The Jif plant in Kentucky is the world’s largest peanut butter production facility – GIF: Dwight Burdette, 2011. Dwight Burdette is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped and converted from JPEG (pronounced ‘tortoise’) by Longworth72.
There is an important debate underway in the IT world. It’s ostensibly around how to pronounce an oft-used acronym, GIF.
GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format – It is essentially a file type, a kind of way of presenting a picture, that was developed in 1987 by Steve Wilhite at CompuServe. Wilhite wanted his creation to have a name synonomous with ‘Jif’, the peanut butter brand he and his colleagues liked to eat, and so he has decreed that the correct pronunciation matches that, i.e. GIF with a soft ‘g’, as in ‘gest’.
But not actually ‘in gest’. He’s a bit serious about the whole deal.
Unfortunately for Steve you almost never get to pick your own handles and most of the rest of the world isn’t overly bothered by the affiliation to peanutty spread. As such, folks tend to lead off GIF with a hard ‘g’, as in ‘got other stuff’.
Because mostly they have ‘got other stuff’ to worry about. Like tornadoes and terrorists for instance, which however you pronounce them, are really not good. It’s also worth noting that the Oxford English Dictionary, known as the OED to linguistics groupies, amiably directs that either pronunciation, soft or hard ‘g’, is just great.
Those OED folks are switch hitters.
Here at Longworth72 though I’m not completely oblivious to Steve’s concern. Being an IT dude myself I’m hip to his vibe and I think that this particular debate is only the tip of a vast iceberj.
Yep, I’m talking about the grossly unfair discrimination aimed squarely at soft ‘j’ sounds in sport.
Jays have long been a part of life and they are a part of our sporting world too. Jay Cutler for instance is the quarterback for the National Football League’s (NFL) Chicago Bears. He’s a regular passer, the kind you’ll see on any given Sunday, making completions and maybe a few interceptions too. There’s little malice in his bearing – Sure he’s a Bear, but think Teddy rather than Kodiak. The only mauling that this man claws out is via the scoreboard.
Yet for all the good that he delivers, this Jay is being wounded on a regular basis. It’s mostly physical – Jay Cutler does tend to spend some time on the sidelines. He’s not been helped by the offensive plays set up around him – Often pushed unfairly into a pass-friendly, high risk type-of play, Jay gets thrown to the wolves. Who growl and grump and do all sorts of other nasty hard ‘g’ words to gentle Jay. In Week 4 of the 2010 NFL season for instance he was sacked 9 times.
In the 1st half.
It’s hard to see that happening to a guy with a hard consonant out front of his name. Quarterbacks like Peyton, Tom, Ben and Drew.
And that repeated grounding was by a ‘g’ team, the Giants, who have a soft ‘j’ sound in their very name – You’d have expected that kind of targeted assault to be from a hard ‘g’ team like Green Bay. That pronounceable affinity obviously meant for nought though. Indeed if we’re talking sounds that go together then Cutler was born in Georgia, the State that is just right for Jays and Giants. He didn’t, it’s true, live there for long, instead doing most of his growing up in Indiana.
In a town called Santa Claus.
Yep, there’s a town named after the big man in a red suit. A jolly town just right for Jays.
Jay DeMerit by contrast grew up in a much tougher way. Born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, it was hard ‘g’ all the way for this gritty soccer defender. And the bias showed – DeMerit was not drafted by any of the Major League Soccer teams and had to travel to England in 2003 in the hope of having himself a career. So blighted was his name that he had to start at the then 9th-tier Southall, adding just £40 a week to go with the £1,800 he’d journeyed across the Atlantic with.
Fortunately this Jay was big on de merit and quickly rose up to pre-season games with 7th-tier Northwood, which he smartly parleyed into a 1-year contract with Championship (2nd-tier) side Watford. At the conclusion of that 1st contract with the Hornets, JDM had helped his club into the English Premier League (1st-tier) and all things were coming up just Jay.
And they still are – DeMerit has jumped back across the Atlantic and plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps in an MLS that had once spurned this Jay – And he’s doing it in style, having been named a 2012 All-Star.
Perhaps this world is changing for the jood.
It surely is for Jon Jay, who plies his sporting trade with Major League Baseball’s (MLB) St. Louis Cardinals. J.Jay, whose multi-layered ‘j’ name could mark him out for egregious attention has instead been allowed to flourish and it’s thanks to some other Jays that he got his start too. He’d joined the Cards in 2011 as a back-up centre-fielder but then when the guy ahead of him in the roster, Colby Rasmus, was traded he got the starting gig.
Rasmus was wanted by Toronto.
The Blue Jays.
Whose generous act in clearing a path for a fellow Jay saw the latter feature in the 2011 World Series, where he played a prominent role in helping the Cardinals to win the big 1.
Which fits – In Hindu culture the name Jay is derived from the Sanskrit for ‘victory’.
So there we have it – Jays to the fore across the sporting world and that was just an abbreviated sample. I could have written some more about hockey’s Jay Bouwmeester, a defenceman with the St. Louis Blues, who holds the longest active iron man streak in the top-tier National Hockey League (NHL). Or I could have highlighted Wirral-born Jay Spearing, who has been involved with Liverpool FC since he was 7 and still is, 17 years later, albeit on loan to Bolton.
But here’s the thing – I shouldn’t have to highlight the Jays in our world. Their individual and collective actions should stand by themselves as equal to what the Garys, Grants, Gavins and Gilberts can achieve. And that is all that should count.
The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter if you are Jay or Gay. All that matters is that you’re not a tornado or a terrorist and that you can play.
Black Caviar is Australia’s most successful race horse. The mare has recently retired having remained undefeated in all of her 25 starts. This image above is not of her, instead being of actual black caviar. It’s a horse d’oeuvre – Image: Saibo, 2010. Saibo is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.
I like Aaron Sorkin’s writing.
It’s only just mostly because I haven’t seen The Social Network or Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Also because he occasionally gets too sanctimonious, with much righteous chest thumping and a surfeit of noble brows.
Which is ok – Noble brows are something we should all aspire to have. Abraham Lincoln, arguably America’s greatest President, had a noble brow. As did John Curtin, arguably Australia’s greatest Prime Minister. There’s nothing wrong with a noble brow. It’s just that brows don’t get noble by being beaten.
Recently I was watching an episode of The Newsroom where 1 of the characters was issuing a rallying cry for American journalism and a defence of her beloved country:
‘That America is the only country on the planet that since its birth has said over and over and over that we can do better.’
Yeah. I’m not saying that it’s not true – It’s just a claim that is so impossibly grandiose that verifying it is about as easy as disproving it. Or getting a horse to discuss the news.
Mr Ed was fictional Wilbur. Maybe don’t smoke the special hay.
Still, for his faults, I like Sorkin. His relentless optimism is uplifting, a necessary tonic to the bitter and cynical morass that is the professional world. He’s Mr Smith who went to Washington and then decided to be a writer instead of a politician because filibusters don’t just make themselves up.
The yin to to Sorkin’s yang for me is Armando Iannucci, whose credits include the English political satire, The Thick Of It and the American political satire, Veep. Iannucci is not relentlessly optimistic – He’s not focussed, like Sorkin is, on how the world should be. He is instead a sharp cynic whose dark humour is painfully close to how the world may actually be.
I’m going to attempt to channel both approaches as I write about a sport that I struggle with.
My take on equine sport features only a few bright spots holding back a murky gloom. For instance the equine events are the only 1s at the Olympics at which men and women can compete on equal hoofing.
They are also the only event at the Olympics in which men or women can have their teammate shot for getting injured.
Imagine that at the beach volleyball:
‘Say Bob, did I jut see you limp a bit after that last block?’
That’s probably not sustainable and the dramatic injury management protocols are just the 1st furlong of my objections.
There’s also the inherent conflict that arises out of having a sport that is by-and-large carried by gambling. Yep, horse racing without a wager is like organized crime without the breaking of the law. Or Jimmy Stewart going to Washington and having everyone agree with him right out of the gate.
So the racing industry is fair in cahoots with the wagering industry – The latter is like Anakin Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi – He wants to be good and to live on but he’s so damaged that he needs all of this cyborg stuff just to help him breathe. Take his helmet off for instance and he’s off to the knacker’s yard. The cyborg stuff is betting and it provides the very oxygen that keeps its hosting sport alive.
This relationship was highlighted of late by a compact but flamboyant gelding of a scandal that has threatened to kick Australian racing in the arse, sending it flying over the rail and into disrepute. A call of alleged events follows:
Going from Gate 1 is Gai Waterhouse, Australian horse-training royalty. She’s rather good at it and consequently lots of rich and knowledgeable owners pay her to guide their horses to 1st past the post. 1 of those owners is, or was, John Singleton, who drew an outside barrier for this particular event. Singo is an advertising tycoon known for his brash larrikinism and a love of the limelight – You can expect him to lead early and often with little thought to pacing himself. He has, or had, a stable of horses with Gai, 1 of whom is called More Joyous. More Joyous almost missed this contest, as the mare was apparently not 100% before the run.
Meanwhile, at Gate 2, taking an inside track was bookmaker Tom Waterhouse, Gai’s son. Tom is arguably Australia’s most prominent bookie, with a 7 figure endorsement deal via commercial TV broadcaster Channel 9. On that platform Tom has the ability to mingle with a number of sporting identities, including Andrew Johns, who consequently is drawn at the barrier next to Waterhouse Junior.
Johns is a Rugby League Immortal, which means that he is considered to be 1 of the greatest to have played the game. Or that he is a vampire. In which case he is a talkative vampire because after forming the opinion from a conversation with Tom that Singo’s horse was not right, he then passed this information on to Allan Robinson, a former jockey and mate of Singo’s. Johns also informed Eddie Hayson, a brothel owner.
Because that’s what this story needs – A brothel owner.
Anyway, Hayson mounted up out of Gate 4 while Robson sidled up next to Singo, taking the 5th and next-to last barrier.
Armando Iannucci would probably argue that the whole kerfuffle is pretty much just satirising itself at this point – A self-perpetuating omnishambles.
So I don’t like horse racing and maybe that’s not really an eloquent explanation of why.
Aaron Sorkin could write up an emotionally charged and poignant speech about why it’s on the edge of morality and maybe just a bit over the edge. He could even get Jeff Daniel’s Will McAvoy to do an hour long expose. This would create a nice kind of breaking-the-4th-wall synergy for a couple of reasons:
1. Jeff Daniels is a Michigan man and a keen follower of the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Lions. He knows sport and doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would want to put down a wounded teammate. Even a tapped-out tiger or a lame lion and let’s be honest, that’s probably been a temptation for some Lion’s fans of late.
2.Jeff Daniels knows the horse racing industry having played a race horse owner in Sea Biscuit.
Hmmmmmm… Actually, now that I think about it that last 1 was Jeff Bridges. Which kind of nobbles that latter point.
Oh @#$%, my writing is lame…
Kevin Doyle, walking in a Wolverhampton wonderland. Or, Kevin Doyle bracing against a strong wind in a Cardiff stadium – Photo: Jon Candy, 2012. Jon Candy is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.
Here at Longworth72.com there is an awareness that the world of sport is as diverse and complex as the world of… ahhh… everything… else.
And we’re hopelessly addicted to diversity in and of sport here. For example, I once created and played an entire league season of football via thumbtacks and click-release pens across 3 whole days.
Biro Liverpool handily beat all-comers, flicking the golden tack in between the pencil sharpener and the stapler regularly enough to secure the title with 3 games to spare. Their pen was mightier than the hoard.
In hindsight I’d have been better off studying for my Year 12 exams, but that’s me – Committed to the search for new and grander sporting thrills.
This is partly why Longworth72 and Brother of Longworth72 recently took a trip to nib Stadium here in Perth, Western Australia, to see a game of football.
This probably doesn’t sound that out of the ordinary in the Longworth72 world and at 1st glance that call is about right – I was in fact at the same ground earlier this year with The Noah to see football’s Perth Glory Women fall just short of W-League Grand Final appearance.
And Longworth72 and Brother of Longworth72 had made a joint trip to nib back in July of 2009 to see a tournament of football games – The men of Perth Glory vs the English Premier League’s Wolverhampton Wanderers, and Fulham FC.
Although the former of those matches was memorable less for the football played and more for a drunk Irish Wolves fan seated behind us.
He sticks in the memory mostly because he wasn’t actually so much a Wolves fan as he was a follower of just 1 of their players, Kevin Doyle. In fact, as Kevin was an unused substitute for the 1st half of the game, his legion of fan was pretty annoyed at everyone else at Wolverhampton, particularly their then-manager, Mick McCarthy.
Mick is also an Irishman, albeit 1 born and raised in Yorkshire. Kevin Doyle is an Irishman born and raised in County Wexford. Which was apparently where his cheerfully drunk fan hailed from as well. There was even a suggestion they’d been to school together, only many years apart. And possibly not the same school.
It was a bit confusing.
But it was entertaining, with anecdotes from Ireland, raucus heckling and the occasional song livening up a pretty ordinary game of football. 1 of the songs was even borrowed from the Glory fans repertoire – A rendition of ‘Winter Wonderland’ that lauded a ‘Glory Wonderland’ instead.
Only, in honour of Kevin Doyle, his former school chum had re-worked the number to include his idol. Which is a bit of a song-writing problem. For the word he was replacing with ‘Kevin Doyle’ is ‘Glory’, which in turn replaces ‘Winter’.
Those latter 2 words have just 2 syllables. ‘Kevin Doyle’ has 4 syllables plus a pause between names.
Kevin’s mate seemed to realise this around the end of ‘Kevin’, about the time that his sense of rhythm was trying to get him to just naturally flow into ‘Wonderlaaand’. Unfortunately he was enthusiastic enough to disregard this and to fight against the current, valiantly searching for a paddle.
Sadly ‘paddle’ has 2 syllables too and when you’ve used 2 with ‘Kevin’ already, those additional syllables are 2 too many.
As are the 1s in ‘Doyle’.
Basically, the drunk Irish songsmith had fallen through the bottom of his canoe, leaving a lyrical Kevin Doyle-shaped hole and no paddle. To his credit though, he immediately surfaced for air and finished off his rendition by replacing ‘land’ with ‘Doyle’. As in:
‘Walking in a Kevin Wonder… Doooooooyle.’
This was imbued with some style but sadly makes no sense. Unless science recreates the plot of Fantastic Voyage, and somebody has cause to take a stroll through Kevin Doyle’s large intestine, so happy in this wondrous environment that they are compelled to frolic and play the Eskimo way.
Walking in a Kevin Wonder… Doooooooyle.
As we headed to this latest football adventure we were wondering whether there would be a metaphorical Wonder… Doooooooyle – We sure felt like we needed 1. Mostly because this was not really football as we know it. It was instead rugby union. We’d been given free tickets to see the hometown Western Force play Super Rugby opponents Canterbury Crusaders.
There are 3 things you should be aware of about rugby so as to understand why we were out of our depth at this game:
1. Rugby makes no sense, even to those that live the game so much that they have rugby ball shaped blood cells that need to be zapped by a miniaturised medical team that includes Raquel Welch. You can tell this because during the game, when the referee blows for a penalty, everyone almost always reacts with surprise at the outcome, quickly followed by understanding in hindsight which doesn’t count and isn’t fooling anybody. ‘Well, that was obvious. He reached over and touched that guy’s left ear as the Moon was in Leo. Clear penalty that.’
Even the referee seems like he might be a little surprised when he’s gone the whistle – He’ll often gather round the other refs for what I reckon is a bit of an open brainstorm on what they should do next. ‘Hey guys, why don’t we make them kick an oval ball between those 2 sticks over there? It’ll be a right laugh.’ Awkward silence. ‘Umm Bob, we’re supposed to do that anyway.’
So for 2 guys who just casually watch the game the whole thing is a fantastic voyage in itself. And yes, there was even some Wonder Doyle.
Or 5 streakers and some dodgy heckling. Which is how I imagine a Wonder… Doooooooyle might be anyway, particularly as the last 3 streakers went as a spontaneous team.
By which I mean that the lead-off guy, who was wearing either lycra or body-paint (I wasn’t really trying to work out which) didn’t seem to be associated with the 2 guys in chicken suits (The news suggested that it was 1 guy dressed as a banana. Definitely 2 chickens though) yet the whole managed to combine as a well-lubricated team. Probably-Lycra Dude even managed to snaffle the game ball and fire off a flick pass to Chicken 2. Sadly the impromptu theatre was ended by a Crusaders player who clothes-lined Chicken 1 and then assisted with pinning him to the ground, largely by sitting on him.
The heckling too had its moments – 1 guy in front of us liked to hoot like a chimpanzee at key plays in the game. I’m almost certain this wasn’t racist because upon closer examination I’m pretty sure that the guy was in fact an actual chimpanzee. Good on him for dressing well.
Meanwhile another guy down the front, who roared belligerently, finally reached the peak of absurdism heckling when he bellowed out at a visiting Crusaders player, who was lining up a penalty kick from about 20m out and dead in front:
‘You’ll probably miss.’
That is about as Camus-like as heckling can get. It was also statistically inaccurate and no, he didn’t miss.
Which brings us to:
2. The Western Force are not relatively good at rugby, while the Canterbury Crusaders are fantastically successful at it. The Force have so far played in 7 completed seasons and have never made it to a finals campaign. The Crusaders meanwhile have logged 17 full seasons, winning the title in 7 of them, finishing as runners-up in another 3. Only in 3 seasons have they failed to make the top 4 and therefore the playoffs.
This disparity can be explained by an understanding that the Force are largely comprised of mercenary journeymen and young tyros looking to make a name for themselves, while the Crusaders are largely made up of All Blacks and a crash of rhinoceroses. If we take that group streaking act as an allegory, the Force are represented by Chicken 1 – Plucky but ultimately a guy in a chicken suit – While the Crusaders are conveniently represented by the Crusaders guy who flattened Chicken 1 – Mean and ultimately a guy in a Crusaders jersey.
None of which helps to explain:
3. How the Force won.
I have however thought about it some more since the game and come to the following conclusions: a. The Moon was in Leo and that guy did touch that other dude’s left ear; and b. When you’re walking along, singing a song, walking in a Kevin Wonder… Doooooooyle, anything is possible.
Kim Il-sung Stadium, home to North Korea’s national football sides and where the Pyongyang Marathon starts and finishes – Photo: Stephan, 2008. Stephan is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by LOngworth72.
I’ve been a bit quiet of late. I managed just the 3 Soups in April, which is a record low for me by some margin since I started this gig.
Quiet is ok though – By itself there is nothing wrong with a pause, a moment in which nothing gets said. That silence can be a pretty powerful statement – A show of control and dignity.
It can also just be a sign of bemusement, confusion as to the state of the world.
The latter is pretty much the case with me – There was North Korea’s mad, bad belligerence, an insane quagmire on gun control and finally, the terrible assault on the Boston Marathon and its extraordinary aftermath. The whole has struck me dumb, at least as far as writing goes.
That’s probably not the right response to any of that. None of those things deserves silence. Instead, they would seem to need voices to speak up and for words to be written and read, to let the bastards know that they cannot triumph.
And the Boston atrocities in particular have generated many voices and miles of column inches. Some of it has been the kind of journalism that serves like we all imagine it should. The Boston Globe in particular was brilliant across the man-hunt, visceral without being exploitative, immediate without being intrusive. When I grow up as a writer (Which conceivably may never happen) I want to be like those guys and gals at the Globe.
BY contrast, some of the coverage has been a great hue and cry of distortion. Such a hyper-clamour that some have argued that the cacophony has been somehow disproportionate – Some 50 Iraqis lost their lives in terror bombings the same day, including 30 in the capital Baghdad, but with much less outcry in a Western world that has seemingly written off that country. This article assumes that view and asks the question of whether a Westerner’s life is more valuable than that of an Iraqi.
Of course any reasoned response is that you can’t measure the value of a life and so to compare is pointless. Instead it is far more accurate and valuable to check the context of those deaths.
Boston is not Baghdad.
The New England metropolis is by and large a peaceful city. Yes there was that original tea party thing, but really, the dumping of herbal leaves in protest at excise duty is not really jihad-type activity. And nowadays anyway the city is more known for its universities – Harvard is the No.1 ranked such institution in the world, while MIT, whose Cambridge campus is where the 2 suspects murdered a police office, is No.3. Complementing these houses of knowledge are a series of famed sporting outfits, the Bruins, the Celtics, the Patriots and the Red Sox.
Learning and sport.
That’s not what I think of when Baghdad blasts into my consciousness. That’d be more like bloody sectarian violence, corruption and non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
I’ve not heard about the quality of carpets from Boston. I had heard of their marathon. A marathon doesn’t make sense as a terrorist target. A carpet shop would ring truer – At least then you could see the motivation – Those bastards are underselling your underlay, pulling the rugs out from beneath your feet.
But a marathon?
People run those for many reasons – For personal development or to honour or help somebody else or even to let the assembly know that you beat the Persians. Whatever the cause, a marathon is not the kind of thing you complete for evil. It’s hard to imagine Kim Jong-un for instance legging out 42.195kms just to further his dastardly reign of weird terror.
Which is a shame because a nice jog through his country might be a real eye-opener for him, inducing some sanity and maybe a sense of compassion.
Or some sort of hypoglycaemic crash with delusions of omnipotence.
Probably the latter, because no matter the intentions, communism seems to end up like that – A bit mad and lacking in altruism or free human spirit. Marathons by contrast are a bit mad and full of altruism. Plus they’re chock to the brim with unfettered human spirit, because those epic runs are a wide array of individual efforts all pulling for a common and harmless goal.
Which might be how communism erroneously sees itself. It also happens to be a little bit like how I view basketball here in Perth, Western Australia.
We have a team, the Perth Wildcats, based out of my home town that competes in Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL) and they do quite well at it – They have appeared in the past 27 post-seasons and in 10 of those have made the Grand Final series. 5 of those championship-series have gone their way, making them the most successful club in the league’s history.
I’m pretty proud of them, as are most of my fellow Sandgropers, and by rights I should be a devout supporter – I like basketball and I love Perth. The trouble is though that they kind of feel like they’re the politburo’s hoop outfit of choice.
Yep, if the commie’s ever bounce back from glasnost and perestroika and get in the game, I reckon they’d feel ok with the Cats.
Not because the team in any way apes the worst excesses of communism – They seem like relatively nice capitalists. And I don’t get that sense of people’s revolution from the Perth uniforms either. Even if they are red. Nor do I get that comradely feeling from the subsequent nickname given to the Wildcat fans: The Red Army.
Because that’s been a nice neutral name throughout history.
My problem is that I get a slightly uncomfortable twinge in my political muscle when I watch them play at home. There, they pack in a crowd. For a recent Grand Final game they took in 13,500 fans – A sell-out in the Perth Arena and the largest NBL crowd since 1997 – An epic, seethingly choreographed chorus of red fanatics.
That full-house of red-clad fans, cheering and chanting on cue didn’t help much – Perth lost that game and consequently the title, going down to the New Zealand Breakers for the 3rd successive season. In all 3 of those seasons the Kiwi side has won the championship – A fairly notable achievement, although I’m not much of a follower of that team either.
Instead I figured I’d end this post with the country that the Breakers hail from – New Zealand. Because there, recently, a group of Kiwis raised their voices for something just a little bit important. It’s not sport but given the coming out of basketball’s Jason Collins I figure there is some relevance – Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the brilliant New Zealand parliament:
Holy @#$%balls Batman! Did they just celebrate legalising gay marriage by singing a Maori love song in their nation’s parliament? Why yes Robin, they did.
The woman who is the recipient of all of those hugs is Louisa Wall – She is the MP who introduced a private members bill to amend the definition of marriage. She is a former Silver Fern (New Zealand national netball team representative) as well as a a Black Fern (New Zealand national women’s rugby team representative). She is also openly a lesbian and following the passage of the landmark bill she declared:
‘We’ve all woken up now to a New Zealand that fundamentally believes in the human rights of all New Zealand citizens. It’s reminded me of a World Cup tournament… It’s been quite challenging, but it got more and more intense as we got to the final, and last night was the final.’
She’d know about that sort of analogy – She was part of the winning Kiwi side at the 1998 Women’s Rugby World Cup in Amsterdam.
According to their national anthem God defends New Zealand. And the country that God is apparently backing has just become the 13th in the world to legalise same-sex marriage.
That doesn’t cancel out the events in Boston or Baghdad, and nor does it make Pyongyang seem any less criminally bonkers.
It does give hope though – And it gave me something to write.
In the bonds of love we meet, hear our voices, we entreat, God defend your free land indeed.
President Ronald Reagan throwing out the 1st pitch at a Chicago Cubs game. The young of bears are called cubs. The young of koalas are called joeys, as are those of kangaroos – Photo: White House Photo Office, 1988. The White House Photo Office is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.
It feels like it’s midnight in America.
Not metaphorically – Although when you’ve got an Elvis-impersonator sending Ricin poison to the President then it’s surely getting pretty late in the day.
No, I meant it in a more literal sense. As I look around me now, mulling over baseball games played, there are pines arching overhead, creating a cathedral of skeletal outlines, barely visible on this blank night. The moon is obscured by clouds and the glow from the campfire barely stretches to my feet. It hardly warms them too, the cold seemingly intertwined with the darkness. If it doesn’t quite feel apocalyptic then it surely could be those last few minutes before it all goes a little crazy.
Except it’s not midnight at all. And I’m not in America.
Instead it’d be 7:00pm here in Western Australia and therefore 7:00am on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. It is in truth 4:00am out west in that northern country, and a little bit closer to the witching hour, but this post is mostly based around Boston so I’ll go by New England’s Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).
So it is in fact morning in America. Reagan was right, at least for the next 5 or so hours.
The campfire talk is at least accurate though, even if my initial timing wasn’t – I’m writing this via a headlamp at a campsite near Dwellingup, a forested town a couple of hours south of Perth. It’s a nice enough spot for the most part – Isolated, but for the thousand or so other campers, some of whom seem to have brought portable generators. And refrigerators.
Hotel resorts have those too people.
We happy few meanwhile have no such tech – Simple tents, camp stoves and water from the creek. There is also no mobile phone coverage and so we’re cut off from the outside world.
So no sport.
This is not good. If it really is metaphorically midnight in America, and assuming that 1 minute past midnight is pretty much the zombie apocalypse, then my final experience of baseball as we know it was this morning’s rain-affected match-up that saw the Oakland Athletics at the Boston Red Sox.
My brain will be imprinted with a game featuring 2 of my least favourite starters. At least until my brain becomes a favourite starter for a zombie that is. And maybe a main and dessert too.
Given that those pitching starters were Bartolo Colón for the visitors and Alfredo Aceves for the home team, I’m not saying that I wouldn’t welcome the undead taking out that particular lobe of memory anyway.
These 2 pitchers make my list by virtue of some suspiciously vague, yet miraculous medical procedures in the case of Colón, and an attitude that is not at all vague or miraculous for Aceves.
Ace is bat@#$% crazy in a disagreeable way.
This morning ended up being a prime example. It was not so much that he imploded control-wise – And he did that pretty comprehensively, giving up 6 runs in the 3rd and earning another 2 in the 4th, before he was pulled having given a stretched pen the kind of lead that they’d surely appreciate.
Nor was it that the Sox gave up another 5 runs in the 5th whilst not managing a single run in reply. I was similarly unfazed by the game being called in the 7th due to rain, meaning that the Sox were denied a chance to regain some of the dignity lost via that 13-run deficit.
Nope, the problem was that after the game Ace had the following comment to make:
‘Also they got hacks. Why do we not hit? Same thing. It’s just bad today.’
To clarify – I think he means that the A’s pitchers are sub-par and therefore the Red Sox bats should have taken full toll, but they didn’t, because they were bad.
To be fair to Aceves, the bats would need to bring something against the A’s, based on recent form anyway. Across the past 11 meetings between these 2 outfits the A’s have notched up 79 runs – That’s a little over 7 per outing (7.18).
Significantly that’s a bit below what Alfredo’s ERA is so far this season – 8.66 to be exact. So Ace is giving up on average almost 1.5 runs more per 9 innings than the Red Sox have conceded on average to the A’s, and for good measure he’s pissed about the lack of run support.
Something, something, glass houses and poorly controlled stones.
So Ace needs some rescuing by the bats and now that he’s publicly called them out he’ll need some rescuing from those same bats. Oakland’s rotation too might have little love for Alfredo – At the time of writing, none of those ‘hacks’ had an ERA as bad as the Red Sox man.
So this would be a test for John Farrell in his 1st year as the skipper for the Sox – He can take a lot of heart though from the fact that in the 2013 Red Sox, Aceves seems to be an outlier. This is a team in more than just name. You only have to watch them play a game or 2 to get the sense that these guys are earnestly pulling for each other and the city of Boston.
A great example occurred during the recent and very emotional Fenway return against the Kansas City Royals. It was the 1st post-marathon bombing fixture at Fenway. That milestone should have been the night before, but the extraordinary man-hunt that shut down the city had also put the series opener on hold. Now Bostonians though could breathe deep and bring back some normalcy.
For almost 8 innings though the Royals weren’t playing to that script. In the bottom half of the 8th, and with 2 outs recorded already, the Red Sox trailed 1-2 when Daniel Nava stepped up to the plate.
He took an 87mph 1 and 1 pitch and knocked it deep, just right of centre, and into the Sox bullpen, where it was caught by 38 year-old middle-reliever Koji Uehara.
Who bounced off in triumph, ball clutched in a clenched and raised fist, like a fan catching his 1st ever game ball. And his unbridled enthusiasm wasn’t unique – The dugout was up to mob Nava as he returned from his trip around the bases. It was a collective display of team spirit and togetherness. This was a group of players at 1 with their club and their city. They were Boston strong.
Aceves not so much 3 days later.
I figured I’d leave this off with another bit of Reagan campaign wisdom, like his ‘Morning in America’ spiel, from the 1984 election run-in. The transcript from this 2nd advert reads:
‘There is a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it’s vicious and dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who’s right, isn’t it smart to be as strong as the bear? If there is a bear.’
We don’t have bears in Australia. Koalas are marsupials and if you call them bears to their surprisingly grumpy faces they’ll urinate all over you.
Actually they’ll pretty much do this regardless of what you call them as they really can’t understand a word you say, whereas they do understand the symbolism of relieving your bladder.
They’re not bears though.
So we don’t have bears, but we do have marsupials. Like kangaroos. Which are a large marsupial that can out-bounce even the joyful Koji Uehara. They don’t always bounce though – Sometimes they just lope along, levering forward on their great rear feet, silently. So silently that on a dark night, when the moon is obscured by clouds and the glow from the campfire barely stretches to your feet, you can have a young 1, a joey, right next to you but you don’t see it at all.
Sure, some people say the kangaroo is tame. Others say it’s vicious and dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who’s right, isn’t it smart to be tucked up safely in your sleeping bag?
Which is where I’m headed. Night all.
This post was originally written on the night of the
23rd 24th of April.
French neoclassical painter Jacques-Louis David’s 1784 The Oath of the Horatii. It was this painting that marked the birth of the modern day Roman salute, there being no evidence to suggest that it was used in the more ancient Roman Empire. Sadly those who drew inspiration from this artwork failed to notice the women in it, who are clearly wondering how they hooked up with these dumbarses – Image: Jacques-Louis David, 1784. Jacques-Louis David has no affiliation with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.
I thought I was tired before but then we added a 2nd child in to the Longworth72 family and now it’s like we’ve found a level of tired above the previous high.
And then just punched through that with a shallow dive out the other side and into a land of no focus.
Note that I said ‘no focus’ as in ‘not there at all’, not even as a concept. Previously I’d been tired with a soft dewy focus. The dew in this new land of the uber-tired has become a thick fog. With visibility down to minus 10m.
That’s right, the fog is so thick that you can’t even look inward.
I can measure all of this by the way I use words. Previously I’d struggle to find the right words when I was tired. I’d stumble over them, eventually getting it sort of right via a process of elimination and sometimes with an assist from a thesaurus or the Internet. So I might not have had the correct word but I had mechanisms to get to it, or at the very least an approximation.
Now though I’ve not just lost the words, but also the means to find them again. Not physically – I still have a thesaurus and the Internet. It’s a mental thing – Even as I stare right at them, I just can’t summon up the concept of a thesaurus or the Internet.
Let alone how to operate either of them.
Just the other day I was trying to write about God’s favourite knuckleballer Tim something. It’s ok for me to forget that it’s Tim Wakefield, even if he is a baseball hero of mine – I’m not related to the guy after all. The thing is that I not only could not recall his last name, but I also couldn’t conceive of a way to work it out. Which is strange, given that: a. I was sitting at a computer with access to the Internet at the time; and b. This whole blog is researched and written via the Internet.
Google ‘Tim’ and ‘knuckleball’, a fairly obvious combo of keywords, and Tim Wakefield is mentioned in at least the 1st 10 links. The 2nd link is his Wikipedia entry and you can see in the search results that Timothy Stephen Wakefield was born August 2 1966. Dig a little deeper and you can probably find his Social Security number.
Please don’t. That would be bad.
I couldn’t have done that even if I’d wanted to though. The fog was so thick I’d have had trouble typing on the typing thing if I’d gotten that far into the process. And even if I’d have worked that bit out the make-the-pointer-move device would have been just a bit too much.
This post may come out a little gawarbldoc-jarbled-mawunglified.
That’s sort of ok because this is a sporting blog and words are often demoted in importance in the world of sport anyway. There instead, actions speak loud and talk is often cheap and in clichés.
Sometimes though the words can be so controversial that they outstrip actions. You could be for instance a fantastic football player named Paolo Di Canio who has chalked up 532 games of top-drawer action in Italy, Scotland and England, in the process scoring 127 goals. Yep, a bona fide superstar who, as a 37 year old player for the Roman club Lazio in 2005 gave a Roman salute to the team’s fans.
The same Saluto Romano that was purloined by fascists in the early part of the 1900s and later gained notoriety as the preferred method of saluting Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.
I’d not be doing that, even if I was in Rome and the Romans were at it.
That’s some pretty hardcore action there, but Di Canio topped it in a subsequent interview when he declared that he was:
‘… a facist, not a racist. I give the straight arm salute because it is a salute from a camerata to camerati.’
So that’s cleared things up then. Paolo was just saying hullo to his friends. His friends, the facists.
Maybe that fog is still wisping upside my brain but that doesn’t seem quite right to me. So I managed to do what I couldn’t for that Tim guy and went to Wikipedia for a definition. They provided many words, some of which I had trouble understanding. A phrase did stand out though, 1 which suggested that facism:
‘…asserts that “superior” nations and races should attain living space by displacing weak and inferior ones.’
Which kind of sounds racist to me. Mostly because of the reference to superior races and the displacing of everyone else. Maybe though ‘racist’ is the wrong label. Maybe we’ve got so used to hearing the same tired defence about how this person is not a racist and they have friends who know that because people who know them really know that they are nice to everybody.
Even though they are a self-proclaimed facist. Who in an autobiography professes to having been fascinated by Mussolini because:
‘I think he was a deeply misunderstood individual. He deceived people. His actions were often vile. But all this was motivated by a higher purpose. He was basically a very principled individual.’
In fact Di Canio was so fascinated that he had a latin reference to Benito the dictator tattooed onto his shoulder.
Yep Paolo is just a Mussolini-lovin’ facist waving happily to the other facists.
That’s not for me.
None of my friends are facists. Racism makes me sick to the gut so when somebody I know starts spouting that @#$% I just walk away, and not just for the short-term. 1 time, close to Christmas, my Nanna, who had lived through the threat of Japanese invasion in World War 2, asked me about how a good mate, who happened to be of Malaysian descent, was spending the holidays:
‘Is he spending it with his kind of people?’
His kind of people are my kind of people I fired back, before stomping out to spend some Christmas cheer alone.
Before I knew about the facism trip he has going on I’d have thought Paolo was my kind of people too. There was this 1 game in 2000 where the fiery Italian was playing for West Ham against Brother of Longworth’s Everton at the latter’s Goodison Park home. Late in the game and with the Hammers deep in attack, the Toffees keeper, Paul Gerrard, raced off his line and wide to the right wing to blunt an attack. Unfortunately while well away from his goal Gerrard collapsed, having suffered a calamitous injury. Quick as a flash the ball was crossed past his prostrate body and to the head of the penalty area, square in front of a gaping goal.
And where Di Canio quite deliberately caught the ball in both hands, stopping play and allowing the opposition stopper to be carried off for treatment.
It was a glorious gesture and all the more so because West Ham had lost their previous 7 games and were at the time level with Everton at 1 apiece, a score that was to remain unchanged. 5 months later and the London club were to finish just 3 places clear of the relegation zone and goal difference ahead of Everton.
In spite of those narrow margins I would like to think I’d do the same as Paulo if it ever came down to it on the pitch. The thing is though, that my friends are not fascists and neither am I.
And now Paolo Di Canio has been appointed the manager of Sunderland, a club that is as deep in trouble as those Hammers were 13 years ago. With 7 games remaining the weary Black Cats are just a point clear of the relegation zone and they have no room to just catch the ball.
Yet in appointing Di Canio that’s almost what they have done. The club’s vice-chairman, David Miliband, has resigned and even the Durham Miners’ Association, whose proud banner hangs in Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, have threatened to take their sacred cloth back. Maybe Di Canio can save their beloved football club from a relegation battle loss of no small proportions but there’s some feeling that it is at a price too high to pay. That a goal might be scored but that in doing so everyone gets a bit more jaded and tired.
And that’s when facism thrives – When we all get tired. Tired of standing up to it and too clouded in fog to work out where we turn or even to look within ourselves. And even if we could overcome all of that we’d have lost the words anyway.
So I’m writing them down here.
@#$% you facists. You lose.
Don’t be fooled by the number 2 on the cap – This Webber guy is not too bad for a number 1 – Photo: Rich Jones, 2012. Rich Jones is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.
As a football player I was never much of a goal-scorer.
In fact, my last outdoor, 11-a-side gig lasted 3 and ½ seasons and yielded just 2 goals. This might indicate to you an inability to hit a barn door at 6 paces but I’d respond that: a. I hardly ever took a shot so it’s unfair to judge me on accuracy; and b. What’s up with the hitting the barn doors?
See, my problem with the scoring of goals is that my job has almost always been to stop the other guys from scoring goals. This usually involves spending a lot of time at least 50m from the correct goal, and while I think I have a cultured right foot, it’s not sophisticated enough to work a wonder-strike from beyond halfway.
Sure I could get closer but that wouldn’t be right – Defenders need to be disciplined. They need to suppress the desire for glory, that urge to run around with a shirt over their face, or the need to invent some kind of celebratory dance.
Nay, dancing is not for defenders.
Defenders do the inverse of a dance. Mostly this involves standing still and glaring down at opposition players who have tripped over their own feet. Which is not really in the class of the male lead of The Nutcracker. Although that reads like the kind of role that a good central defender might take. Cracking nuts.
A better dance analogue would be if Michael Flatley was doing his Feet Of Flames thing and 4 supporting choral singers to the rear of the stage each grabbed up a corner of 1 of those heavy curtains and then threw it over the lord of the dance. What those choristers are doing – Working from the back, singing from the same song sheet and smothering the dance – That’s defending.
Mark Webber would be a defender.
Sure the Australian is a Formula 1 driver, at the very pinnacle of motorsport and by definition an automatic superstar, seemingly far removed from a supporting role. He’s not Michael Flatley though, right down to the part where he seems a little slow with the feet, particular at the start of a Grand Prix (GP).
Webber is a good driver though – He’s a professional but he still has the capability to let the red mist take over, allowing him for instance to make a nutcracking pass on the outside of the Eau Rouge-Raidillon combo at 300kmph:
That’s 2 times World Champion Fernando Alonso that Webber is taking on there at the 2011 Belgian GP and it’s a battle for position.
Yep, Mark Webber is a racer.
As is his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel. Although that brief description is pretty much all they share – Seb is a 25 year old German (Webber is at 36 a veteran), 3 times a World Champion. As Red Bull is an Austrian beverage company the perception is that Vettel is the darling of the team, with Webber there in a discreet supporting role. This skeleton of a theory has been given meat by a number of incidents, starting with the Turkish Grand Prix of 2010, in which a leading Webber was challenged by his teammate, with the resulting collision punting out Vettel and demoting the Australian to a 3rd-place finish in this 7th round race.
The acrimony generated – Both drivers blamed the other for the costly mishap – flowed over to the 10th round, the British GP. There, the German ace was given new parts in preference to his Australian colleague. That did backfire – Webber went on to win the race, and still smarting from the mechanical backhander, snarkily suggested over the radio that his efforts were:
‘Not bad for a number 2 driver.’
And they weren’t bad at all, even for a number 1 driver. It’s this obvious talent in Webber that fuels such antagonism between he and Vettel. Not for Mark the shady world of pulling over and allowing Seb a clear run at the line – The Aussie pilot goes out to race and win.
Sometimes though it’s wise to park the emotion, to dampen the dance and do the team thing. Team orders are not illegal in F1. It is perfectly acceptable for a team principal to instruct a driver to not pass a teammate. Primarily this would be done to ensure that both cars will make it home safe and therefore derive the best possible points for the constructing team and best possible positive exposure for the sponsors.
Crashing into your teammate is not good for the sponsors.
In that 2010 Red Bull Turkish march that turned, in a moment of indiscipline, into a Turkish bath the constructor went from a potential 43 points to a disappointing 15 points. That’s not good for the business.
So it was with this in mind that Red Bull’s racing supremo Christian Horner issued an instruction after the last pit stop in the recent 2013 Malaysian GP that his drivers, placed 1 and 2 on the track, should drive conservatively to the chequered flag, without fighting for places. That order was a simple, ‘Multi21′, a thinly coded directive on the finishing order.
Upon receipt both drivers would normally dial their tempestuous machines back to a more conservative setting, cruising home for the Quinella and a bag full of points.
Except that the reigning World Champ, Sebastian Vettel was in 2nd and clearly felt that he had the faster car. So while his Australian teammate followed the team orders and dialled back his settings, the German ace accelerated and engaged in a pitched battle to pass him.
This is not smart racing. Even Horner agreed, somewhat peevishly telling his teutonic charge over the radio:
‘This is silly, Seb. Come on!’
That though did nothing to calm Seb and he eventually completed the wheel to wheel pass across a series of corners, at each turn endangering both cars until the marginally cooler Mark backed off. Vettel then went on to win the race while Webber was left to safely bring his car home.
Fume he did too. He snubbed Vettel’s attempt to talk post-race and in the press conference that followed didn’t hold back:
‘The first part of the grand prix went very well for us. In the end we got the right strategy and after the last stop the team told me to turn the engine down. Seb made his own decisions and will have protection as usual. I turned my engine down and as we know he’s a quick pedaller.’
By protection he probably doesn’t mean a helmet liner. And there’d be little actual pedalling going on – I think that’s a metaphor.
Webber then expanded:
‘We have had a lot of history, I respect Seb. It is still very raw at the moment because we had a plan before the race…. I should probably stop now.
It’s very, very, very hard for Seb to sit there when we are told to bring the car home safely. I turned the engine down and was reassured twice that we would not use the cars against each other. It’s very hard for people to understand the situation, they think they know what went on but they don’t.
It puts a lot of heat on certain people. Unfortunately there is no rewind button but it will put some pressure on certain people. We have three weeks now before the next race and I will catch some waves on my board in Australia.’
Which is practically zen and the kind of thing that worked well for Keanu Reeves in Point Break. Of course Keanu was only dealing with a surfing gang of deranged bank robbers led by Patrick Swayze, so Mark might need a bit more than that.
He could for instance consider a game of football in the Carnarvon Senior Soccer Association. Through that comp I got to do the team thing, loyally defending at the back. I did though occasionally get permission to wander forward into uncharted territory, where I could try my luck with a strike on goal and a chance at a jig of joy.
Twice it came off for me. Both times I scored the final goal in 6-0 routs, once from a cross that was spilled by the opposing keeper, allowing me to pounce with my seldom used left boot and rifle home the ball from all of 5m out. The 2nd time was in my last game wearing the green and white for Kennedy Rangers and I’d loped down the centre corridor hopefully, only to receive a pin-point cross with the keeper on the ground and out of position. From 10m out I this time used my preferred right peg and simply guided the ball home.
And did I dance?
In both cases I briefly clenched a fist, mostly just for me, and then I jogged back to my rightful position, proud that in both games we’d kept a clean sheet. I’m a defender, not a dancer.