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Soup of This Day #246: Don’t Know When I’ll Be Back Again

September 14, 2012

Thunderbird ejection
Knowing when to leave is a real skill. Captain Christopher Stricklin safely punches clear of his stricken F16 (Thunderbird 6), after guiding it clear of the watching crowd. The incident occurred because of a failure to include ground height in altitude calculations. Which is a bit of a @#$% up really – Photo: Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III, 2003. Staff Sgt. Bennie J. Davis III is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

A couple of weeks ago The Noah finished up at his day care centre. His Mum organised a card for the staff there to say thanks. She wrote in it and asked The Noah what he’d like to say. He helpfully offered up:

‘I’m going and I won’t be coming back.’

Which is accurate, if a little too succinct. And cold.

Sometimes though you have to exit and you want it to be as clean as possible. Knowing when to go and how to get out can be difficult – Just ask anyone who has moved house. This then is the theme of today’s post – The timing of getting out.

In a sporting context this is an immediate and vexing issue. Teams and clubs surely spend an inordinate amount of time reflecting on where they are at and where they are headed. The natural extension of this is to question whether you have the staff to get you there. There is no room for sentiment in a response to this puzzle and nor is there time for a pause, an extended breath under which to judge. Courses are plotted and replotted constantly and at the top end of the game if you’ve got a crew member zigging when the winds call for a zag you’re gonna be rolling out a plank so as to be sharply discarding the drag.

The plank is metaphorical. I’m aware that sticking a plank out will temporarily create drag. You want to balance up if the short-term drag of the lump of wood aft outweighs the drag of the lump of wood who’s not helping you sail in the right direction.

2 cases in point, the 1st of which is Bobby Valentine. Bobby V is a clown. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with that. Clowns can be good, even in sport – The Red Sox broke an 86 year old curse with a bunch of clowns. I guess the question is – Do you want a clown in charge of the circus?

The numbers would mostly say that it hasn’t worked out. The rawest of raw is that Boston are at 64 and 80. They will not finish with a winning record – They last lost more than they won in 1997. The statistically brilliant folk at coolstandings.com are projecting a 72 and 90 season. That would be the worst since 1966 when they went 72 and 90. Those who look for symbolism in the numerals will argue that the next year, 1967, they went 92 and 70 and were a game away from winning that year’s World Series – An impossible dream that almost became reality.

Pessimists will point out that the Red Sox had 2 managers in 1966 and neither was at the helm for the 1967 turn-around. A better approximation might be 1964 when the Sox went 72 and 90 – All of those losses and 70 of the wins were under Johnny Pesky. At the end though Billy Herman finished the year off and guided the Red Sox through 1965.

Where they went 62 and 100.

Can impossible dreams almost come true twice?

Counting for Bobby Valentine is that his 2012 Red Sox have been cruelled by injuries to extraordinary levels. On the other side of the ledger is that the 2012 Red Sox rank 3rd in payroll. For that kind of money you don’t get to whine about depth too much – How you handle yourself in such times is 1 of the truest measures of those indelible qualities – Spirit and heart. Those 2 will win you games. They may even get you to within a game of winning the World Series. Sadly though neither is much in evidence around the Boston Red Sox this year – While less dramatic than last September’s implosion this season has still been a catalogue of collapse. In-fighting has not been suppressed, internal animosity has not been concealed and the ‘fun’ is gone from ‘dysfunctional’.

Yep, the Red Sox are dysctional.

And that gets to be laid at the feet of Bobby Valentine. It might not be his fault – Probably isn’t – He inherited a club on the back-end of a supernova and was tasked with avoiding a black hole. It was pretty apparent that his rookie General Manager (GM), Ben Cherington, wasn’t a prime supporter. Nor were key (read: ‘high-paid’) elements in the clubhouse, including Bobby’s own staff. It was always going to be difficult to meld those differing agendas into a competitive ball club. Optimists like me figured that there was a chance that in this highly-charged environment, sort of a plasma of dysctional, that bat@#$% crazy might just be the free radical element that could bring a Nation together.

Not so much.

Bobby V. comes across as a weary, beaten man. Accounts seem to have him walling himself off from problematic staff, burying himself in his office. When communication would seem to be the lubricant that could oil this seized up leviathan the typically chatty Bobby V. has gone into his shell.

So will he go? Maybe not – He seems to have management backing. Just last month they dumped serious talent and payroll. For sure it was about freeing up cash for a rebuild. The impression you can’t escape though is that there was also a desire to rid the clubhouse of some disruptive elements. That bespeaks a future for Bobby V, perhaps a recognition that the organisation has not been wholly at his disposal and that he therefore can not be judged just yet.

Another thought to throw into the mix was that until the blockbuster trade shifting out Josh Beckett, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford, GM Cherington can’t have had a great report card. The Sox failed miserably to address their starting rotation woes across the off-season and Ben looked woefully out of his depth. Kind of like the anti-Billy Beane.

Chances are that if you’re a Red Sox fan you’ve already made up your mind – Does Bobby V. stay or go? I thought I had it clear in my head but just writing this out I’ve climbed back onto my perch at the top of the fence. Can the clown regain his crazy and rid the Sox of their dysction?

Maybe.

The Fremantle Dockers were riddled with dysction last year. After a stellar 2010 they, like the Red Sox, suffered from a horror 2011 injury crisis. So bad it was that there was some doubt as to whether they could field a complete team in the closing stages of a season of regression.

For the 1st 14 matches of this 2012 season looked like a similar tale of mid-table obscurity, albeit without the level of injuries. They were 7 and 7 at that point and seemed incapable of closing out matches against more-fancied opponents, i.e. Anybody above them on the ladder.

But what most will call struggling the Dockers treated as learning. They got better and aided by a softer draw through the final 8 games of the regular season they tapered nicely, finishing with a 14 and 8 record, good enough for a finals slot with momentum. It was impetus that they carried into the finals too – Knocking off defending champions Geelong at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), a bogy venue for the Dockers. It was the 1st away win out of just 7 finals matches the Dockers have fronted up for and was adjudged by some to be the Dockers finest hour.

How did they go from an injurious mediocrity to that glorious height?

At the end of that 2011 debacle they stunningly fired popular coach Mark Harvey, scant months after extending his contract. As his replacement they brought in dour St Kilda coach Ross Lyon. Lyon’s style was defensive – Some Saints fans had disliked it so much that they threatened to cancel memberships because they could not stand for their beloved outfit to play such a stifling brand of football. Staid it might have been but few could argue at its success – Lyon had thrice guided an unfashionable Saints side to Grand Finals, and although they narrowly missed on 2 of them (1 was a tie and the replay was a blow-out loss) it was clear that the man was breeding winners.

Freo needs winners.

The Saints work also highlighted a Lyon trait that he has brought to the Dockers – The ability to extract something from players irrespective of natural talent. Lyon works with roles and prepares players to fill them. Players in his teams fit within a system – Dedicated to their part in the Lyon plan. Some of those players would not get a gig elsewhere. Indeed 2 stars of the victory over Geelong were washed up and on their way out under Harvey. Whereas with Rosco at the helm Michael Walters and Ryan Crowley lost weight and got a new purpose. Sneered-at players like Adam McPhee, Kepler Bradley and Zac Dawson have also found a little something extra – They’ve gone from maligned to aligned – With the Lyon concept of team 1st.

The Red Sox need a Ross Lyon. Maybe that can be Bobby Valentine.

It’s worth noting that St Kilda missed the finals this year. Ross Lyon’s timing seems to have been on the money.

At Chapiteau Longworth72 our good judgement was less obvious.

A week after The Noah finished up daycare, The Angus got sick. He seems to have gone down with bronchilitis, a respiratory virus-thing that leads to breathing difficulties.

Which is not good in a 3 month old baby.

We’ve had 3 trips to hospital (And 2 stays) in under a week. The wife, with the kind of grace under pressure that the Red Sox could only dream of, handled The Angus and the hospital stays. This left me with The Noah, who spent long hours with his Dad, who desperately tried to remember how to maintain a household while entertaining a 4 year old dervish. Without a daycare to fall back on you could argue that our timing in canning that resource was a bit off.

It wasn’t though.

In the end it looks like our littliest tacker is ok – They may even have isolated an unrelated infection because of the increased observation. Meanwhile The Noah and his Dad got to spend some quality time together, helping each other through a crisis. Part of that was me attending soccer training with him for the 1st time.

Timing really is everything in sport.

Don’t Know When I’ll Be Back Again

4 Comments
  1. First off I hope the Angus is up and running on all cylinders again asap. You know how much I loathe Bobby V but I simply refuse to tell any Red Sox fan after the fact “I told you so” when it was first announced he was to be their Manager. I just want to restate for the record when I first heard he was hired I truly, honest-to-God thought it was a hoax. There…we’ll leave it at that. In any event, be advised I am still lurking in the shadows of the blogosphere and one day may be once again compelled to spend more time within it. If nothing else in this rambling comment, just wanted to say hope all is well with you and yours!

    • The Angus is almost back to his regular self – There’s just a residual cough left. He of course will remember none of this while his parents will look at the extra grey hairs they have accumulated and recall it all for some time yet. Being a parent is the most wearying job I have ever had to do. It is also far and away the most rewarding and I am extraordinarily grateful that both my sons are happy and healthy.

      Bobby Valentine confounds me. On the 1 hand I think that managers are given too short a time to prove themselves these days and I think anyone deserves a larger sample size. On the other hand the Red Sox are such a tragicomic mess right now that you have to wonder how much worse it could get with more time. The Phillies have at least put up a fight and are still an outside chance to play in October. The Red Sox meanwhile have capitulated woefully – Some of the baseball I’ve seen of late has just been dire, barely worthy of AAA. Bobby V., with his lamentable communication skills, has to wear a fair chunk of the 1st Red Sox losing season since 1997. Fire him and draw a line through this year.

      Good to hear you’re still around and not forever lost from the blogosphere. In the meantime I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next sportsattitudinal post.

      • Do you think Bobby V is trying to get fired at this point? His comments about their “September” lineup certainly reflect on the entire organization. I know he had no concept of how to be articulate after watching him as an ESPN commentator, but trying to explain away what he said about their roster is truly stuff to store in the theatre of the absurd. As for the kids, Kathy and I chose not to have them and as she approaches her 50th birthday in January I think it’s a mortal lock she won’t wish to change that fact. I can only imagine the festival of grey hairs resulting from making that commitment. Best wishes to you and yours!

      • My view on Bobby V. is solidifying – He will get fired. Has to. Maybe hasn’t had enough time or the opportunity to stamp his style on the organisation but what we have seen has been bad – Faults on all sides but the manager is meant to be the bigger dog, not the yapping Shih Tzu. To quote Strother Martin – What we’ve got here is…failure to communicate.

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