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Soup of This Day #56: And The Beards Have All Grown Longer Overnight

August 27, 2011

Some excellent asparagus. Country of origin unknown – Photo: Muffet, 2005. Muffet is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

This blog generally doesn’t do politics. Partly because I’m Australian and Antipodean politics has degenerated into a base kind of self-serving gutter hypocrisy that isn’t about anything that matters. We have a 2 party preferred system and the 2 leaders of each main party have approval ratings of 29 and 33 respectively. That is to say, less than a 1/3 of the population wants either of them. Over a 1/3 of the population wants neither of them. Fortunately we have compulsory voting otherwise the apathy could get ugly. Or not.

In the US there isn’t compulsory voting. To compensate, the politicians seem to be at a whole other level. Take Texas Governor Rick Perry for instance. Preferably a long way away, before dropping him off with a, ‘Run free Rick!’

You know he’ll be happy out there.

Once you’ve left him in the wilderness maybe explain this gem from his website to me:

‘A Reagan Republican, Rick Perry will restore confidence in the American Dream and American Exceptionalism.’

And then this bit from former President George W. Bush:

‘There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.’

Yeah, ok.

Can’t help feeling that a riff from The Who would have enhanced that last bit: ‘We won’t get fooled again/Don’t get fooled again’… …duuummm, duumm, da-dum da-dum.

This concept of American Exceptionalism seems to imply that Americans are capable of exceptional things just because they are American. In other words, you’re somehow automatically superior because you were born or emigrated to the US.

Australians don’t relate to that sentiment. We don’t generally believe in Australian Exceptionalism. Oh, we believe that Australians can do exceptional things – No fewer than 10 Australians are Nobel Laureates. We invented the black box, the bionic ear, the refrigerator, spray on skin (for burns victims), Vegemite and discovered penicillin.

No, Vegemite and penicillin are not the same thing.

On the sporting front we came up with a winged keel that allowed us to snag yachting’s America’s Cup in 1983, snapping a 132 year streak in the process and Aboriginal Australians have been perfecting the art of throwing a boomerang for around 10,000 years. Although the latter is not so much for sport, more for food acquisition.

All of this we are rightly proud of but we also believe that people everywhere else can do exceptional stuff too.

For instance the Germans are the current world champions at the boomerang. Are we Australians unhappy about this? Nope. Good on the Germans. And thanks for the wonderful dishwasher from Stuttgart too while we’re chatting. It’s exceptional. As are your cars, particularly the sublime Mercedes Benz 300SL Gullwing and the awesome 1983 Audi Quattro. Your power tools are top notch, your sound systems are exemplary and your crisp beer is served in perfectly over-sized vessels, often by fetching Fräuleins or even Herrns in lederhosen if that floats your boat. Oh and that Einstein guy was really quite something too. Danke.

A great example of international exceptionalism is that some 70 countries have generated Nobel Laureates. Including the Faroe Islands, from whence came Niels Ryberg Finsen, who in 1903 became the 3rd winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine and Physiology for his work utilising Photobiomodulation to combat Lupus. What makes this more remarkable is that the Faroes has a population of only around 50,000. In spite of this they have a Nobel Laureate to their credit and a national football team that is a full member of FIFA and UEFA. Playing at their home ground of Tórsvøllur, which has a capacity of 6,000 they have never qualified for a World Cup or Euro tournament. In fact their 2-0 win over Estonia in June of this year was their 1st Euro qualifying win since 1995. For the record captain Fródi Benjaminsen took 2 penalties, scoring from 1, with Arnbjørn Hansen knocking in the rebound from the other. Nice work from Fródi and exceptional stuff from Niels.

Americans are capable of exceptional stuff too. There have been 840 Nobel Laureates and 326 of them are from the US, ranging from Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 (for Peace) to Ei-ichi Negishi in 2010 (for Chemistry). Negishi is a wonderful example of the diversity of exceptionalism. He’s Japanese, born in what is now China and brought up in Korea. After graduating from the University of Tokyo he has done the majority of his work in the US, particularly at Purdue. While at Purdue in the 70’s he worked with Herbet C. Brown. Brown was born in London to Ukrainian Jewish immigrants from Zhytomyr. He and his family emigrated to the US when he was 2 and 65 years later he won a Nobel Prize. That 1979 Chemistry nod was shared with Georg Wittig, like Albert Einstein, a German Nobel Laureate. Global exceptionalism.

In sport the US has given us baseball. I had more stuff under ‘US Sport’ but frankly baseball is enough. It’s a brilliant game with a history and a rhythm that is tailor made for a laid back appreciation of life.

Which gets us to Game 2 of the Red Sox 4 game road stoush at Rangers Ballpark. Having lost the opening Game 1 of the series the Red Sox looked to bounce back against possible playoff rivals via a start to John Lackey. The bats, possibly spooked by the ‘John Lackey’ bit fired early, Gonzalez (again) smacked a 2 run shot to right in the 1st, snapping a 3 week stretch where he’d failed to go long. Perhaps in celebration, Lackey kept things quiet while a Salty RBI double and a Scutaro sac fly made it 4-0 after 2. Top of the 3rd and it was 6-0 thanks to a Crawf sac fly and Lavarnway’s RB double. Sadly at this point Lackey had one of his patented implosions and he gifted up 3 to the Texans and so it read 6-3 after 3 completed. This enraged Gonzalez (again) and he took it upon himself to knock the ball a lazy 402 feet for a solo bomb in the 4th. Lackey then gave that run back in the 5th before 2 run doubles in the 7th to Scutaro and Pedroia saw the Sox home 11-4. Lackey to an astonishing 12 and 9. I have more of a chance of explaining Ei-ichi Negishi’s Nobel Prize winning work to pre-school kids than I do explaining how John Lackey got to 12 and 9 from a dire 5 and 8 and with an ERA of 6+. Inconceivable.

So Game 3 and if Lackey could get a win while giving up 4 then Josh Beckett should cruise it in.

He did.

He was ably assisted by a 4 spot 1st. A 2 run double to Crawf and RBI singles to Pedroia and Big Papi did the damage. Ortiz scored himself off of that Crawf hit, charging from 1st and blowing through a stop sign at 3rd like a tractor with no brakes. He should have been out by 10-15 feet but Rangers backstop Mike Napoli fumbled the ball and Big Papi was able to lumber, almost apologetically, across the line.

In the 2nd it was 5-0 thanks to another Pedroia RI single and it was 6-0 in the 4th courtesy of a Scutaro RBI double. Beckett finally conceded a run in the bottom of the 4th but a Crawf sac fly in the 5th redressed that anomaly. In the 6th Ellsbury added a 2 run blast and Crawf matched that in the 7th. In the 8th Gonzalez (again) liked the 1st pitch he saw and added 2 more with a long shot and although the Rangers tacked on a consolation it finished 13-2.

For Game 4 and the erratic Andrew Miller had the start. Gonzalez (again) liked the 1st pitch he saw once more and took it 411 feet back over pitcher, Alexi Ogando’s head for the opener. In the 2nd Big Papi waited for the 5th pitch but got the same result. In the 3rd, Ogando astonishingly sent a fastball dead centre over the plate 1st pitch up against Gonzalez (again). This time it went 448 feet and cost 2 runs. That was bad enough for the Texans but an innings later Ogando again threw a fastball 1st pitch, this time to Salty, who obligingly drilled it for 2 more runs. At this point Ron Washington came out to talk to Ogando, presumably to ask him to stop doing that. Sadly for the Lone Star State boys the damage was done and that’s how it ended, 6-0. Miller improved to 6 and 1 with a Lackey-esque question mark as to how he really got there.

As the Sox head home to tackle Huricane Irene and the A’s I’d like to leave you with some more reflections on German exceptionalism, this time from ex-President George W. Bush, former Managing General Partner of the Texas Rangers ownership group:

‘The German asparagus are fabulous.’ – Meseberg, Germany, June 11, 2008.

…duuummm, duumm, da-dum da-dum.

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