student I used to eat a lot. That will sound a bit contradictory but it was all about the timing – I’d pretty much not eat for a couple of days because I didn’t have any money. Then I’d get money and, being a bit hungry, would eat these ridiculously large meals. My favourite for a time was spaghetti bolognese – Essentially 1 large packet of spaghetti, topped with a sauce that was comprised of half a kilo of beef mince, a tub of tomato paste and some sugar.
The resultant simple feast took up a lot of space in my stomach, but before then it took up even more space on my plate. Too much space even – I couldn’t find a dish big enough to hold my spaghetti mountain – The slightest movement to it’s quivering slopes would send a saucy avalanche careening down and into my beanbag.
We weren’t big on furniture back then.
So in order to save the beanbag I needed to find a receptacle big enough to contain my spaghetti bolognese. The solution was to use an extra large mixing bowl – 5L of capacity, my very own Super Bowl.
Of spaghetti bolognese.
It was a massive deal to sit down and consume this hot and tasty Super Bowl. I’m hoping that the football Super Bowl XLVIII that kicks off later today can match it.
Apart from the ‘hot’ bit. It’s unlikely to be warm out there.
Others, including Longworth72′s good blogging friend Sportsattitude have reasonably wondered in print at the wisdom of staging the showpiece game of American football in an outdoor stadium. In New Jersey. I’ll not dwell on that then but in light of the recent polar vortex that iced the US, and which caused some zoo’s polar bears to be taken off display because it was too cold for them, it’s worth asking if there are many takers for cold spaghetti?
In truth the forecast has warmed over the closing weeks but it is still expected to be low to mid 40s at kick-off. That’s around 3 to 7 degrees Celcius, so not really tropical, and sure to get chillier as the night progresses. Those who have handed over the $2,000 or so face value for the cheap seats will need to have kept a little aside for some extra thermal insulation. Meanwhile the average folk, ironically frozen out of attending by those exorbitant ticket prices, will no doubt be at home, free to snuggle up with a steaming bowl of spaghetti bolognese.
The crowd aside, there are some concerns that the cold will impact upon the quality of play. The chill in the fingertips can lead to a little less feeling in those extremities and consequently a little less surety in catching or carrying, particularly later (and colder) in the game. You’d expect that this will most adversely affect an offensive-minded team and in this Super Bowl, that means the Denver Broncos.
Or Peyton Manning’s guys as they are mostly known.
With the veteran superstar calling the shots, Denver has got through this season with the best offence in the league. That it has done so with a mostly no-name, no-frills catching corp just emphasises the Peyton Manning influence. Backing that up is the fact that the certain to be Hall of Fame thrower has this season notched up his 5th NFL MVP award.
None of that will matter to Peyton’s detractors on Monday if he doesn’t add his 2nd title ring to the 1 he got in 2007 playing for the Indianapolis Colts. Peyton, for all of his MVPs, all of his yards and all of his touch-down passes, will have under-achieved, they’ll cry. They were proclaiming that when Indianapolis delisted him in early 2012, with injuries seemingly convincing the Colts that it was time to move on in favour of stellar draft pick Andrew Luck.
Yep, Peyton got stiffed by good Luck.*
But Peyton got back on his horse, upgraded from a Colt to a Bronco, and in the process demonstrating that he’s still got what it takes to handle the wildest of rides. The truly great players you see are their own Luck. Or maybe a little better than that, based on Andrew not having made it to this Super Bowl.
Peyton’s big-game opponents for today though will be tough and he will need some good fortune of his own to see them off. This is because defence usually trumps offence, and Seattle has the former attribute down pat. So much so that they turned out the best defensive stats for the season – A record many attribute to the Legion of Boom (LOB), the Seahawk’s awesome defensive unit, and not as I had originally thought, a group of incompetent Roman military engineers from ancient times.
This modern LOB includes Richard Sherman. You may have heard of him. Or from him.
Sherman is a complicated dude according to this New York Times piece, a real Jekyll-&-Hyde. Which is good because 1-dimensional characters will find it hard to catch a football in 3-dimensional space. Otherwise, here at Longworth72, I’m kind of over the Sherman talk and I’m more wondering about how he helps to neutralise Peyton’s arm.
Likewise I’m not overly interested in hearing that Seattle running-back Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks dangerous offencive outlet, likes Skittles. There’s not a lot unusual about that – Skittles are a kind of candy. Generally candy is pretty popular with most people, except with the dental fraternity. And the dental fraternity are unlikely to tackle Lynch, who switches into ‘Beast-Mode’ on the field of play, which does sound a little ripped off from He-Man or She-Ra, but is otherwise just the last thing a dentist will want to hear – Most beasts often having fearsome gnashers and all.
What I am interested in is how this game will play out and whether it will be a good 1 to watch. That’s the rub in Super Bowls – There’s a lot of quality ingredients and a recipe for a good night in, but until you get stuck in you never know if it was worth the preparation time, or whether it was all just hyperbole.
Which I like to pronounce as Hyper Bowl, because I think it has more gravitas that way. Also I once used to make a Hyper Bowl of stir fry noodles that you would not believe…
Denver by 4 is my final call.
*Ok, so I’m a little late with the bad play-on-Luck’s-name but I still think I can cash in because Luck’s a fortune.
Haggis, the national dish of Scotland, contains the minced innards of a sheep, which are stuffed into the stomach of the afore-mentioned sheep, along with some other ingredients, such as the spice nutmeg. The whole is then boiled, with the resultant savoury pudding either being eaten, or tossed from the top of a whisky barrel. The latter is a sport called haggis hurling, and it involves 500g puddings being thrown as far as possible without bursting. That last bit is crucial as it allows spectators to then eat the haggis. Imagine if we did that in football – Photo: zoonabar, 2006. zoonabar is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.
There’s this move that you can make on a football (soccer) pitch that can be particularly inflammatory.
No, not twerking, although now that I think about it, that would inflame things a little.
What I’m thinking of though, is a genuine football move, a manoeuvre that aims to put the user and the ball into a better space on the pitch. Which reads good, but this tactical gain comes with a helping of humiliation for the immediate opponent. Which may also read good to those who like to practice psychological warfare out there, however there is a substantial cost attached.
Nobody likes a show-off and so the folk who routinely attempt this move in public will be shunned by all – Opponents, teammates, friends, friends not met yet, family and even the family dog. Yep, a human’s best friend will cover it’s doggy eyes with it’s doggy paws and the person it used to bring slippers to will be dead to it.
Like the tale of Old Yeller in reverse. If Old Yeller had slippers brought to him by Travis.
If me mentioning Old Yeller brings tears to your eyes then I’m sorry, but that’s how serious this move is and you need to understand that before I tell you about it – Basically, you’re stealing Old Yeller’s slippers every time you pull this technique off.
I’ve always known the offending manoeuvre as a ‘nutmeg’.
There are many theories as to why it’s called that and none of them are particularly verifiable. All you need to know is that however you label it, this manoeuvre will make somebody look foolish.
In theory it is quite simple – Suppose that you have the ball at your feet. In front of you and blocking your preferred direction of travel is an opponent. This opponent is facing you and is watching the ball. So you feint, with the ball, to your left, and then quickly feint back to the right. The opponent steps to block the ball in both directions, leaving their legs akimbo, and a resultant tunnel.
For the ball only.
You take that opportunity, flicking the ball through that tunnel and then using your forward momentum to dart around the opponent, who is now hampered by facing the wrong way. You collect the ball on the other side and your opponent is now handily behind you. Sure they could turn and chase but you’ve got a sizeable head-start and they’ve now got self-esteem issues.
That’s it in a nutmegshell. There are many variations of this recipe but they all have the same basic ingredients – Legs akimbo and ball through said akimbo legs. And the resultant dish will satisfy in the immediate future if baked right.
It is however, in strict football terms, a high risk manoeuvre. Defenders are often awake to it and they will not be willingly standing legs akimbo just so you can smugly slide a ball through. Mostly they will be backing away from you and with their body angled slightly askance, giving them the chance to turn and chase if you do find a way past. Their feet will also be moving quickly, almost dancing in place and never committing to a single position, because that static stance could quickly be worked out and compromised. All of this, the back-pedalling, the narrow body angle and the dancing feet will make it hard to nutmeg – Most likely instead they will be corralling you, forcing you in to channels out wide and where your options decrease.
Where you might be forced to try something desperate, such as a nutmeg, and if so, you face the likely outcome of the ball squirting free. Worse, the ball will often rebound off to the defender’s convenience while you will be carried forward by habit and momentum to collect thin air. So your opponent has the ball and is already advancing away from you. Your recipe entailing nutmeg has become 1 involving a goose and yours has been cooked.
That latter outcome is a common 1 – Which explains why many nutmegs are not planned with much forethought – They’re too risky and so occur as spur-of-the moment actions – A sort of intuitive and happy coincidence. Don’t be fooled though – An unintentional nutmeg is still humiliating and, if you do succeed with 1, at the next dead ball situation it’s best to give an apologetic pat or handshake to the victim of your good fortune.
Like this example from the training ground of Spanish side Real Madrid:
A quick acknowledgement can soothe any hurt feelings.
Yep, that happened on the training ground between 2 guys on the same side. Even so there is still the chance of a serious bust-up occurring out of this nutmeg. Fortunately both players are experienced pros – The nutmegger is former Liverpool midfielder Xabi Alonso, whose silky passing skills are legendary. The nutmeggee is the former French international (and now assistant coach at Real) Zinedine Zidane. Both have extensive football resumes and so both have progressed through their careers with the mental maturity to calmly and peacefully manage their reactions to any kind of provocation.
Except that 1 time Zidane head-butted an Italian player in the 2006 World Cup Final. The Italian did say stuff about his sister though.
He wasn’t nutmegged then though, which would have been worse, and so as the video above was from 2013 then we can say that he has certainly grown as an individual.
As have I.
Yeah, I used to nutmeg opponents – It was 1 of my moves. In truth, for a time there it was my only move and I’d deploy it ad nauseam. Fortunately I never nutmegged anyone in public, at least not intentionally. What I did do was to use it on Brother of Longworth72 in the front-yard games we’d play.
And because we were playing pick-up football 1-on-1, I’d use it every single time I attacked. Maybe because it was repetitive, maybe because I wasn’t very good at it, or maybe because the ball was usually flat, it didn’t work the majority of the time.
That didn’t matter. I just kept at it. I kept at it so much that we could finish a game with a scoreline that read something like 86-84 and because our makeshift pitch was so small, every 1 of my 86 goals would have come from a successful nutmeg.
Brother of Longworth72 didn’t seem to mind – He was, and still is, an amiable sort not prone to histrionics or allowing something like a missed block to cruel his day. Plus, I was always apologetic about it. Even so, I learned in those yard kick-arounds, that nutmegging opponents was not cool.
Old Yeller (or Barney the Kelpie, as we knew him) would have been proud.
‘When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?’
It’s a good question – Photo: Unknown, 1913. Image cropped by Longworth72.
If you’re a politician it is often seen as a bad thing to be changing your mind. Apparently that sort of behaviour indicates instability and a certain weakness of the spirit. Instead of being characterised as a steady hand on the tiller of state, holding the honourable course, a political changeling is more likely to be viewed as an ideological traitor, an untrue believer even.
Imagine if we applied that standard to kids. They’d come home and tell us that they’d learned that a koala is not in fact a bear and we in turn would rule them out of ever being voted in to any role because just last week they’d sworn that a koala was a bear.
In politics that is called a flip-flop. In school it’s called learning.
I was 1 of those kids who thought a koala was a bear, mostly because it wasn’t a subject I dedicated much time to – There were no koalas in Beverley, Western Australia where I grew up. There are in fact no koalas anywhere in Western Australia, so I didn’t realise that the little buggers are actually marsupials until I was around 25 and I’d started dating a zoology student. She was horrified by my lack of knowledge but seemed to appreciate my flip-flop.
This to be fair though, was a fairly innocuous flip-flop with few possibilities for a resultant ideological conflict. I’ve had much more significant changes of mind.
Like around gay people for instance.
As I’ve written before, I used to use to spit out the term ‘gay’ as an insult on the sporting field. And I meant it back then – Gay people were, to my mind, weaker. I grew up though and learned that I had been wrong – Because who you love does not automatically make you something else.
Unless you love me so much that you marry me in spite of my ignorance regarding koalas.
Because then it makes you awesomely patient.
I’m not even sure my attitude towards gay people is a flip-flop. It’s more of a flip without the flop. I can say this because I’m not going back on this change – It is too rooted in a sense of fairness and decency – And people who are gay can’t change, it’s not a decision for them.
If I was looking for a something on which I had actually flipped and then flopped then what comes to mind is my feelings on the use of technology to adjudicate in sport.
It’s Australia Day and via the wonders of technology I’m simultaneously watching 2 games of cricket being played in this great southern land. The 1st of those, staged in Hobart, does not even have the capacity to show a replay to TV viewers, let alone to the umpires. The 2nd, played in Adelaide, features a dizzying array of technological aids to assist the umpires to make decisions.
Which is not to say that the former is just a backyard game – It is a full senior One Day International (ODI) match featuring Australia vs England and it is being played at a modern and quite appropriate facility. Confusingly, the latter game also happens to be a full senior ODI match, also features Australia vs England and is also being played at a modern and quite appropriate facility.
The difference between the 2 matches is that the 1 being played without the assistance of technology is a women’s game. This is most likely because the relatively small crowds don’t make the use of the technology financially viable, but regardless, it does mean that the decisions that are made in the game are immediate and final – There is no mechanism for so much as an informal review, let alone a formal 1 and so there seems to be little motivation to argue a call, even with yourself.
With no replay I can’t even muster a residue of internal debate at a bad call.
I like that feeling – The play becomes the focus and the umpires are there but not noticed. And I imagine that this translates at the ground level to a sort of enforced respect for those umpires – If there is nothing of substance to base an argument on, then there is no point being argumentative.
That’s the good part.
The bad part is that there may be decisions that are just plain wrong. If you play enough matches then this will balance out – You will get enough bad decisions in your favour as you will against. In a single match though, particularly 1 where the result is critical, then the sample size is too small to ensure parity and 1 team may gain an unfair advantage.
This is a critical match. It is the 4th game in the Women’s Ashes series and with England having won the Test and so far split the ODIs, Australia must win today to keep their hopes of a series triumph alive.
I haven’t seen any contentious decisions yet, but it’s hard to tell without the benefit of replays if the umpires have got them right. It would be a bitter pill for the Australians in particular to lose the game and consequently the Ashes off of a bad call.
Meanwhile, back on the Australian mainland and at Adelaide, where there is not a lot hinging on the outcome of that game – The Australia men won all 5 of their Ashes Tests handsomely. They then clinched the subsequent ODI series by taking out the 1st 3 of those encounters and despite a loss in the 4th game, England are not in line to get out of Australia with much dignity intact.
So perhaps it’s ironic then that in this game every major decision will be scrutinised, seemingly in 4 dimensions – I’d not be surprised if potential run outs are checked for perturbations of the space-time continuum. Certainly it feels like there is something happening to time as we know it whenever a wicket falls – Gone are the days of a bowler being assured that the umpire indicating that a batsman is out is an automatic cause for celebration. Now, each team has a number of referrals that can be made via the Decision Review System (DRS), and the umpires can also request assistance off of their own bats.
That assistance can be as simple as a check to ensure that a delivery was not a no-ball, i.e. That the bowler did not overstep the crease upon delivery. Or the umpire might require a check of the thermal image, which may show a ‘Hot Spot’ from an edge behind. In addition to that last, the umpire might also check the ‘snickometer’, essentially analysis of acoustic evidence of a an edge (or ‘snick’).
All of which is fairly straight-forward and intuitive – What’s not is the use of Hawk-Eye, the same trajectory prediction system as is used for tennis. This is used in cricket to determine if a Leg Before Wicket (LBW) decision is valid. Hawk-Eye, must determine if the ball pitched in line, and crucially, it must predict what would have happened if the batter’s leg had not been in the way.
This is complex physics – Despite copious amounts of research, scientists are not completely confident in explaining why a ball does what it does when moving through the air – It is not a perfect sphere – There is a raised seam and bowlers will shine 1 side of the ball so as to induce movement. It is even the case that the ball may swing more, i.e. move laterally, if the day is overcast. Why? Nobody’s really sure.
In spite of all of this natural doubt we are forced to take the solemn evidence of Hawk-Eye on face-value. It’s a strange concession for someone brought up in the harsh world of backyard cricket to contemplate – There, the rules are inviolate and stripped of all forms of technology. Over the fence was 6 and out, while hitting the dog was just out, plain and simple. The wicket-keeper was a rubbish bin and if you nicked it (And you knew you’d nicked it if you did) within a reasonable range of that trash receptacle then you’d walk, caught behind. Similarly for LBW decisions, you’d just know if you were out and so you’d walk – To do otherwise was to invite scorn from your opponents and the very real risk that they’d not want to play you again.
So we’ve put our trust in technology and in theory we now get more accurate decisions. I can’t help feeling that we’ve lost a little something in return though – The 2 games have now finished and I can report that the Australian women have rallied remarkably. While I thought they’d blown it, Ellyse Perry orchestrated a brilliant chase, and ably supported by Alex Blackwell and Erin Osborne, the Southern Stars hunted down England’s imposing 268 with 3 balls to spare.
England’s men were in a similar position, albeit chasing a much less impressive 217. Unfortunately for those English men though they did the opposite to those Australian women and collapsed with the victory line in sight, falling 6 runs short and bowled out with the 3rd-last ball. Intriguingly there was a touch of controversy around a key wicket in the dying stages – Numerous replays were required to show that a fumbled stumping attempt had in fact rebounded the ball onto the stumps at the precise moment that the English batsman had raised his foot by a scant few millimetres.
I’ll leave this off with 1 last thought on the use of technology in sport – In March the 2014 Major League Baseball (MLB) season will commence and for the 1st time it will involve a review system, roughly approximate to that used in cricket. The debut of this new era will not be in the US – Instead, the MLB gods have decreed that the season opener will be played in Sydney, Australia at the SCG.
Which is a cricket ground. Get ready to flip and flop baseball fans.
The Sumatran tiger is the smallest of all of the surviving tigers, weighing in as it does, at around 1/2 of its larger Siberian cousins. In spite of this disparity, and the look of indifference on this 1s face, it’s worth remembering that when they’re all grown up, there’s as much as 140kgs of tigerish potential under those stripes – Photo: Tim Strater, 2011. Tim Strater is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.
I have an idea for saving Test cricket and I got it from a Sumatran tiger at Perth Zoo, here in Western Australia.
Me writing that maybe has you asking a question – Does Test cricket really need saving?
Certainly if the only Test cricket you’ve seen of late was the recent Ashes series here in Australia then you’d be thinking not – After all, the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) saw a record crowd for Tests, with an epic 91,092 turning up on Day 1 of a dead rubber.
Yep, Australia had already won the 1st 3 Tests (Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth) and so had recaptured the famous urn, yet 91,092 souls still turned out the day after Christmas to watch the 1st day of a Test match. They were handily rewarded – Australia went on to win that match and then the next, in Sydney, for a 5-0 sweep of ye auld enemy. Even that last match, like the 4 preceding it, was well-attended.
Because it was the Ashes and our relationship with England is complicated.
You see, the opening English deliveries in the epic sporting contest known as the Ashes weren’t actually made with cricket balls. Instead they were made with a cast iron balls and England sent them down attached to some convicts – That is how they colonised this land – By establishing it as a penal dumping ground. They subsequently decimated the indigenous population of Australia and subjugated the survivors, effectively removing them as a cultural influence. America by contrast got the dreamers and the builders and when they tired of the yoke of their English forebears they rose up and fought a stirring war of independence.
Since we crushed the indigenous peoples and replaced them with outcasts, we’ve not quite managed a revolution yet.
To this day we are in fact a constitutional monarchy, with England’s queen as our head of state. She seems alright and so we’ve had to settle for a declaration of war on the sporting field.
Yep, if there is a chance of an English entity being made to look 2nd-best then there will be Aussie watchers in their droves to witness the humiliation. To be honest, if there was a chance of us being better than them at, say, growing mushrooms, then we’d probably gather as a nation behind our chosen champignons.
And Test cricket is substantially more interesting to watch than mushroom growing and therefore the crowds at Ashes battles will almost always be good 1s. The Ashes though are just a part of the global Test cricket game. It is in a sense, a little bit like my friend, the Sumatran tiger…
If you look at a Sumatran tiger at Perth Zoo, I think you’ll agree that they look in rude health. Their whiskers are bristling, their tails are a-swishing and their stripes look painted on.
Step outside of Perth Zoo and back to the island of Sumatra and the stripes start to get harder to see. This is partly because they are there for camouflage and Sumatran tigers have evolved to hunt in the jungles of Sumatra, but also because there are only between 400 and 700 Sumatran tigers left in their natural habitat. We kind of replaced a lot of that jungle with agricultural stuff like palm oil plantations.
Tiger stripes aren’t as effective in palm oil plantations, which tend to offer sparse cover at tiger level.
Likewise Test cricket isn’t as effective outside of the Ashes. Oh sure, a tiger is a tiger wherever you put it – Test cricket outside of the Ashes is still Test cricket and there have been some riveting contests featuring nations other than Australia and England. It’s just that people don’t seem to want to go and watch it – At least in part because Test cricket is increasingly being squeezed out of a crowded calendar by One Day International (ODI) games and T20 extravaganzas. The end result is that your average ground hosting a Test is as devoid of cover and the subsequent (and crucial) cover charge as those palm oil plantations.
The recent Ashes series is like the Sumatran tiger I saw at Perth Zoo, i.e. Giving a false sense of a healthy species.
So Test cricket needs saving and a Sumatran tiger gave me an idea for doing so. To be clear: It was not the tiger’s idea to give – She was solely the inspiration for it. There was no direct input into the formulation of the idea from the tiger – Cricket is just not that big in Sumatra.
It was late in the day when we got to the tiger enclosures at Perth Zoo. This coupled with the fact that the day had been warm, I thought, would mean that the big stripey cats would be either a. asleep, or b. waiting outside their night quarters, fully intending to go to sleep. Whichever 1 of those outcomes had occurred, I figured would mean little actual viewing of tigers.
I’m not an expert on tigers though and so I was wrong. The very 1st enclosure we came to featured a largish male Sumatran tiger patrolling behind the glass viewing window. He was about a foot or so back from the glass and so I moved right up to my side of that protective screen, in the hope of getting a seriously close look at a magnificent beast.
This I got and then some.
The tiger moved right up to the glass and then rubbed its head against it, approximate to where I was.
I was being smooched by a tiger.
This was frankly awesome and as the tiger repeated this action a number of times, and I got to stare into his amber eyes, I felt a real connection – Our domestic cats do those things and so for a brief moment that tiger was reduced to being an affectionate mog who would happily sidle up to me while I watch Test cricket from the couch.
Tigers do eat people though. This I was reminded of when the tiger, realising that I was not a provender of food, abruptly offered a. a muted roar, b. a half-pounce and c. a feinted swipe of a freakishly large paw that was kitted out with freakishly large claws.
I leaped back and after realising that the tiger was still the other side of the glass, commenced internal procedures aimed at restarting my heart.
And then I got to thinking about saving Test cricket.
Because Test cricket is like a tiger. Tigers look docile and it’s only when you get close to them that you get a reminder of the potential within. This applies to all Test cricket and not just the Ashes. The Ashes are when the tiger is most obviously roaring.
So how do we get people to notice the tiger when it’s not roaring? Well, it turns out that while I was looking at the male tiger, his sister was in the enclosure opposite, also prowling up and down the glass front. She was smaller (female tigers are comparatively smaller) but no less tigerish. Basically, if you were interested in seeing a tiger, she was just as appealing as her brother.
This then is my idea – Women play Test cricket too. I just watched the Australian women (The Southern Stars) play the England women in a Test match at the Western Australian Cricket Association (WACA) ground. Entry was free and the game was fantastic but the crowds never seemed to swell above 200 or so. Maybe this was because, like female tigers, the female cricketers don’t quite strike as fast or hit as hard as the men.
They’re still tigers though and absolutely chock full of tigerish potential – If you watch them play, you’ll surely agree that with their skills and endeavour they’ve more than earned their stripes.
So here is my plan – Provide more opportunities to view the tigresses – That was a 1-off Test and the remainder of the series is made up of ODIs and T20 matches. Those latter 2 formats are for tiger cubs – Meaningful to be sure, but not the kind of mature, intelligent and nuanced play you get in Tests.
So make the Ashes a 5-Test series and then make it part of a world Test championship for women. Make it all about women – Free entry to every game for female spectators and kids, plus discounted for the blokes. Then lay on transport for school classes and clubs and provide free-to-air coverage on TV and via social media. Essentially let every potential tigress in the world see that it’s as ok to be a female tiger as it is to be a male tiger.
The crowds will build and, for a bonus, cricket will be at the forefront of a new cultural paradigm – 1 where women matter as much as men do.
Those who control world cricket, the International Cricket Council (ICC), currently in thrall to India’s cricketing hierarchy, will not read this. Maybe hardly anyone else will read this either and maybe those who do won’t agree. If you’re in the latter can I ask you to do 1 thing anyway? This time it is about the literal tigers of Sumatra:
When you buy products, such as potato crisps, please check to see if they were made with palm oil and if so, consider an alternative. We can revive Test cricket but if we keep relying on palm oil and the deforestation seemingly required to produce it, then the Sumatran tigers may be all out and their innings closed for ever.