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Soup of This Day #32: Difficult Should be a Walk in the Park

July 10, 2011

Lalo Schifrin
Argentine composer Lalo Schifrin – Photo: Alexandra Spürk, 2006. Alexandra Spürk is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Some years ago I went to my first gig at the Perth Concert Hall. A wonderful venue, that hosted that night, Australian jazz great James Morrison and legendary Argentinean composer and conductor Lalo Schifrin.

Schifrin has been responsible for a brilliant body of work, including writing the jazz scores that were the background to the ‘Dirty Harry’ films. Somehow melding jazz and a vigilante-esque pursuit of a serial killer is pretty impressive but it’s not all he achieved. He also scored ‘Bullitt’ and ‘Cool Hand Luke’, with parts of the latter being used for the Eye Witness News theme in New York and for Channel 9 News in Australia.

On this night he played none of these, preferring a tribute to Duke Ellington and other orchestral works. For the encore though he reserved something a little special for pop-culture fans.

As he came out to great applause, the orchestra, to a player, donned dark glasses. Shifrin sat down at the piano, half facing the audience and with one hand played the opening refrain from his most notable work, the theme from ‘Mission Impossible’. The night was July 7, 2007, almost exactly 4 years ago and as it coincides with a personal sporting anniversary I thought I’d take ‘Mission Impossible’ as today’s theme.

A little over a decade ago my brother invited me to play in a 5-a-side (futsal) team that he was getting together. We’d only played on the same team sporadically over the years and it seemed like the smaller pitches would help the fact that we were older, slower and generally pretty unfit.

The K Random 12s, as we came to be known for reasons lost in antiquity, were a disparate lot, comprising of just the 4 core players. This was an immediate problem as we were 1 short of an actual playing team. Nonetheless we persisted, dragging in a series of cameo performances from pretty much everywhere, including the referee on a couple of occasions and 1 guy we knew only as Sideshow Dave – He did actually run a sideshow, we knew that much.

We started that season with our mission impossible being to win a title but pretty early on we re-assessed that goal. See, we were crap.

Really crap.

Through our first 12 games we conceded 36 goals, scored none and never looked like winning. This is in part due to the limited arsenal of tactics that we had at our disposal. Bewildering tactics are ok when you’re bewildering the opposition. Not so much when you’re bewildering yourself.

My brother was the midfield stalwart of the team, blessed with a capacity to hold the ball up and a shot that fairly took the opposition keeper’s head off on a number of occasions. In training. Or the warmup. Never during that 1st 12 games.

Our lead striker was also good at holding the ball up. He had developed an uncanny ability to ‘post-up’, holding the ball with his back towards goal, edging back in to a defender before pivoting for a shot, maybe a 12 foot jumper. Which would be great in basketball. In futsal it was just plain dumb, giving defenders time to cover and his teammates time for a hot cup of ‘why the fuck did you think that would work this time?’

The last of the core players apart from me was the keeper/striker Jimmy the Hand. Jimmy was a kid small of stature yet possessed of a borderline psychopathic temper. He earned his sobriquet around the 7th game of our slump by punching the goal frame in frustration. He then came off the pitch to re-locate his little finger, only to discover that he had fractured his hand in a number of places. He subsequently missed most of the rest of our season.

So, by game 13 we were a little dispirited. Our impossible mission had been downshifted from winning a title to making the playoffs, then winning a game and finally, to scoring a goal. Thus we come to the K Random 12s finest hour.

Game 13 was on a cool but dry early July evening. It was a Tuesday and our opponents were in 3rd place and cruising to the playoffs. They had previously accounted for us 4-0 and probably didn’t rate us that highly. We certainly didn’t.

In the absence of Jimmy the Hand, I started in goal. It was a tight first half with few chances and little work for me or my opposite number. The game was hardly flowing and there seemed little impetus from either side. As half-time approached we began to hope we could make it there unscathed.

And then Classic stood up.

Classic is named thus because he responds to seemingly every person and every situation with a slow nod and ‘Classic’. I once emailed a group of people to announce that I couldn’t play in a game because my liver had stopped functioning properly and I had to have emergency surgery to remove my gall bladder and an obstruction in my bile duct. I was very ill and the surgeon’s had told me that they had a day or 2 to operate before it became life-threatening. ‘Classic’, emailed back Classic.

Just before halftime n our 13th game Classic did something that was… well… classic. About 8m out, with an attack seemingly petering out, directly in front, he hooked a volley goalwards. It looked innocuous from where I stood, down the pitch, but maybe it had some fizz on it, a little salt and pepper, because the keeper couldn’t get his arms up in time and it crashed into the back of the net. Amongst our (3) fans and (5) players there was stunned silence. I looked to the ref, sure that it would be disallowed for some, nay, any, reason. We were the K Random 12s. We didn’t score goals. It was just not our thing.

Yet when the referee did blow his whistle it was to point to the centre. The goal stood and the K Random 12s were on the board. Mission impossible was done and we headed into halftime reveling in mission accomplished, not caring what happened in the 2nd half. It could get better but we didn’t mind cos we had scored and it could not get worse.

It got better. Oh so much better.

For the 2nd half I came out of goals, handing the gloves to a self-satisfied Classic. We pushed the opposition back, trying to force another goal. We’d had the taste and we wanted more.

Unfortunately this left us exposed at the back and with around 10min remaining we were caught out, Classic coming out too far to a long ball. He handled it outside his area, dislocating his thumb in the process. Classic it was.

A penalty was given.

I helped pull Classic’s thumb back in but he clearly couldn’t keep so I donned the gloves and took station between the posts. The evening twilight had faded and the game lights now shone over the pitch as their lazy arse striker strode up to place the ball on the spot. I’d only ever saved one penalty and that was because it was fired directly at me. I didn’t get that luxury in this case because as the whistle went the pansy striker struck the ball low and hard to my left. I’m right handed and have never been able to touch my toes so this was as good as it gets against me. Still, I lunged to my left at the same time as I dropped, just folding my legs like they weren’t there anymore. I stuck out a paw and prayed that I could get something on the ball.

I did.

I palmed that sucker, deflecting it up and further to the left. It rocketed from my hand onto the inside of the post before bouncing out in front of me. I scrabbled for it eventually knocking it clear, just before an opposing player got involved. To this day the roar from my teammates and the (3) fans is still ringing in my ears. We were still ahead.

As the clock wore down the other team grew desperate and shots began raining in from further out. I counted a dozen or so in the last 5 minutes but there was no way I was letting one through. Close to the end I looked at the ref, begging him with my eyes to call it, to give the K Random 12s the impossible dream before it could be snatched from us.

He did, calling time on the most incredible 30mins of football I’ve ever played. The roar of celebration was completely out of proportion to the magnitude of the win and the opposition must have been watching us running with shirts over heads, screaming and high-fiving, wondering how in hell they’d lost to these guys. Even the ref, who had 2 weeks previously presided over us being demolished 7-0, managed a broad grin and a shake of the head.

It’s now 10 years on and memories have dimmed. Classic now believes that his volley was the greatest ever and that I conceded the penalty. Post-up has moved to England and is married with 2 kids. Presumably he didn’t post-up in the birthing suite at delivery and instead allowed his wife to take the shot. Jimmy the Hand has moved to Melbourne, working as an artist and promoter of bands. My brother is now semi-retired from football, his knee giving way during training as he attempted a comeback earlier this year. And I’m down to being a dad, husband and professional manager – My only football experiences nowadays limited to writing and spectating. That’s ok though, for exactly 10 years ago today, on Tuesday, 10th of July, 2001 The K Random 12s achieved mission impossible and won a game.

On this 10th anniversary there are several other impossible missions in play today. First, and Western Australian Daniel Ricciardo makes his race debut in F1 tonight at Silverstone. He will be driving the extraordinarily woeful Hispania from 24th and last on the grid. His unachievable goal? To finish the race and to do so in front of someone, preferably his teammate, Liuzzi. At the other end of the grid fellow Aussie, Mark Webber will start from 1st. His designs are much grander. He will look to a. Not fuck up the start and b. Beat his teammate Vettel to the win for the 1st time this season.

Across the Channel in France and Cadel Evans continues his pursuit of a wildly impossible mission, to win the Tour de France. In Stage 8 overnight he had a corker, not only surviving the first really hilly stage of the tour but seeming to thrive at the close. For a time it seemed that Astana’s Vinakourov had made a maillot jaune winning break but Evan’s BMC team helped cloase it down up the steep final climb before the main contenders dueled it out on the slopes. Evans matched it with Schleck and Contador and even had the guts to attack at the end, notching 3rd for the stage and maintaining a lead over Schleck and a healthier 1:42 over Contador. Cadel is 1s off of yellow, going in to today’s Stage 9, an intermediate stage with a couple of Category 2 climbs.

800km away and around the time the peloton is tackling the first climb of the day in Augsburg, Germany and the Matildas are taking on Sweden in the quarters of the 2011 Women’s Football World Cup. Sweden will be the favourites and the Australians will be up against it.

Your final mission, if you choose to accept it is to travel across the Atlantic (by private jet of course) to Fenway for the Red Sox vs the Orioles in a 4 game stoush. The Sox looking to build some form and momentum after taking the last 2 against the Blue Jays and the Orioles trying to win something (They haven’t been altogether that successful at that of late).

Game 1 saw Andrew Miller take the mound and he gave up 2 runs from the off. Pedroia turned that around in the 3rd with a 3 run blast before Baltimore leveled it in the 4th. An unearned run gave the Sox back the lead bottom of the 4th and that was the last the O’s saw of Boston, bar perhaps some tail lights ahead in the gloom. Gonzalez (again) with a solo shot in the 5th and Ellsbury with a 2 run homer in the 6th. In the 7th Ortiz smacked a solo shot of his own, quickly followed by Reddick and then Salty, the Sox going back-to-back-to-back. The Orioles pulled 1 back in the 8th but that’s how it ended, 10-4 to the Red Sox. For those keeping count, a season high 6 long shots, the best in a single game since 2009 for Boston. Miller wasn’t great but he didn’t need to be and he got his 3rd win.

Game 2 started quietly, with Beckett looking to show why he is an All-Star and it continued quietly as the Sox bats seemed to be sleepy.

Until they came to the plate in the 1st.

13 times.

For 8 runs.

Youk with an RBI single, Ortiz with a 3 run blast and then McDonald with a 2 run single. Ellsbury had another go and knocked in the 7th run at which point the Orioles pulled their starter. It didn’t seem to matter for Gonzalez (again) who got the final run, a RBI single. A 7 hit, 8 run bottom of the first and this game was pretty much done bar the fighting.

And there was fighting. Big Papi didn’t like getting 3 inside and pointed at Orioles reliever Kevin Gregg. Benches were cleared and all seemed settled until Ortiz flied out and Gregg didn’t like that Ortiz didn’t bury himself on the run to 1st. Clearly Gregg hasn’t watched Big Papi play so mouthed his opinion to Ortiz who came at him swinging. Ortiz and Gregg chucked, along with another Orioles reliever, Jim Johnson and Salty. Reddick was tagged out at 3rd after joining the fight. In the end 10-3 to the Sox in the only count that matters. Gregg had a whiny old time afterwards and his thoughts (loose term) are sufficiently dumbass for me not to bother rehashing them.

10-3 Kevin. You got beat mate.

Game 3 was this morning and this folks is where we get to an impossible mission. The mission is for John Lackey to pitch ok. At Fenway. In 2011.

Yep, impossible. Except it wasn’t. He pitched ok. Better than ok actually. He pitched 6.2 innings of shut out. On offence Ellsbury with a single, double and triple by the 5th, although none of those earned a run. With 2 outs in the 5th the Sox brought home 3 via a 2 run double from Reddick and a RBI double from Youk. Youk then doubled another RBI in the 7th and that was enough with the O’s failing to trouble the scorers and barely trouble the statisticians with only 4 hits. The night belonged to Lackey though. His line read 106 pitches for 3 hits, no runs and 1 standing ovation from the faithful. A ways to go, at 6 and 8 but these nights give hope.

The Sox then 3-0 against the O’s in this stand and looking for Kyle Weiland to step up in Game 4 tomorrow. It’s agent Weiland’s first outing on promotion from Pawtucket where he has been 8 and 6 this year. The 24 year old is one for the future and will need to justify his selection ahead of Aceves.

And so as Danny Ricciardo attempts to pilot a pile of crap in his debut F1 race, as the Sox look to complete a sweep with the largely untried Weiland on the mound, as Cadel Evans looks to stake his claim for one of the most coveted sporting prizes, as the Matildas try to out-sweat the Swedes and as the K Random 12s look to remember their own mission impossible, I invite you to don some dark glasses.

‘This is not mission difficult, Mr. Hunt, it’s mission impossible. Difficult should be a walk in the park for you.’

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