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Soup of This Day #123: Say You Will Sing Your Songs Forevermore

January 17, 2012

Captain Robert Falcon Scott
Captain Robert Falcon Scott wintering at Cape Evans, Ross Island, just off the coast of Antarctica, 1911. The following year Scott pushed on, attempting to be the 1st to reach the South Pole. He did get there, exactly 100 years ago on this very day, but he was not the 1st – Norwegian Roald Amundsen had beaten him by 5 weeks, leading Scott to write, ‘Great God! This is an awful place’. Scott perished on the return journey while Amundsen was to survive another 16 years before he was lost in the Arctic while looking for a missing Italian airship. The latter events were dramatised in a movie, The Red Tent, in which the role of Amundsen was played by Sean Connery. With a Scottich accent. It’s always a Scottish accent – Photo: Herbert George Ponting, 1911. Herbert George Ponting is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

This blog is named for the footballer Ephraim Longworth. The defender played 370 times for Liverpool FC across a period that stretched from 1910 until 1928, when as a 40 year old he called time on a fruitful career. Allegedly happy as a wing-back on either side of the park, Longworth became the 7th man to captain the Reds, a role he fulfilled twice more during his tenure on Merseyside. As befits a proper defender he never managed to score a goal for Liverpool but he did collect 2 League championships during his time with them so clearly he did a decent job. His nation thought so anyway – He was capped 5 times by England and it is for 1 of these games that he is statistically remembered: In a 1921 game against Belgium in Brussels, Ephraim Longworth became the 1st Liverpool player to captain England.

This post then is about captains, specifically the 3 men who hold that honour at the 3 clubs that this blog follows. It has been prompted by the swirling news around the future of 1 of those captains, Jason Varitek.

Tek has been the club captain of the Boston Red Sox for the past 7 years. It’s not a common honour as most MLB clubs nowadays don’t have a specified captain’s role – In fact there are just 3 clubs who currently have captains and the Red Sox themselves have just had the 3 since 1923. So Tek has not just fallen into the role – He’s earned it, having played with the Red Sox, his only MLB outfit to date, since 1997 (15 seasons). In that time he has amassed 1546 games in the uniform, almost all of them as the catcher. He’s scored 664 runs via 1307 hits, 193 of them over the fence. He was on deck in 2004 as the Sox ended an 86 year drought with their 1st World Series title since 1918. He was still on deck in 2007 (as the captain) when they won the World Series again.

Those stats are all nice but if the 1 you’ve taken out of that is that he has had 15 seasons with just 1 club then congratulations – That’s the 1 that shines for me too. Jason Varitek is heart and soul Red Sox.

Matthew Pavlich, like Tek is a 1 club man, having kicked off in the AFL with the Fremantle Dockers in 2000. Since then he’s racked up 256 games and 489 goals across 12 seasons. He’s been an All-Australian 6 times and 6 times has won the Doig Medal for Fremantle’s best and fairest. He’s been the club captain since 2007 and has carried himself with dignity and with a loyalty that can best be underlined by this:

The Dockers stink.

Yep, Matty Pavlich is a superstar of the game yet he has stayed with a club that would struggle to win a chook-raffle if they were the only ticket buyers. And it’s not like it’s his home town club or anything like that – Pav is an Adelaide boy. Despite this he just keeps signing contracts with the Dockers and calmly going about doing his thing, which he could be a-doing for a bit longer yet – He’s just 30, realistically with up to 5 more years in the AFL and he seems content to commit that time to Freo.

And he co-owns a pub here.

I have no evidence that Liverpool’s current captain Steven Gerrard owns a pub. He could do – He’s done pretty much everything else. Everything that is bar switch clubs – Yep, like Tek and Pav, Stevie G is a 1-club guy. He’s been with Liverpool since he signed with their youth academy as a 9 year old schoolboy – He made his 1st team debut in 1998 and has logged 567 games for 144 goals.

In 2003 he was appointed to the captaincy of the club – It’s not a role he looks like relinquishing soon, although that hasn’t always looked to be a certainty: In 2004 Chelsea made a play for Gerrard who was unhappy at the lack of progress Liverpool was making. The 20m pound offer was rejected and Gerrard remained with the Reds. Chelsea was not deterred though and in spite of Gerrard’s starring role in Liverpool’s miraculous 2005 Champions League win the Londoners were back in the hunt. They were encouraged by failed negotiations and as Gerrard refused to sign a contract with the Reds it looked like Chelsea might win out. Liverpool’s then CEO Rick Parry conceded:

‘Now we have to move on. We have done our best, but he has made it clear he wants to go and I think it looks pretty final.’

It wasn’t.

The next day Steven Gerrard committed to 4 more years in a red shirt and just this week past he committed to another contract that will surely see the 31 year old finish his career at Anfield. He has a way to go to match Ephraim Longworth in terms of years spent playing for Liverpool but he can edge him with regard his England record – Gerrard has played in 89 games for his country for 19 goals.

Jason Varitek has also played for his country, making the 1992 US team as baseball made it’s Olympic debut in Barcelona. The US finished 4th there and 20 years later that’s the position Varitek is seemingly in if he wants to catch for Boston in 2012. Tek hasn’t been the club’s primary backstop for a couple of years now and to be honest his form has tailed since 2007. By his lofty standards he was just serviceable last year, sharing duties with Jarrod Saltalamacchia. And that’s not enough for a 39 year old on the flipside of a disastorous end to the 2011 season – The club has shed players from the roster and with Salty thought to be number 1 and Ryan Lavarnway thought to be the catcher-of-the-future there was only going to be less opportunities for The Captain. And then they got in veteran stopper Kelly Shoppach from the Rays, giving Boston 3 options at backstop, and Tek is clearly no more on the roster than that 92 US Olympic baseball outfit was on the podium.

There is some hope – Tek has been invited to Spring Training as a non-roster player. He will surely find that a battle that, even if he wins, will only be delaying the inevitable. Should he choose to retire I hope that he isn’t lost to Fenway. To this end he could take up a non-playing role with the Red Sox or an affiliate – Maybe a bench coach for the PawSox?

I own a number of replica shirts. They’re all blank – I’ve never got them with names on the back, mostly because it seems a little pretentious to get my own name and it seems a little strange to get the name of someone I’m not. I reckon though if I was to get a name then the 3 current captains mentioned above would best fit the bill. Ephraim Longworth I’m not so sure about –

Maybe I’d name a blog after him…

Say You Will Sing Your Songs Forevermore

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