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Soup of This Day #385: Oh The Nights Are Warm

Tyrrell P34
This might look like a patchwork fantasy car but it is in fact a clever and complete automotive design that was realised into a competitive race car. The Tyrell P34 remains to this day the only 6-wheeler to get a decent run in the demanding world of F1. The #3 1976 edition, piloted by ace South African driver Jody Scheckter, even won the Swedish Grand Prix. Sadly, this was the sole win for the innovative P34, and with a lack of development on the unusually small front tyres, the model would only see two years of F1 – Photo: Lothar Spurzem, 1976.

I’m writing this post via a tablet device. There are a lot, maybe billions, of these gizmos in the world and there’s probably even more blogs so this is surely not unique.

It is bloody laborious though.

To be air, this is probably not how it is with all tablets. This one though is problematic.

And I meant ‘fair’ back there, not ‘air’. Although ‘air’ is strangely appropriate. As in ‘dead air’, because this tablet specialises in a sort of that. You tap the screen and you get nothing. Parts of the screen anyway. So you can be typing on the on-screen keyboard and you’ll find that some letters are missing from the selection you’d carefully composed in your mind.

There is some compensation of sorts – Some letters can appear twice – Like an ‘a’ or an ‘s’ – Pretty much everything from that area of the keyboard. Meanwhile ‘l’ and ‘t’ can not be there at all.

Or aa aa.

There is a workaround. I just rotate the screen and I get a different set of problems. Suddenly my ‘t’ is there ut I need to rotate the sree ak to get ‘c’, ‘b’ and ‘n’.

Auto-complete helps but not always and honestly, it gives me the sshiss so much that it’s hard not to swap this fukig device for one that is more consistent.

Like a leaking fukig pen.

Not for almost all of this post though and not for parts of others either.

Because, for all of it’s faults and quirks, I’m stupidly content with this tablet. Partly because it cost just $1, but mostly because it had been cast off, designated as waste, fit only to be deconstructed as a teaching aid. It hadn’t always been so lowly estimated – It served a senior staffer at my former workplace with aplomb. But then it suffered an impact and the touchscreen developed it’s quixotic approach to function. Out of warranty, the wayward tablet was sidelined, before being rescued by me prior to being ignominiously broken down.

Now it has a new lease, perhaps with it’s best form in the past, but still with much to give off the bench. There are still productive at bats to be gleaned and every time I pitch an idea at it, I feel like I get some bat to the ball. Sure, they’re often bloop hits, lobbing comically into an area of uncertainty between fielders, but it’s entertainment at an affordable emotional price.

This is how I’m viewing the 2014 Boston Red Sox.

In 2013 they were the best going around, tapping out hits all over the place and from any position. All of the functions worked and there was a smoothness that made you feel that successes was inevitable.

Not so much in 2014.

Maybe they suffered an impact across winter, a fall, a drop in motivation. Whatever the cause, while the components are still largely there, some key strokes just aren’t getting in safely.

Actually, it’s a lot of key strokes that are going awry – As at the 2014 All-Star break, which sits astride the mythical mid-point of the season, the Red Sox are ranked 15th among 15 American League (AL) teams for runs scored. They’ve managed just 367 of them.

The San Diego Padres of the National League (NL) do have a scant 279, but without a Fesignated… Sorry… Designated Hitter (DH) the NL teams have some excuse – The AL is relatively friendly to hitters. As evidenced by the LA Angels, ranked 1st for run production in the AL and across the Majors.

They’ve knocked in a lazy 478.

The Angels don’t, it’s true, have baseball’s best record at the moment. They sit 1.5 games behind fellow AL West outfit, the Oakland A’s, who have a decent 59 and 36 line. At .621, the A’s are on track for a 100 win season. They may have scored less runs than the Halos (466) but they’ve conceded significantly less ass well (321 vs 389).

And yes I know I left an extra ‘s’ in there but honestly, inserting an ass/donkey reference just works in most situations.

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have further diminished their paltry total of runs scored by conceding 405. That’s relatively a lot of runs to give up and the resultant deficit suggests the Red Sox are unlikely to defend their World Series winning status in 2014. Given the feel-good success of last year, and the other two recent titles (2004 and 2007), the Red Sox Nation of fans could be forgiven for looking at this team and being a bit crestfallen.

That’s a difficult word on this tablet – Crestfallen – but it is a great one, so I took it as a challenge.

That’s how I’m taking the remainder of this season for the Red Sox. They’re a great side – 2014 proved that and for sure it’s a challenge watching them playing donkey badly donkey they are, but like with this tablet, there are moments to be proud of – Little quirks to celebrate and positives to be gleaned for hardly any outlay on my part.

That last bit is because the Red Sox won 2013, giving the Nation’s faithful a sort of emotional capital that will generate interest and dividends for years to come. For all I know this tablet won 2013 too.

I figure then that for the Red Sox and this bonus tablet, any successful key strokes this year are a bonus.

That does not mean that the Red Sox shouldn’t have cut A.J. Pierzynski. He didn’t hit good for the club or on this keyboard. Names like Ortiz work better.

Otherwise known donkey Big Paapi!

Oh The Nights Are Warm

Soup of This Day #384: The Weight Of Being So Much More

Tim Howard and Bill Hamid
The Sacred Union of Stoppers – This is Everton keeper Tim Howard having a friendly chat with DC United keeper Bill Hamid before their respective clubs faced off in a friendly – Photo: Paul Frederiksen, 2011. Paul Frederiksen is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

US conservative columnist Ann Coulter has written an article in which she lambastes the popularity of soccer in her country. Apparently she held off on this for a decade for fear of offending anyone. It’s not entirely clear why she’s decided that it’s ok to offend anyone now in 2014 but regardless, Ann has spontaneously let fly with a swerving strike on this world’s most popular sport.

And on soccer mums, liberal mums, kindergartners who play soccer, freeway signs, Longbeach in California, California, Michael Jackson, Germany, juice boxes, lesser beasts without opposable thumbs, HBO’s ‘Girls’, light-rail, Beyoncé, Hilary Clinton, the New York Times, the French, Europeans, the metric system, the French Revolution, guillotines, China, public schools, things that are 147.2cm long, the FIFA World Cup for men and the one for women too, women, David Beckham, Victoria Beckham, Teddy Kennedy and his 1965 immigration law, and languages other than English.

Which is a lot of people and ideas to take aim at – Roughly half the world’s population is made up of women and if you throw in the men from China, Europe and Longbeach, then Ann has a gaping goal-mouth to ping at – but if she’s been holding this in for 10 years, then I guess you’d expect that. Given a centimetre of wiggle-room to squirm through, Ann Coulter was always going to run 100 yards. 100 yards happens to be roughly the length of a soccer pitch and Ann has fair on streaked down one, her right-wing ideology naked to the world and seemingly protected by a half-dozen 300-pound bruisers – Her own offensive midfield of offending.

I’m mostly ok with that. I’m not really offended by her dislike of soccer and I think nobody else should be either. Partly because Ann’s article is riddled with comic exaggerations and also because gazillions of people won’t have their lives affected by what Ann Coulter thinks.

If you’re reading this Ann, I’m only kidding. That was a joke. See, I accused you of exaggerating and then did that myself. There are not a gazillion people in the world. Gazillion is a fictitious number that serious people don’t use.

Serious people like scientists, who instead use real and serious measurements, most of which are in metric. Because the base units of the metric system have such a logical relationship with subsequently derived units. As opposed say, to the empirically tenuous relationship that the length of a person’s foot has with anything bar their shoe size.

Don’t get me wrong – Here in foreigner territory we still respect a person’s foot. It’s just that it turns out that there are so many different sizes of them.

Tim Howard for instance seems to have fairly big feet which he clads in fairly big soccer boots whenever he takes to the playing field as the keeper of the United States Men’s National Team (USNMT). Big feet can be useful for a keeper to have, especially if he or she wants to be good at blocking attacks in close. This kind of action is known as shot-stopping, and it’s a combination of bravery, reflex reactions and insanity.

That last bit is best demonstrated by what a keeper will do when an attacker is bearing down on goal with the ball at their feet and nothing to stop them but said keeper.

Who will have thrown themselves at that ball before they even thought about doing that. There is no time for thinking so the keeper won’t have considered injury and the only strategy will be defined by a seemingly genetically programmed need to stop the ball from getting through for a score.

Good keepers will even throw themselves randomly at patches of synthetic leather that they may encounter in other sphere’s of life, having cleverly determined that one day that material may be made into a ball which could be fired at them. Even then it’s not correct to say that a keeper is being pre-emptive. Instead it’s more accurate to define being pre-emptive as being a keeper. It’s just never too early to thwart an attempt on goal, to stop it dead.

Tim Howard can kill such an on-field attack like few others. Against Belgium in a recent round of 16 match at the 2014 World Cup, he was required to stop the match ball a record 16 times, too often in one-on-one situations with one of those big hoofs stuck out to block a near-certain shot away from danger.

It was an extraordinary effort and an individual one as well. Keepers are a part of a team but they are also alone out there. In spite of Ann Coulter’s belief in the inherent socialism of soccer, individual players are held accountable for their efforts and none more so than a keeper. The folk who wear the gloves don’t need reminding of this – There aren’t many practitioners of the craft who don’t measure themselves scientifically against a higher standard than any spectator, or even right-wing columnist, can provide. Tim Howard for instance may have stopped 16 attempts but he’ll be remembering the two that he couldn’t get to, and that helped defeat and eliminate his USMNT 2-1.

Still, Tim Howard’s efforts have stood out and seen him gain a fair amount of adulation. His back-story helps – Howard was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome early in life and in addition, has a reputation for playing through injury. He’s a solid person, the kind most fans would welcome into their team. I’m one of those fans, even if Howard plays his club football against Liverpool FC – Simply, Tim Howard’s ethos is a reason why I’ve enjoyed the success of the USMNT this World Cup.

There are other reasons, two of which I’ll touch on now:

The USMNT doesn’t really have much of an identity beyond who they are. They are invariably referred to as just the USMNT. Likewise, the US Women’s National Team are logically the USWNT.

In Australia we know our national men’s team as the Socceroos and our national women’s team as the Matildas but those are nicknames and some people – Particularly those outside Australia – may not be able to identify exactly who is being talked about when one of those handles comes up in conversation. While ‘Matilda’ is generally a female name, ‘roos’ (Short for kangaroos) can be male or female. That variation is actually quite critical to the reproduction of kangaroos.

The US meanwhile are saying it clearly, unambiguously, we have a men’s national team and a women’s national team and they are of equal importance so we need to distinguish between the two. This World Cup that is on now features their national men’s team, while next year’s World Cup will see their national women’s team going for glory.

That’s quaintly officious – A little bit of equality wrought out of a seemingly mundane naming convention – and I like it.

My final reason for supporting the USMNT is a little more visceral – It’s because it offends Ann Coulter. Given that she be hatin’ on a lot of the good things in this world, that seems like a noble objective to shoot for.

The Weight Of Being So Much More

Soup of This Day #383: Geronimo

Common vampire bat
A common vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus) having a drink that I choose to believe is a White Russian cocktail – Photo: Nathan Bittinger, 2011. Nathan Bittinger is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Last night, in a decisive 2014 World Cup match between Italy and Uruguay, charismatic Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez apparently bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini. This is unusual but not surprising – Suárez has some form for this kind of transgression as he has twice previously bitten opponents during professional soccer matches.

When I was very little I bit my brother on the arm.

At least four times.

He bit me once too which I think, given that he is older and therefore had more teeth at the time, makes for an equitable exchange. Mum and Dad disagreed though and I suffered severe repercussions. My parents frowned upon biting. So does most of everybody else. That’s why vampires and werewolves get such a bad rap. That and the Twilight movies.

Biting is especially frowned upon on the sporting field and in the subsequent press. Yep, it seems like you could break an opponent’s leg off and then beat your wounded foe around the head with the bloody stump*, and you’ll still only attract less revulsion than if you locked your chompers on their shoulder.

Personally, I’m not as overflowing with revulsion at biting. There is a lot of distaste to be sure, but mostly I’m just wondering why? As in both, ‘Why is Luis biting?’ and ‘Why does this offence stir up so much passion?’

The former question is a difficult one for me to answer – I’ve played a bit of sport and I’ve never felt the urge to clamp my teeth on anyone. I did once bite a sub right before the start of a game, but that was the sandwich and not a replacement player.

I in fact ate two foot-long subs just before that kick-off. My captain (and brother) was filled with revulsion at my lack of nutritional diligence vis-à-vis the impending football match. He was however conveniently distracted from my dietary transgression by two of our team-mates mouthing down some White Russians.

These were alcoholic beverages of that name (Kahlúa + Vodka), rather than pale peoples of Russian nationality. They don’t go for the latter kind of thing in Russia – They’re very conservative. Regardless, my brother was still incensed at the unprofessional conduct on display. I got the sense that, from a football perspective anyway, he would have preferred sober cannibals to drunk players. At least the former would have been looking to carve through the opposition defence, rather than getting all moody and emotional because nobody was watching their smooth moves.

You know who you were.

Sure, I can understand why FIFA will want to be seen to be stamping out biting though. It’s injurious. It hurts. I can’t remember what it felt like when my brother bit me but I do remember him yelping when I got my totally deserved revenge and boy did he get loud.

FIFA, to be fair though, do have a lot of things to stamp out. There’s the whiff of corruption, particularly around the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar. There is also the blight of simulation – This has been a focus of FIFA for a while, yet still is a problem – In a match played just after the Italy vs Uruguay stoush, Greece beat the Ivory Coast 2-1, edging the Africans out of the tournament. The winning goal came from a penalty kick awarded in the 3rd minute of injury time. That decisive spot kick was won by what the reply shows was a clear dive by Greece striker Georgios Samaras. Even if Samaras faces retrospective action, that will be cold comfort to the Ivorians.

FIFA do come down hard on the more physical misbehaviours. They for instance stamp down on stamping down – A vicious stamp of a studded boot onto an opponent will garner a straight red card. This is the fate that befell Italy’s Claudio Marchisio in the 59th minute of that crucial clash with Uruguay. Claudio had had brought his fluoro-orange right boot down to rake the right shin of Uruguay’s Egidio Arévalo. It was an ugly challenge and so the referee showed no hesitation in holding up a red card.

This kind of punishment hasn’t eliminated stamping though – It’s just reduced the number of occurrences as players think about what they can gain against what they can lose. You can obtain possession of the ball and you can get ejected from the game.

Biting is much less common. Probably because it’s not clear what advantage is gained by it – When you’re trying to kick a ball with your feet, clamping your teeth around another player’s flesh is a discordant transfer of focus. Probably the best outcome for the biter is that the victim will have marinated in some sort of flavoursome seasoning before the match. I’m not thinking that there’s much in the way of honey-soy massage oil out there though.

So given the minimal impact on the football match, why does biting lead to such extreme reactions?

Perhaps it is the latent fear of disease transfer. This kind of viral transmission though seemingly unlikely is apparently possible. I’m not a medical practitioner but my research on the Internet has indicated that something like HIV for instance would require the biter to be infected, the bite to break the skin and for the biter to have a mouthful of blood. This would be bad.

It would also be bad if the biting player was a common vampire bat.

The common vampire bat is found throughout the Americas, including in Uruguay and Brazil, and can carry rabies. Which is bad. To counter that, I’m not a zoologist but my research on the Internet has indicated that there is some good news – Common vampire bats generally don’t play football.

What they do play is a game whereby they suck up some blood from a host and then mark them with urine so they can easily locate them again for 2nds.

Yep, they bite you and then they piss on you so that they can do it all again the next night.

Which brings us back to biting and what to do about it when it happens on the football pitch. For a start, FIFA should not play football at night because vampire bats are nocturnal. If a bite does occur, perhaps in the daytime, then prompt action is required.

Unfortunately Luis’ bite wasn’t spotted by the referee and a little while later the 11 men of Uruguay found a way through the 10 men of Italy and netted the only goal of the match. Italy are thus eliminated and Uruguay will progress, albeit possibly without Luis Suárez – FIFA have charged him based on a post-match video review. He faces a lengthy ban.

This is a part of my longer-term solution for the problem of biting in football – Significant bans paired with counselling – Don’t put players out there again until it’s safe enough to assume that they won’t bite.

In conclusion, biting in football is bad and if you happen to wake up smelling of bat piss, maybe see a medical practitioner. You’re welcome.

*You really can’t. This is less of a challenge and more of a thing that it’s just wrong to do.

Geronimo

Soup of This Day #382: If You Saw Me Driving By In A Car

Mulsanne Straight
A view of the famed Mulsanne Straight on the Circuit de la Sarthe. This long section is where the fastest speeds in the 24 Hours of Le Mans are registered. The highest on record was set in 1988 when a Welter Racing Peugot was clocked at 405kmph. That car did not do so well in the race though – The aerodynamics were radically modified in order to achieve the speed. This included taping over the air ducts and thus sacrificing much-needed cooling capacity. The engine subsequently lasted just 59 laps of the endurance test – Photo: Pete Fordham, 2006. Pete Fordham is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

One day back in 1998 I had to drive to Kalgoorlie, a mining town that is just shy of 600km from Perth. I was a learner driver and so I had my boss in the passenger seat – He either wanted me to gain as many kms as I could for experience or he was lazily enjoying not driving, because he left me piloting our lumbering Landcruiser for most of the trip.

This was not a smart play.

I was tired before we’d got started from Perth and that had been late anyway – Around 1:00pm. By the time we passed through Coolgardie, with the winter sun long gone behind us, I was bone weary and missing out on cues around me – It had stopped raining maybe an hour before but I still had the wipers on.

Then I fell asleep.

It was only for what I recall as an instant. My eyes opened and we were still on the road so it can’t have been long. Unfortunately though it was time enough for us to end up on the wrong side of the road.

With a pair of headlights pointed right at us from what seemed like 50m or less distance.

Fatigue is tough on humans. We need regular quality rest or we start to mess up at basic tasks. We can skate by when those tasks only require a low level of functioning, like doing a crossword, but when the stakes are higher, such as being in charge of a motor vehicle, then that skating can be on thin ice.

This is why the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the very pinnacle of endurance motor racing, requires each entering vehicle to have a team of at least 3 drivers, with stints behind the wheel no more than 4 hours and each driver limited to 14 hours in total.

Sure, it’s not all tough – Unlike on that road-trip to Kalgoorlie, Le Mans drivers don’t have to eat a roadhouse-prepared ham, cheese and tomato toastie in under 5 minutes. This is the rough equivalent of turning your body inside out and then walking across a bed of coals on your tongue. Still, those professional drivers do have to pilot their vehicles around the 13.629km Circuit de la Sarthe at an average speed just shy of 230kmph, so it’s not all easy street either.

This lack of a comfortable life for 24 Hours of Le Mans drivers is sometimes curtailed abruptly and unfortunately, via death.

Yep, folks die out there. 21 drivers have lost their life competing on the circuit, while a 22nd, André Guilbert, died while driving to the circuit to compete in the 1925 race. The 1st driver to die during the race was Guilbert’s fellow Frenchman Marius Mestivier. The latter outlived the former by less than a day – He was hardly into his stint when he crashed into a ditch. He may have been knocked unconscious by a collision with a bird just prior to the incident.

It’s a fair bet that the bird was a casualty too.

Nature played a part in the latest death too – Experienced Danish driver Allan Simonsen hit an Armco barrier in the 2013 race. Unfortunately the Armco did not flex under impact as required, most likely because a tree buttressed the barrier at the point of impact.

Sometimes it’s not even just the drivers – In 1955 Pierre Levegh, driving a Mercedes-Benz 300SLR clipped the Austin-Healey 100 of Lance Macklin, somersaulting his roughly 240kmph Benz into the crowd. Some were killed by the resultant storm of debris, while others fell victim to the fire – The 300SLR had a body comprised of a magnesium alloy and so burned white-hot, like a light-bulb filament. Whatever the cause, along with the 49 year old Levegh, 83 spectators died.

Levegh himself had died when he was violently catapulted clear of his car – The drivers at that time had largely eschewed seatbelts, believing them to be an encumbrance and a safety risk – It was thought that it would be better to be thrown clear of a car than to be trapped in it. There was certainly an element of convenience in foregoing the tricky belts at the start of each race, with the famous Le Mans start requiring drivers to run to the car, start it and then peel out as quickly as possible.

This way of commencing the race lasted until 1970. The previous year, Belgian driver Jacky Ickx protested against what he thought was an unsafe method of releasing the field by walking calmly to his Ford GT40. Britain John Woolfe meanwhile sprinted to his car and, in his haste to get under way quickly, failed to do up his seatbelts correctly. Before the 1st lap was done Woolfe crashed and his body was thrown clear of his Porche 917. He died on the way to hospital.

Ickx meanwhile went on to win that race, the 1st of 6 such triumphs. The latter 5 of which were achieved with a rolling start – Each driver starting secured inside their car – while the last 4 were won in a Porsche. That storied marque has won the most 24 Hours of Le Mans titles, 18 of them, although the last was in 1998.

In recent times Porsche have been absent from the top class at Le Mans and Audi have reigned supreme, taking 12 of the past 14 up to the 2014 edition. The last non-Audi winner being a Peugeot in 2009, with an Australian, David Brabham, as 1 of the drivers.

This then brings us to the trigger for this post – In 2014 an Australian, Mark Webber, suited up for the returning Porsche at Le Mans. If he was to win, Webber would become just the 5th Australian and the 2nd to do it in a Porsche – Vern Schuppan had helped pilot a Porsche 956 home in 1st in 1983.

Sadly though Vern must remain alone for another year – The #20 Porsche 919 Hybrid suffered a failure while a very credible 2nd, allowing an Audi R18 e-tron quattro to finish in 1st, having completed a staggering 5165.39km of race distance.

That’s more than 8 times the distance from Perth to Kalgoorlie, an astonishing feat at speed. For me though, I’ll take just getting to my destination safely. I did achieve that all those years ago but it was close. So close that my desperate swerve still cost me a wing mirror.

That was not the part that makes me shake though. That came later, after my boss had prised my hands off of the wheel and we’d driven back down the road to where the other car waited. There I got to see the wallet of the driver I’d almost killed. In that leather folder was a photo of his wife and kids.

I don’t drive tired any more.

If You Saw Me Driving By In A Car

Soup of This Day #381: We Will Find A Way

Estádio do Maracanã
The view from inside Rio de Janeiro’s Estádio do Maracanã. It’s hard to see the slums from here – Photo: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo, 2013. Leandro Neumann Ciuffo is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup has started and I’m struggling to get involved.

Not because of the football, because that has been excellent. It almost always is in the early stages of a World Cup. Later, as it gets down to the knockout stages and the stakes are raised, the matches will ironically dull down, but for now the football is nominally worth losing sleep over.

I think though that I’ll take the snooze. FIFA is no longer just about the football and the World Cup has no grand or noble aims. Instead the whole reads like a greedy grab for more of everything. Which isn’t new but in Brazil this is being played out with a backdrop of many who have so little.

Perhaps I’m over-thinking this. Maybe I need to find a way to get pulled into the heady mix of a samba beat with an overlay of capitalism.

What I need are slogans. Punchy little sayings that encapsulate everything about life while saying little of meaning.

Here then is the Longworth72 crib notes on the 2014 FIFA World Cup, based around the official slogans of each of the participating 32 national teams…

—–Group A—–

Brazil – Brace yourselves! The Sixth is coming!

Way to manage the expectations Confederação Brasileira de Futebol. Everyone in Brazil is watching the Canarinho (Little Canary), even the statue, Christ the Redeemer. It’s eerie how it’s eyes follow a Brazilian player around the pitch.

Cameroon – A lion remains a lion.

Lions are cats and generally aren’t in to football. Also, if Cameron have always been lions then maybe they need to rethink that identity because in 6 attempts they’ve not won the World Cup.

Croatia – With fire in our hearts, for Croatia all as one!

Twice in the past Croatia have won FIFA’s ‘Best Mover’ award. The last time was 1998 though so I’d think about having somebody else carry your furniture around in 2014. Maybe it’s just heartburn but it could also be more serious.

Mexico – Always united, always Aztecas.

The Aztecs of Ancient Mexico played a ballgame called Ōllamaliztli, in which the players controlled the ball with their hips. In some versions of the game the captain of the losing team was decapitated. The modern Aztecs have kept the shimmy and while they don’t do beheadings any more, they are a danger on the pitch.

—–Group B—–

Australia – Socceroos: hopping our way into history!

In 1982 El Salvador set the record for the most goals conceded in a World Cup finals match, losing 1-10 to Hungary. History isn’t always kind.

Chile – Chi Chi Chi!, Le Le Le! Go Chile!

I’m not bitter about them beating the Socceroos – La Roja are a genuine and consistent threat on the football field. Their team slogan though only works if you spell it out with pompoms.

Netherlands – Real men wear orange.

Well, that settles it for anyone with gender identity questions. Are Holland gonna be cool though with themselves in their alternate blue kit? God only knows what manner of man wears blue, apart from those who played for Spain when they beat the orange-clad Holland in the 2010 World Cup decider.

Spain – Inside our hearts, the passion of a champion.

This could be problematic as only two nations have ever gone back-to-back in the World Cup. The other 17 times it’s been better to go in with the passion of not-being-a-champion.

—–Group C—–

Colombia – Here travels a nation, not just a team!

The squad is limited to just 23 though and none of them is the talismanic striker Radamel Falcao. Which might be awkward in the knockout stages.

Greece – Heroes play like Greeks.

Oedipus heroically saved Thebes by besting the riddling Sphinx but then accidentally hooked up with his mother, having earlier removed his father from the picture in a road-rage incident. Being a Greek hero can go either way.

Ivory Coast – Elephants charging towards Brazil!

I like elephants. They’ve got great footwork for a beast so large. I’ve always wondered though about why it’s called the ‘Ivory’ Coast? What? Oh… Awkward.

Japan – Samurai, the time has come to fight!

They’re aware that it’s football, right? No katanas allowed. Although there is little apparent danger – These Samurai have a sharp edge but not enough thrust through the midfield.

—–Group D—–

Costa Rica – My passion is football, my strength is my people, my pride is Costa Rica.

A brilliant sentiment. Unfortunately Los Ticos will do well to simply progress from Group D, even with a shock first-up win over Uruguay.

England – The dream of one team, the heartbeat of millions!!

And 1 penalty shoot-out loss, probably to Italy. Because that’s what almost always happens to England, the heartache of millions.

Italy – Let’s paint the Fifa World Cup dream blue.

Wait… Are you doing drugs Italy? I’m asking because you’re painting dreams. Either way, the Azzuri need to make time to knock out England, most likely via a penalty shoot-out. It is their destiny.

Uruguay – Three million dreams… Let’s go Uruguay.

A 2013 estimate had Uruguay’s population at 3,324,460. Let’s all take a moment to think then of the 324,460 fine Uruguayans who can’t or won’t dream of Luis Suárez doing something undeniably magical and/or irredeemably stupid.

—–Group E—–

Ecuador – One commitment, one passion, only one heart, this is for you Ecuador!

Registering for organ donation is a noble thing to do, although La Tri are unlikely to get killed by opponents on the pitch this World Cup. They have a solid squad that deserves respect.

France – Impossible is not a French word.

Neither is ‘taco’ or ‘radar’ so it’s not all upside when you limit your vocabulary. The latter is a problem because Les Bleus struggle to fly underneath it. Instead they tend to give the receiving station a Gallic nutting after it said nasty things about their sister.

Honduras – We are one country, one nation, five stars on the heart.

Five points would be better for the Hondurans. It could happen for Los Catrachos but they have no stars, let alone five of them, and so they’ll need a fair bit of that heart.

Switzerland – Final stop: 07-13-14 Maracana!

This is a very precise slogan. It’s like one of those fine timepiece movements and you can believe that the Swiss will make that appointment. Don’t be banking on seeing this youthful Swiss outfit playing the final though – They might just be there as spectators.

—–Group F—–

Argentina -Not just a team, we are a country.

This togetherness is reflected in their nickname, ‘Lionel Messi.’ It’s pure coincidence that this matches the actual name of star player Lionel Messi, who everybody would admit is the greatest ever if he could have a great World Cup for a change.

Bosnia and Herzegovina – Dragons in heart, dragons on the field!

Just like in Game of Thrones. And also as in GoT, the likeable Bosnia and Herzegovina may face an early defeat at the feet of the impish Lionel ‘Tyrion’ Messi.

Iran – Honour of Persia.

I’m not sure that football imparts honour. Regardless, this is bigger than Persia – Team Melli could be the highlight of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) contribution to this tournament.

Nigeria – Only together we can win.

And maybe not even then. The Super Eagles may well flock together but they’re ranked 45th in the world so will need some fortuitous thermals to attain great heights.

—–Group G—–

Germany – One nation, one team, one dream!

But not One Direction. Instead, the Germans are more Die Adler (The Eagles), with a band of harmonised midfielders playing football in the fast lane.

Ghana – Black Stars: here to illuminate Brazil.

Stars can brilliantly shine but they can also furiously implode. It’s not clear where on the Hertzsprung–Russell diagram of stellar evolution that Ghana sits.

Portugal – The past is history, the future is victory.

Yep, the past is definitely history and the future of this World Cup will end in victory. It’s just not clear whether it will be victory for Cristian Ronaldo and the Seleção.

United States – United by team, driven by passionfruit.

I added the ‘fruit’ bit, because otherwise it read like a bank slogan. I think it works, unlike actual passionfruit, which are ok atop a meringue but score far too few goals for my liking.

—–Group H—–

Algeria – Desert warriors in Brazil.

Does Brazil have deserts? Seems a little high in precipitation. The Fennec Foxes had a dry qualifying campaign and will flounder if the goals rain in at the other end.

Belgium – Expect the impossible!

Half of Belgium is French, the other half is Dutch. In spite of this they have recognised the word ‘impossible’ and aren’t wearing orange. They’re enigmatic, those Belgians.

Russia – No one can catch us.

A bold claim. Certainly, with a punchily aggressive offence and a rigidly conservative defence, nobody will catch the Russians thinking that homosexual people are really okay after all.

South Korea – Enjoy it, Reds!

This is either a wise strategem to keep the players grounded or an admission that they’re going to get belted. I think it’s the latter but I’m now expecting some ‘Caddyshack’-like antics along the way, only with football instead of golf.

—–The Winner—–

And we’re done except for a final thought:

I probably should make a prediction on who will win this World Cup. I’ve thought a fair bit about this and I can conjure up a clear front-runner.

Sepp Blatter.

Yep, the incarnation of FIFA that has presided over the global game for the past 16 years, will be the big winner. Somebody give them a trophy.

We Will Find A Way

Soup of This Day #380: Dreaming Of A Brighter Day

Alice Springs
An aerial view of Heavitree Gap, where the Todd River cuts through the MacDonnell Ranges. To the North of those dividing mountain ranges (To the left in this image) lies a town so much like Alice Springs that it is Alice Springs. At the top left of this image is Traeger Park, the home of the Central Australian Football League (CAFL) – Photo: Komencanto, 2005. Komencanto is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I’ve played football (Several codes of it) in many different colours and patterns. I’ve been variously cloaked in red, black, blue, gold, white, green, grey, and orange, plus a few combinations of those and more I can’t remember. There’s been stripes, hoops, chevrons and design elements that I don’t know the name of – even some mythical creatures. Despite wearing all of that, and being worn close to my heart, I’ve never really given much thought to the cloth I donned for each match. I certainly never considered if there was 1 strip or another that suited me – I just didn’t ascribe any kind of in-depth meaning to any particular kit. 1 time I played for a team that got a good rate on some Polish national team jerseys and so we wore those.

I’m not Polish.

I’ve known some good Polish people, including the lad who got us the gear for $10 a unit, but mostly it was about the shirt fitting and me getting to play football in a tournament billed as being a celebration of multiculturalism. We were the Polish team and I think we had a single Polish player. He was our goalkeeper, barking mad, and full of pride that he was able to represent his Poland.

Good on him – We (Poland) won and I’ve still got the shirt and it still fits but I don’t wear it now because it feels like I’m being disrespectful to Poland. Because I’m really not Polish.

Which brings me to the AFL’s Indigenous Round and the special kits the players of all 18 teams donned for the occasion.

I’ll wear almost all of them, because quite simply, that clobber looked bloody brilliant and it’s as Australian as I reckon you can get.

I’m Australian.

This may be the only time I say this, but I’m even envious of Crows fans – That number looked deadly awesome, acknowledging the very first people of this land with clear respect, while the team dished out a reality-check to the Suns. Who were also decked out in a uniform that looked to have some class.

Not all of the examples were absolute stand-outs – Collingwood’s strict adherence to their black and white stripes tends to dull the creativity. The resultant strip was respectful but only in the way that McCartney and Wonder singing ‘Ebony and Ivory’ is – the message is good but the delivery has a synthesised beat underpinning it. Their Thursday night opponents St Kilda, by contrast, looked the real deal in their chosen ensemble. Musically they were Yothu Yindi’s ‘Treaty’ – A driving funk rhythm and respect for our origins.

Sure the Saints didn’t play like that, being soundly belted by the Pies, but the latter’s victory could have been sweeter if they’d taken an open look at those vertical bars, side-by-side on their uniforms, oh Eddie, why can’t you?

Most of the other clubs though had brought an open game to their kit designs. Even my beloved Freo. I wouldn’t have thought that anything could elevate the sight of Stephen Hill slotting goals on the run but the Dockers’ nod to Indigenous history did just that. And just like the boomerangs that the purple chevrons had come to resemble, it seemed like Hilly just kept gliding back to the arc for another successful strike on target.

Maybe those jerseys could keep coming back too. For more than 1 round a season.

As could at least 1 of the grounds – Alice Spring’s Traeger Park looked fantastic on TV. The surface looked like a bowling green while the MacDonnell Ranges as a backdrop gave the feel of a quintessential Aussie experience. The efforts of Port and Melbourne helped too – It wasn’t the greatest game of footy ever played, but the Dees kept the table-topping Power honest via some direct and energetic play. The game was in doubt until near the final siren and I reckon the locals were happy at seeing a contest.

As I understand it, Traeger Park (And the rest of Alice Springs) sits on the traditional lands of the Aranda people. Meanwhile Fremantle and upstream Subiaco, where the Dockers play their home games, are in Noongar country – and the contribution of Indigenous people to that club goes even beyond that gift. Freo would be nowhere in it’s own history without the efforts of a mob of Indigenous stars that have shone in the purple and white. It’s a bigger deal in footy than just Freo too – The entire AFL would be bereft without the contribution of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

Sadly, history hasn’t paid the Indigenous community back quite so well. The Dockers’ banner on Sunday testified to that with a simple wish to honour the Stolen Generations – The victims of heinous policies that saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids forcibly removed from their families and their lands. In addition to the banner, the player’s jerseys also bore the Stolen Generation Commemorative Flower front and centre above the boomerangs. However simple, that kind of heartfelt recognition is surely a step in the right direction.

As is that promoted by the AFL at the ‘Dreamtime at the G’ showpiece, played Saturday night and featuring Essendon and Richmond. The Tiges couldn’t bring the footy to match the occasion and so the Bombers won handily across the park but for mine, the real victory was in the stands and outside the stadium.

Among a host of events and activities, there was a celebration to mark the 10th anniversary of Michael Long’s iconic protest walk while The Footy Record featured a large and bright ‘R’ on the cover. This is the symbol of the Recognise movement – a push to get Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples acknowledged in our country’s constitution. It’s a simple concept and it’s mostly symbolic but that’s ok because this Indigenous Round demonstrates the power of symbolism like nothing else in the AFL can. You can’t put on 1 of those jerseys, or even just look at them, and not feel something a little deep. Maybe it’s not quite a connection to this land but it’s a pride in who we are and a pointer for who we can be.

Maybe I don’t put much thought into the colours that I wear but I reckon I’ve found some meaning in a footy jersey. So when I buy a Dockers top for this season I’ll be after the Indigenous Round model – Heave ho, way to go, recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in our constitution.

Epilogue: The Greater Western Sydney (GWS) Giants played their Indigenous Round match away against Hawthorn. Deciding that they’d like to wear it for their home fans, they chose to wear their Indigenous Round jersey for the following round as well. Although it didn’t help them win in either round – They lost by a credible 7 points to the Hawks and then in another close 1, went down by 15 points to Essendon – you can’t argue against the point that the youngest of the AFL clubs has demonstrated a rare amount of class.

Dreaming Of A Brighter Day

Soup of This Day #379: So Here I Am

Grandad Brian
This is Grandad Brian doing his own, Australian outback-flavoured, interpretation of American Gothic. Apparently he fought some mental health issues in his life, although it’s more hinted at than diagnosed – His generation just didn’t talk about that stuff. In spite of those internal battles, he did alright. You do wonder though, just how big his brassicas could have grown with modern understanding – Photo: Unknown, c1980. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I reckon that there are 2 distinct phases to telling people something about yourself – There’s the telling, which is down to you, and then there’s the dealing, which is down to them. That might read overly simple and it likely is, at least when you write it down. The reality is often a little more complicated. Take the tale of Michael Sam.

Sam plays American football. He’s a defensive end and a decent 1 at that – Last college season he won the Southeastern Conference (SEC) Co-Defensive Player of the Year award. Meanwhile his Missouri Tigers team went 12 and 2 overall and 7 and 1 in the elite SEC. They also won the 2014 Cotton Bowl.

And Michael Sam is gay.

His Mizzou team-mates knew this all season long – Football-wise they dealt with that revelation ok – It doesn’t seem to have harmed their on-field performance. Then, after the season was done, Sam went public.

A heart-warmingly large section of the public handled the news in a positive way – There was an outpouring of support and a general sense that Michael Sam’s sexual orientation was not relevant to his football career. Not everyone thought that – According to a Sports Illustrated article, 8 anonymous NFL team officials had indicated that their choice was not to stand with Michael Sam – They collectively believed that his draft value had been devalued by his coming out, citing such factors as:

‘…a publicity circus and an NFL locker room culture not prepared to deal with an openly gay player.’

My initial reaction to this is to think that those 8 officials had not done so well at phase 1 – In staying anonymous they’d not made a good fist of the telling – The ability to identify who is talking being a cornerstone of a good telling, as it’s hard to attribute credibility to faceless people.

Also, it’s worth noting that bemoaning a publicity circus via a Sports Illustrated article is Pro Bowl-level satire.

Regardless, Michael Sam’s draft value did subsequently drop. Originally projected as a 3rd or 4th round pick, Sam was eventually seen as being ranked as low as 25th among available defensive ends in a market seemingly hungry for them. Some argued that it was off the back of poor draft combine results. This though seems a furphy – Even if the combine is a reliable marker of NFL success, it’s just a part of the picture that also features past college-level performance as a key indicator.

Which gender(s) a player is attracted to isn’t a key indicator of anything football-related. Nor is how others react to the telling, yet those 8 anonymous officials were prepared to lower Michael Sam’s draft value off the back of a possible backlash.

A backlash to affording somebody with basic human consideration.

Sadly, this kind of negative reaction happens and it’s not only coming from extremists like the Westboro Baptist Church. In publicly declaring that he is gay before his professional career has got started, Michael Sam is politely fracturing the passive fiction that there are no gays in the NFL. Don’t ask, don’t tell just got sacked back on it’s own 20-yard line.

That’s a brave move. Sam is not likely to get lynched but he will be the target of hatred from folk who will see his declaration as a sign of the End of Days. Or something. His draft stock was surely harmed – Maybe there won’t be teams who will be homophobic, but there will be those shy of the torch that Michael Sam is now carrying. Just because you’re not against something doesn’t mean that you’d like to be inconvenienced by doing something in support of it.

Yep, turns out that don’t ask, don’t tell got up from that sack and just carried on like it never happened. This was particularly evident in the reaction of some to how Michael Sam celebrated being drafted. He was picked at 249, by St Louis, and when the Rams called him to say hi and welcome aboard, Sam broke down and cried. There’s nothing unusual in that – The guy has just realised a big dream. Nor is there anything out of the ordinary in what he did next – He kissed his partner.

Which is cool – I kiss my partner when something amazing happens to me. She kisses me right back. It’s nice – A show of shared celebration, a signal that this is a team thing going on.

Oh but Michael Sam’s partner, Vito Cammisano, is a guy. It turns out that gay guys typically share their dreams with other guys. And they kiss. Right there on TV.

Cue the oft-heard, ‘I’m not homophobic, but…’

Yeah, you are homophobic. Casually so, but just as damningly. Because you’re not dealing, at least not on terms that are about Michael and Vito, those 2 humans. Dealing is more than words – You’ve got to be able to be ok with the reality at heart too.

I can write about this because I have had some experience in a similar context. Not in coming out as gay – I’m heterosexual, and a white guy in a Western society announcing his love for a white girl is about as privileged as you’ll get. My coming out story is therefore about something other than who I love. It’s about my war with depression.

Now I’m not suggesting that being gay is akin to having a mental illness, although being in love can feel like you’re going insane. Instead I’m highlighting the general similarity around the telling and the dealing.

The experiences that I have had around others relating to an open declaration of mental illness have been varied. There have been the illogical – At a previous employer I attended a training session for those who would need to sit on a selection panel. As part of the session we role-played various scenarios, encountering all manner of prospective job-seekers. 1 of those was a person who was described as suffering from depression and who was open about their illness.

What followed would have been comical if it hadn’t hit so close to the mark for me.

The chair of the selection panel was asked post-interview to talk us through the difficulties of that role-play. She pointed out, to the accompanying nods of others in the room, that the most difficult aspect had been trying to determine if the applicant was a physical danger to those around him. He hadn’t actually appeared dangerous she noted – It was simply the fact that he had declared that he suffered from depression that made him a threat to his potential employer and presumably anybody who came into contact with him.

Sort of like you’d view a zombie.

A basic analysis of statistics would have dismissed those concerns. 1 in 5 Australians will suffer from a mental illness this year. Almost 1 in 2 will at some time in their life. If all of these people were dangerous then stand by for the zombie apocalypse. As Joss Whedon once helpfully pointed out, stock up on Spam – It comes with it’s own opener.

Or you could skip the Spam and maybe just deal in compassion – My very best experience with openly declaring my struggles is a great example of that kinder approach. I had plucked up the courage to tell my manager at a former workplace. We’ll call her Pam, so I don’t embarrass her, and she patiently listened to my halting explanation of what depression meant for me. When I was done telling her that I couldn’t make myself complete a basic phone call, Pam did something rather wonderful:

She told me that any time I couldn’t pick up the phone that all I had to do was write down a note detailing what the call was about and who it needed to go to. Then I just had to take the note to her and she would make the call for me. There would be no questions, no recriminations and no limits to how often this needed to happen.

At work, I’ve never felt more supported. Pam’s simple care plan gave me the space to handle my @#$% better. It wasn’t all 1 way either – Pam was making an investment in me, perhaps figuring that there was going to be a return.

Statistically, she’d have been wise to think that – A recent study in Australia found that for every $1 invested in mental health in the workplace, there was a return of $2.30. That’s better than you’ll get from a bank.

I don’t have hard math to back this up, but I reckon you’ll get a return from investing in the likes of Michael Sam too. Here’s how:

The counter to that Sports Illustrated story was 1 that appeared via Fox Sports. In it, 7 MLB execs countered the 8 NFL officials who believed that Sam’s draft value had been lowered. The 7 all maintained that they’d hire Michael Sam on playing ability alone.

The President of the Chicago White Sox, Ken Williams, went further though. He argued that just passively accepting was not enough. Instead he posed a question for every team executive:

‘Are you, as a leader of your organization, prepared to provide the young man the public and private support he will need along with controlling, to the extent you can, what the behavior is in the clubhouse/locker room?

If the answer is yes, then you have an opportunity to use what some see as a distraction and use it as an individual and team character-building opportunity along the lines of what Branch Rickey did for Jackie Robinson.’

That’s human investment right there. Branch Rickey invested in Jackie Robinson and Ken Williams is willing to offer that for a Michael Sam in the baseball world.

What will the return be? Like I said, I don’t have hard math to back up a projection, but I can say this:

St Louis took Sam 8th-last in a draft where 256 picks were made. In spite of this, in the immediate aftermath, the Rams sold more shirts with Sam’s name on them than any other team could manage with 254 of those other choices. They sold so many that they couldn’t keep up with the demand.

Humanity is worth it after all – Here’s to the Pam’s, the Rams, and the Sam’s. And here’s to everyone just dealing with compassion.

So Here I Am

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