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Soup of This Day #170: Solo, Why Do You Have To Get So Low

April 24, 2012

Wenceslaus Hollar's impression of The New Globe c1638
The New Globe Theatre c1638. The old Globe Theatre burned down in 1613 after a theatrical cannon misfired during a performance of Henry the Eighth. The only injury was to a man whose pants caught fire but were doused by ale. My take-away from this is that Shakespeare is dangerous but beer will save you from it – Image: Wenceslaus Hollar, 1647. It’s safe to assume that Wenceslaus Hollar is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I don’t get Shakespeare.

It’s beautifully written no doubt and Will’s impact upon the modern English language is indisputably significant, with countless words brought into popular usage by the Bard. In fact ‘countless’ is 1 of them. So please give his work a go if you haven’t already – You’ll probably be rewarded with a rich experience and an insight into the human condition.

Just don’t invite me – I will be bored.

I’ve tried, believe me. Oh how I’ve tried – I’ve read the plays. Studied them even. Seen a few film adaptations, some stage productions. Even part of an opera. None of them worked for me.

Once, some time around the end of 1996, I went with my then girlfriend to see Romeo + Juliet, Baz Luhrmann’s punk version of Shakespeare’s tragic romance. As we left the cinema I asked if she’d liked the film.

She frowned and said:

‘It was ok. I just wish they’d made the ending happier.’

Now, years later, I can look back at that comment with no emotional attachment and 2 thoughts around it come to mind:

a. Taking a date to a movie in which the principle leads, a young romantic couple, die in a horribly mistimed suicide pact is not a winning idea. It will not lead to anything. Trust me on this.

b. My date had a point – Shakespeare is often kind of a downer. Take that Hamlet guy. His uncle, Claudius, murders his dad and hooks up with his mother, Gertrude. Meanwhile Ham’s girlfriend, Ophelia, goes mentally off the rails, a process aided somewhat by Hamlet stabbing her dad, Polonius, in the arras, which it turns out is a fatal place to be stabbed in. Ophelia then drowns herself, causing her brother, Laertes, to fight Hamlet. That conflict gets a bit out of hand and Hamlet, Laertes, Gertrude and Claudius all wind up dead via either poisoned swords or poisoned wine. Claudius gets justly taken out by both. Try sprinkling some sunshine on that plot.

So I don’t get Shakespeare. Maybe if I’d been around in Will’s day I’d have been a convert. His plays were certainly presented differently back then. For 1, they were kind of like a sporting event – It seems fans went to the bar mid play and frequently hurled advice, abuse and possibly food scraps down upon the players. Heckling allows for a kind of emotional engagement that you just don’t get with a Baz Luhrmann epic on the big screen.

Try heckling The Great Gatsby at your local cinema. Go on, tell those Buchanans what you really think.

Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t go down well. People don’t like it when you’re being negative.

Which is where we get to the theme of this post – To boo or not to boo. That is the question. Whether it is nobler to suffer the slings and arrows that are opposition home runs or to take arms against a sea of crap relief pitching.

You might have worked out that I’ve segued from the Bard to baseball, specifically the Boston Red Sox. The Sox aren’t doing so good this year and it seems like fans are falling into 1 of 2 camps – Those who ask questions (and don’t like the answers) and those who give of their support unconditionally.

For convenience I’m labelling these 2 groups, the Criticals and the Invulnerables respectively. I’ve done this because they are words that Shakespeare brought into popular usage.

The argument for the Criticals is that the Sox are in trouble. They have a clearly defined problem and that is pitching. Starting and relief are both suspect, mostly the latter to be fair. Take the 2nd to last Sox outing – The Yankees at Fenway. Makeshift starter Felix Doubront did ok, holding a steady course across 6 innings that gave up just 1 run. The bats helped out too – They had 9 runs across the same 6 innings.

Then the bullpen took over.

They gave up 7 in the 7th and it was a 9-8 ballgame. For the 8th Bobby V was forced to play his trump relief card early and Alfredo Aceves came out to shut it down.

Yeah, that did not work out. Alfredo walked off with no outs, 5 earned runs and an ERA of 24.

And no I didn’t miss out a bloody decimal point there. That’s another Shakespearian word by the way – ‘bloody’.

Altogether the pen gave up 7 runs in the 8th and it was a 9-15 ballgame. In response to the carnage the bats had nothing left to give and in front of a Fenway crowd the Sox crashed to another bitter loss.

The Invulnerables will tell you that this was only 1 game of a 162 game season. The Criticals will respond by pointing out that the Sox have dropped 31 of their past 41 across a gut-wrenching September close to 2011 and now less than auspicious start to 2012. That 9-15 loss they will say is not atypical.

Oh, and thanks Will S for ‘auspicious’.

Yeah, well the Sox screwed up 2010 and the start of 2011 too yet they turned that around will retort the Invulnerables. They should have turned it around given the salary expenditure in play the Criticals come back with. And is this 2012 roster equal to or better than the 2011 vintage? We don’t think so and so there is little oomph to back the case for a Red Sox revival and a genuinely positive season.

Give them time plead the Invulnerables, we’re 14 games into the Bobby V era – You can’t judge a team based on 14 games. Yeah you can declare the Criticals – You can get a feel for a team in a handful of games. You can measure heart and attitude, can see threads developing, threads that will become trends that will shape the season. Surely it’s responsible to try to tease out those threads.

Every team wins 54 and loses 54 – You’re panicking because you know nothing about the long game that is the baseball season say the Invulnerables.

Well, it’s what you do with the other 54 games that counts and the Sox aren’t shaping up well in those ‘other’ games – You’re sticking your head in the sand because you care nothing about form respond the Criticals.

And so the arguments go on and I guess I should now declare my hand – I’m a Sox fan. Have been for approaching 30 years and will be for the rest of my days – They’re my team and I don’t switch. My loyalty is inviolate, invulnerable even.

But… I have questions.

Questions that are critical. This is a team that ranks 3rd in 2012 payrolls – A staggeringly generous $173 million with an average of $5 million and a median of $1.5 million. This is a team that charges a lot for a ticket to see them. A team that has fostered a sense of entitlement and a level of expectation that has seen them reap a bonanza from over 700 consecutive sell-outs.

‘Generous’ – Shakespeare again. What. A. Guy.

And that’s all ok if you have the gumption to back that up. The 2004 team was big on that – They had gumption born of 86 years of stuff not happening. This current Sox outfit come across as believing that the gumption will just magically rock up and success will follow. It doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to do something to make it happen and even then you’ve got to have luck too because there are gonna be other outfits trying their damnedest as well.

And no, gumption is not Shakespearian. It sounds like it should be but it’s not.

That something starts with asking questions. It’s called innovating and the basic tenet is that you have to want to be better. Even when you’re the best. The Red Sox aren’t the best right now but I believe as a fan that they should be.

So I want them and others to ask questions. It’s called self-reflection and it involves being critical. And it means not chucking a wobbly because someone asked about the fried chicken and beer in the clubhouse thing.

To boo or not to boo? Here’s my take – Don’t boo. Do feel like you can query the road your team is going down though.

And since ‘road’ is another of William Shakespeare’s words, I thought I’d finish this up with a final statistic. About Shakespeare.

The Bard used an estimated 17,677 words across his collective works. He made up 1,700 of them. That sounds a little like cheating to me – Frankly I’m flabgulated that he got away with it. Abso-bloody-lutely flabgulated.

Solo, Why Do You Have To Get So Low

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