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Soup of This Day #9: No Messerschmitt Yet

June 2, 2011

A restored Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6
A restored Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6 – Photo: Kogo, 2005. Kogo is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

When the 2011 season started I had Boston pegged for 92 wins. ‘Whoa there dude!’, you’re gonna say. ‘Just 92 wins for the best team ever?’ Yep, I never bought in to the ‘best team ever’ stuff. For a start, I’m naturally conservative when it comes to sport – I’ve seen wildly improbable things come true: The 2004 ALCS anyone? The 2005 CL Final – the Miracle in Istanbul? The Dockers… Well ok, I think you got the point anyway. The second problem I have with this ‘best team ever’ routine is that hardly any of the teams that earn that moniker got it before they had played a game.

Let’s take the Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ from 2002/2003. They traveled through the Premier League season without a loss. 38 games, 26 wins and 12 draws. With players like the absurdly talented Thierry Henry (Now plying his trade with New York in the MLS), Dennis Bergkamp, Robert Pires and Patrick Viera they were always going to be a good side – They achieved greatness at 5:00pm on the 15th of May, having won their last game of the season (against Leicester) and thus becoming the first team since Preston in 1889 to achieve the feat in England’s top flight. Preston, for the record, won 18 and drew 4 in a 22-game season.

For an Australian the benchmark for the best is cricket’s 1948 Invincibles team. The touring party to England went with high hopes and more than a few expectations. After all the team included a host of stars, Keith Miller, Sid Barnes, Neil Harvey and most importantly of all, the Don, Donald Bradman (Since knighted). The Don set the standard for individual excellence – He is, without question, the greatest cricketer to have played the game and that is a viewpoint that almost no one will dispute. It’s not often that you could say that about someone in a sport – That it can be said for the Don is testament to his legacy. For a start, whereas a batting average of 50+ is considered good for Test cricketers and 60+ is extremely good, the Don finished his career at 99.94, a truly astonishing figure. Think a professional lifetime in the majors at bat of .999 or a goal a game in England’s top flight for your entire career. As a sidebar to my central theme, the Don needed just 4 in his final innings to have an average of 100. He was bowled for a duck and settled for 99.94. Near enough, in this case, is most certainly a bucket load better than good enough.

In spite of all of this the Invincibles weren’t called that before they got to England. It’s a name that was coined after the tour. A tour in which they did not lose. They played 34 matches, 31 of which were rated as 1st class affairs. Over a packed schedule of 112 playing days out of 144 they won 25 games and drew 9, becoming the first touring Test side to go undefeated in England, the home of the game. The best team in Australian sporting history, the Invincibles became a byword for greatness, and no one talked them up to that level before they played.

Boston certainly aren’t invincible. Actually right now the only ironed on certainty seems to be the White Sox at Fenway. They got the broom out this morning and added a 3-game sweep to the 3 games they won last time out for a 6 game streaking shellacking of Boston.

Tim Wakefield did his best early, keeping Chicago scoreless through the first 3. The bats meanwhile knocked in 3 in the 2nd, Lowrie with a RBI double and Salty with 2 off a single. The White Sox snuck one back top of the 4th and then in the 5th scored 2 following a botched call – A tag that somehow got missed by the umpire, who subsequently refused to get help on the call. Wake cost another, via a solo shot in the 6th. Papi responded with one of his own, bottom of the 6th to tie but that was that from the offence. Sadly not so for Chicago, with Albers in for Wake, giving up 1 run in the 7th. Rich Hill took over but managed just 7 pitches before complaining of a ‘popped’ elbow. Bard in for him, kept it tight through to the 9th before Papelbon allowed a 2 run shot. That’s now a 4 game losing streak heading into a rest day. 30 and 26 and now 2 games behind the Yankees.

Terry Francona was asked in April, 4 games into the horror run then, whether pressure would increase for a win. His response, in part:

“If we let it build, it does. It’s not a lot of fun. But I don’t think anyone’s going to feel sorry for us. We just have to come out and play the game right and things will work out. But if we feel sorry for ourselves, that won’t help.”

Fair call and words to mind right now. They came back then, they’re good enough to do it again.

Keith Miller, the brilliant all-rounder with the 1948 Invincibles was once asked by Michael Parkinson about pressure in cricket. Miller, a wartime fighter pilot, replied that “pressure is a Messerschmitt up your arse, playing cricket is not”. I’m not seeing a second world war fighter of any type hanging off Boston’s six so I’m gonna go ahead and stick with 92. Good, just not the best. Yet.

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