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Soup of This Day #236: One That Won’t Make Me Sleep All Day

August 21, 2012

Rock pidgeon
Apparently this is a Rock Dove, Columba livia, yawning. I can’t attest to this as I’m not an expert and to me it looks exactly as I’d imagine a Rock Dove would if it was burping. Or surprised. Or belting out a medley of Huey Lewis and the News songs. That’s the power of dove – Photo: ressaure, 2011. ressaure (Tatiana Bulyonkova) is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I am an enigmatic person.

This might seem like a egotistical declaration to make but it’s true and I have the logic to back that up.

I’m yawning a lot at the moment.

This on the face of it might make me seem very un-enigmatic. Yawning after all is associated with boredom and fatigue – Your average international person of mystery, my gold standard for enigmatic, probably doesn’t list frequent naps and the occasional decent sleep-in as their secret weapons.

Although they probably should – Well rested is well armed. Or something.

And yawning is contagious too. Numerous studies have shown that a yawning person will engender that behaviour in other people. In fact 1 recent study by the University of London dealt with the vexing question of whether yawns could be passed on from human to dog.

The short answer to that is woof.

The longer answer is that 21 out of 29 dogs yawned in response to a human yawning in front of them. It had to be a genuine yawn too – Just opening the mouth in a gape did not fool any of the dogs into yawning.

In a completely unrelated study it was found that 21 of 29 dogs were bored @#$%less by being forced to stare at university researchers. The other 8 were occupied by their tails. All of them were amused by the silly humans who just opened their mouths for no reason.

So yawning would hardly seem to be a sign that I’m enigmatic. You see me yawning and you’d be thinking that this man is not mysterious – He just needs a nap. A nap is not in any way enigmatic – Sleep is predictable. You get tired and you go to sleep – We do it every night. It’s unsexy too – Sleep is something you do in bed as an alternative to sex. Therefore since yawns lead to sleep and sleep is not sexy we can say that the more you yawn the less sex you will have.

Although if you are a lone scientist locked in a hut in the Antarctic badlands for the duration of winter it really doesn’t matter how much or little you yawn. It’s just not happening for you. Sorry.

For everyone else, more yawns equals less sex – This is what you could easily conlude.

And you’d be wrong.

You see, the thing that makes me enigmatic is in fact my yawns. This is because nobody, for all of our understanding of the human body, is able to say for certain why we yawn.

Yawns are enigmatic.

All of those theories about being bored or tired or celibate are just that – Theoretical guesses. It is entirely possible for example that I am not yawning while tracking Red Sox games because I am bored.

Although I am bored when I’m tracking Red Sox games these days. Mostly because of where their season is at.

There are 40 games to go in 2012 for the Sox, just under 25% of the regular season. The truth is that it could be 2.5% or even 92.5% and that would not make a jot of difference.

The point is that the Sox are done for 2012. Mathematically they still have a shot but empirically they are shot. They are 13.5 games adrift of 1st place in the American League (AL) East. Worse, they are 7.5 games the wrong side of 1 of the 2 wild card slots and there are 5 teams ahead of them in that fight.

That’s the cold hard numbers. Now for the organisational body language: The Red Sox look beat, the players shining now are not the established stars – They are instead the utility players rolling their sleeves up in search of the next contract, putting themselves in the shop window. It’s not a bad shop window either because the Red Sox garner a lot of attention. Which is nice for a Nick Punto who, for instance, had a brace of photogenic fielding plays the other night against the Yankees.

Some of those fringe guys have alread grabbed a parachute – Kelly Shoppach, the veteran brought in for 2012 as back-up to Jason Saltalamacchia behind the plate, was always going to be a single season option. His role was to give Salty some cover while young gun Ryan Lavarnway matured at Portland. With the season done early the Sox have traded Shoppach and brought Lavarnway up into an environment whereby he can catch some big league innings sans pressure. It’s fairly sound business and for bonus points Shoppach has taken the rap for the text message that was sent to management complaining about Bobby Valentine.

Shoppach used Adrian Gonzalez’ phone to send the message. Apparently. Adrian didn’t agree with the tenor of the message but let Shoppach use his phone, presumably because he had a cheap deal on texts in off-peak hours and Shoppach was just so bummed at paying premium rates via his own service.

Yeeeeaaaaaah, ok.

As for the rest, the established stars on long contracts are playing this out. Barely. And some aren’t even doing that – If you have some surgery you’ve been putting off then this is your time. Carl Crawford is almost certain to opt for Tommy John action on his elbow as soon as this week. I don’t know if he’d not persevere with that if the Red Sox were still in the hunt for 2012.

But they’re not. Coolstandings.com has the Sox at a 4% chance of earning a wild card. A quick glance at the stats shows why this figure is so low – Boston has done well on offence – 592 runs ranks them barely behind the Yankees (597) in the AL East and better than any of the 5 teams scrapping for the wild cards. That’s a whopping 102 runs more than Oakland (490), a team that is lurking 0.5 games out of October action. Run production, as for last year, is not the weak link.

Pitching is.

The Red Sox have given up 558 runs. None of the playoff contenders in the AL or the National League (NL) have coughed up that many. In fact there are just 6 outfits with worse defensive records than that. The Chicago Cubs, who at 47 wins have the 2nd worst record in the majors, have conceded less runs.

We can expand upon that narrative a bit more by separating out the starters from the bullpen. Of the starters, the highlight has been the re-invention of Clay Buchholz mid-stream. He was tanking early, with an ERA of 9+ after his 1st 6 outings. From then on though he edged it down, backing up some solid starts with a couple of gems, including a complete game shutout against the O’s in June. The result of all of that has been a team-best 11 and 3 record and an ERA of 4.19. That last is generally not something to crow about too much but when you put it alongside his fellow Red Sox starters it’s Cy Young material.

Daniel Bard had a 5.24 ERA before he was sent down to rebuild his tattered reputation. Aaron Cook (4.58), Felix Doubront (4.70) and Franklin Morales (4.29) have tried hard but their colective ERAs are taking some punishment as they eat more innings than had probably been envisaged in spring. That’s ok – Those guys were long-shots, at best No.4s or No.5s in the rotation. The real issue is with the guys at the head of the starter’s collective – Jon Lester and Josh Beckett.

Lester has shown signs of a recovery his last 2 starts. Which is nice because prior to those he was working on a 5 and 10 record and an ERA of 5.36. He’s now improved that to 7 and 10 with an ERA of 5.03. It might come down more but that’s neither here nor there now. Josh Beckett can’t even point to a recent revival – He was 4 and 4 at 1 point with an ERA in the low 4s.

Not so much now.

Josh Beckett now has a 5 and 11 record to go with an ugly 5.23 ERA. If you’re keeping score then you’ll have worked out the the top 2 Red Sox starters are good for a 12 and 21 record. You don’t win pennants with your top 2 misfiring like that.

Whatever the reasons, the Red Sox are done for 2012 and watching them play out what is effectively junk time is a little boring. It turns out though that the boredom generated by them might not be what’s making me yawn. In fact the latest research proposes another theory that might link their play with my yawning problem.

It turns out that the body might be using yawning as a mechanism for cooling the brain. Yep, the ol’ brain gets too hot and so yawning is triggered to help it chill out.

This would fit. Watching the Red Sox this year has been frustrating. At times they’ve made my head hurt. It’s not unreasonable to presume that the Sox have been cooking my brain and thus inducing some yawns.

Or it could be those tablets they have me on which list ‘excessive yawning’ as a known side-effect. Either or.

One That Won’t Make Me Sleep All Day

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