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Soup of This Day #74: As A Final Touch, An Electric Clock

September 23, 2011

Tooting Bec Lido
It’s ok to lie on the concrete if it feels good – Photo: Nick Cooper, 2008. Nick Cooper is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

When I was young, I was a pretty good swimmer. I could have been really good but for 1 key issue. Overall, I hated competitive swimming. To be honest I loved the actual racing part, got a real buzz out of race days. No, my problem was with the training. Not the hard work or the repetitive drills – I wasn’t scared or intimidated by any of that. The part I hated was the cold.

See, we trained in the evenings at an outdoor, unheated pool and it was frequently cold. Strangely enough it wasn’t so much the water that was the problem, it was the constant getting in and out of the water. It wasn’t so bad when you were running between drills but when the coach wanted to address the troops we’d often spend long minutes standing in the freezing wind, shivering off the water. To mitigate this we’d try to lay on the concrete paving that surrounded the pool. It meant we were low down, out of the worst of the wind and the concrete radiated out some of the warmth that it had captured throughout the day. I think of us as environmentally sound on heating well before it became trendy.

The problem with this is that the coaches and 1 in particular didn’t like us doing that. Apparently it was disrespectful and a sign of weakness. The 1 in particular used to tell us ‘You can lie on the concrete when you see me lying on the concrete.’ Which makes no sense because he never got into the water and was fully clothed against the wind.

Our Dad employed similar logic when driving us in the family car to Perth via our 1973 25th Anniversary Holden HQ Premier. The trip would take a bit over an hour so my brother and I would take pillows and have a nap. We both got car-sick so this was a necessary diversion for us. Also it was before in-car TVs or for that matter stereos. There was an AM radio but for most of the journey there was no reception and Dad wasn’t big on us talking so us sleeping would seem to make sense.

Not to Dad. He’d get angry that we were sleeping while he was driving. It’s unclear as to whether he expected us to share the driving. I was only 12 but I would have been good for it and the HQ wasn’t a stick-shift so how hard could it have been?

The only real problem would have been that the HQ handled like a tank. This is slightly heretical for me to say as in Australia you grow up to follow 1 of 2 motoring marques, Holden (GM’s Aussie arm) or Ford. The division is tribal and it’s fueled by Australia’s premier motorsport category, ‘V8 Supercars’, allowing only those 2 manufacturers. Thus kids from my generation grew up, pledging allegiance to the Red Lion of Holden or the Blue Oval of Ford. Red or blue. Like Red Sox or Yankees. Like Liverpool or Everton.

We had the HQ and so I was Holden. Sure it had vinyl seats that ensured 3rd degree burns for exposed skin contact in hot Australian summers and sure, it had no aircon and Dad didn’t like opening windows that much. It mattered for nought – I was a Red Lion supporter.

And I still am.

In 2 weeks Holden and Ford will match off once more in ‘The Great Race’, the Bathurst 1000 and I will watch for the 12 hours or so that it takes to complete. I will curse Ford teams and their drivers, reserving particular vehemence for those that were once Holden drivers. I will laud Holden teams and praise their pilots, especially those who have seen the light and returned to the side of good. I will do this for all 1000kms, across the 6.213km of the undulating Mount Panorama circuit, up, across and down the mountain for 161 circuits.

There’s a reason it’s called an endurance race.

Race strategies are many and varied but the smart teams follow a basic theme: For the 1st 130 laps you race conservative, keeping yourself in the top 10 or ideally the top 5. You don’t get committed to any dumb overtaking moves or high-risk driving early on and this helps you to steer clear of race-ending incidents. There is a saying that covers this: Commentators and teams talk about using those 130 laps to ‘buy a ticket to the race’. They’re recognising that by being smart early on they are giving themselves a shot in the final 30 laps. In essence, they are gaining entry to the serious portion of the race.

This attitude is not unique to Australian endurance motorsport. You hear a variation of it from golfers: ‘You can’t win a tournament on the opening 36 holes but you can sure lose 1’. Then there’s AFL teams down under. The AFL awards a ‘minor premiership’ for the team that tops the table at the end of the regular season but the big 1 is just called ‘The Premiership’ and to win it you have to win the finals. There is some advantage to teams that finish higher up the ladder but not so much that it is unusual for the best in the regular season to not win the flag.

It’s there in baseball to. April 15, 2009 and Tim Wakefield started for his Red Sox vs the A’s. The bullpen had been beat up in a 12 inning loss the night before and they desperately needed cover. ‘I understand the circumstances,’ said God’s Favourite Knuckleballer to Tito before the game, ‘and I just wanted you to know: Whatever happens, don’t take me out; let me keep going.’ They did and as it happens Wake threw 111 pitches in a complete game that the Sox won 8-2. The win was a bonus – Tim Wakefield’s innings-chewing effort had bought them a ticket for the next series of games.

Which is where we finally get to where I’m going with this post. The Red Sox have had a horror September. Once 9 games clear of wildcard rivals the Rays, they are now but 2 clear of them and 3 clear of the Angels, with just 6 to play. Describing them as staggering is like calling the old HQ mildy uncomfortable. There is little belief in the players, they might say the right stuff after each loss but you only need to look at the body language to see that they don’t understand how they got here and they don’t know the way out.

All of which has seen the question get posed over the Net of late: Is there any point to the Red Sox making the playoffs?

Yep. Of course there is. If they make it then there will be 22 other teams happy to talk about what the point is. It’s what you play 162 games for in a regular season, coinicidently only 1 more than the number of laps in the Bathurst 1000 (161). Like the cars on Mount Panorama in 2 weeks, you go through that to buy a ticket to October action.

So how do the Sox get their ticket? Well, the good news is that we’re down to 6 games to go and the equations are not complex. The Red Sox are 2 up on the Rays and 3 up on the Angels. The remaining outings for each of the 3 are:

Red Sox: 3 at New York, 3 at Baltimore

Angels: 3 vs. Oakland, 3 vs. Texas

Rays: 3 vs. Toronto, 3 vs. New York

The Sox have just 2 good starters – This is where their problems stem from: Poor starts. It is not unreasonable to suggest that they take 1 win off the Yankees. Probably from John Lester’s outing tomorrow or maybe Wake the day after. They stumbled against the O’s at Fenway but they were close and the O’s weren’t that good, so let’s say the Sox pinch 2 there, making it 3 from the 6.

This leaves the Rays needing to win 5 from 6 just to force a playoff game. I figure they will drop 1 against the Jays and at least 1, probably 2 vs the Yankees. The Angels meanwhile would need to win all 6 to force a playoff and while they might sweep the A’s I reckon that Texas will take at least 1 off of them.

I believe that the Sox will make it and I believe that once they check that ticket at the gate they will be something this Fall.

Meanwhile it won’t be Fall here. We call Fall Autumn and anyway we’re at opposites to northerners so it’s Spring, a very agreeable time of the year in our climate. The nights are cool but the days are wonderfully warm. I will offset any inconveniences by laying on some warm concrete in the evening and cranking up my airconditioning in the car through the day.

And you don’t have to wait until I do so before joining in.

Go Sox!

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