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Soup of This Day #213: The Angels Got Together

July 15, 2012

Hacky Sack
A footbag in play during a game of hacky sack. The game shares some traits with a number of Asian sports, notably Jianzi, which utilises a shuttlecock rather than a small grain-filled sack. Also, based on the above image, hacky sack requires men to not wear shirts and to have their underwear showing above the top of their jeans. You also need, like, skate shoes or Birkenstocks dude and a lot more real estate than you’d think – Photo: Corey Burger, 2010. Corey Burger is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Every now and then I hear someone talking about a sporting philosophy. Here’s an example. And here’s another, just so I can’t be accused of throwing out a generic ‘they said’.

That latter 1 suggests that the take-home message of NBA coaching legend Phil Jackson’s philosophy is to focus on ‘leadership, empowerment, communication, care for others, relationships, trust, and motivation.’

Which seems a little like saying that in order to win a motor race you need to focus on the brakes, the steering, the transmission, the chassis, the aerodynamics, the wheels, the fuel and the motor – Which is sort of an understatement – You can’t be successful at motorsport without a focus on all of those things.

And that sums up sporting philosophies – They tend to be of the more mundane variety of thoughts, ranging from the only slightly more complex, ‘It’s about how we win the game’ to the easily followed, ‘Don’t @#$% up’. Both of which are a little clichéd and hackneyed.

So what I thought I’d do is to step outside of the press conference answer box and try to link sporting thinking to something more critical via an examination of some fairly basic philosophical constructs.

I call this hacky sack philosophy.

Mostly because you take some small thoughts that are full of grains and then you kick them around, trying to keep them out of the gutter for as long as possible.

So let’s limber up, form a circle and then kick-off…

Everything happens for a reason.

Hmmmmm… My take on this is that it’s probably true but not quite in the way that this is commonly used. See, we take reason as something that is reasonable to us, where ‘us’ is the person or people impacted by whatever it is that we’re seeking a reason for.

I’m not big on that and not just because that last sentence was so confusing that I’ve forgotten where I was heading with it – I prefer to ponder why things happen in terms of cause and effect. Thus I would like to modify our statement above to read:

Everything happens because.

Which might sound like the kind of answer you give a 3 year old after he’s asked, ‘Why?’ for the nth time – But it’s more than that. Everything happens because something happened that led to it happening. Confused? Me too, so let me translate this into sport:

This morning the Boston Red Sox were playing against the Tampa Bay Rays down at Tropicana Field in sunny Florida. In the 5th innings the Sox led 2-1 and had a bases loaded situation with 1 out. Pedro Ciriaco, hitting at .600+ before this game, was at the plate. He lined to right and Kelly Shoppach tagged up at 3rd and made for home.

He didn’t make it, being thrown out on the relay.

So a double-play and a wasted opportunity. Why did that happen? Well, it was for a reason and that reason was that Kelly Shoppach doesn’t run very fast. Or maybe it was because Pedro didn’t knock the ball quite far enough. Or because a butterfly flapped it’s wings in Ecuador. In any case there was a definable reason.

If it was a butterfly then someone break out the insecticide – Those butterflies have gypped me for the last time.

Speaking of those meddling butterflies, let’s follow the little buggers to the leafy confines of a forest, where we can find our next conundrum.

Or not.

If a tree falls in the forest where there is nobody to hear, does it make a sound?

Wow. This 1 is a tough 1. Mostly because I don’t care about a tree falling of it’s own volition -That’s nature’s call baby. Still it’s a question worth pondering, just for the mental gymnastics, so I’m going to take a stab at answering it…

On the surface of it you’d say, ‘Yes of course it makes a sound, you hacky sack wielding moron.’ If you look a little deeper though the audio gets fuzzier so for increased fidelity let’s return to this morning’s Red Sox vs Rays stoush under the dome of Tropicana Field:

Tropicana has a capacity of 42,735. Last year it had an average attendance of 18,879, ranking the stadium 13th out of 14 in the American League (AL). For 2012, at the time of writing, the numbers are up – 20,776 per game – but that is still only good enough for 13th.

Ergo, not many people are going to Tropicana Field to watch the Tampa Bay Rays play.

So what we can do is to transfer the context of our philosophical and arboreal brain-strainer to Tropicana Field – If the Rays win a game, as they did this morning against the Sox, and hardly anyone notices, does it count in the standings?

Yes. Those 20,776 seemed to be mainly Red Sox fans and, as in denial as some of us are, it is hard to ignore the missed opportunity. Put simply, we notice.

So does the tree, alone in the forest, make a sound? Yes, if it’s a well-supported 1.

What is the sound of 1 hand clapping?

See the tree toppling example above. The sound of 1 hand clapping is the subtle auditory nuance of Tropicana Field when the home side knocks 1 over the fence.

That was too easy so let’s spread our wings a little for the next 1…

Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near?

This might sound a little Hitchcockian and could easily become disturbing but fortunately we can again turn to sport to clear the puzzle up…

Pedro Ciriaco is enjoying a hot streak in 2012 with the Red Sox. Wherever he goes, hits seem to follow him. They even followed him through Spring Training.


Once, in 2011, for the Pittsburgh Pirates for whom he hit .333 across 26 games and then in 2012 for the Boston Red Sox, where he again played in 26 games, this time knocking the ball about at a lazy .401.

In neither year did he earn much of a shot at the big time. The Pirates gave him 28 games in 2011 – He hit .303 with an OPS that was admittedly low at .748. In 2012 for Boston, leading into this morning, he was travelling at an unsustainable, but still astonishing, .625 off of 4 games, with an OPS of 1.397.

The lad is attracting a lot of attention.

Along with the hits, media types are appearing whenever Pedro is near. Why? Well, just like impressed Red Sox fans maybe the cynical press hacks just long to be close to a circulation/ratings windfall Pedro. This then answers our question:

Those birds appear, every time you are near because, just like someone significant in your life, they long to be close to you.

Or you are a crazy bird-person.

Maybe a little of both.

We could extend that a little further and ask…

Why do stars fall down from the sky every time you walk by?

This, to be honest, is a puzzling phenomena and 1 that has to be @#$%^ing your friends and family right off. Think about it – It’s nice to have those meteorites heralding your presence but they must surely be just a bit damaging to those in the immediate vicinity.

Maybe that’s why Pedro went 0 for 4 this morning? There was falling space debris putting him off of his stellar game.

Wow. Just wow.

I see it all clearly now. Since I am in the moment, maybe I should ask all of you hacky sack players a question… Thinking caps on? Good-o…

When you’re playing hacky sack do you only need enough room for yourself to juggle a tiny grain-filled sack on your in-step?

Hmmmm… Let me help you out on this 1…

No, you bloody need more room you inconsiderate bastards, mostly because you invariable end up lobbing your precious little juggling bag into someone’s lunch, even if they’re 20m away and minding their own business, just trying to enjoy a moment in the sun.

And for the love of all things holy, could you stop playing in thoroughfares?

The Angels Got Together

  1. You would think those hacky-sackers would be worried about being sacked by someone on those thoroughfares…on a bicycle. But alas…that’s another post for another day.

    • I won’t hassle you for the story but, inspired by your comment, when I next see some hacky sack game in play I may daydream a little of a linebacker in full kit on a uni-cycle taking out a couple of those guys. I imagine that all of the bystanders, minding their own business but copping occasional wacks from a small grain-filled sack, might applaud enthusiastically.

      • We auto drivers in Pennsylvania have been “warned” about the many rights bicyclists have on our highways. It appears since the accident rate is skyrocketing the answer is to give those operating cars a good talking-to and re-training because, of course…ultimately car > bicycle on impact. And… there could be no way possible the bicyclists are not following all the rules of the road…whatever they now are.

      • Ahhhh… The great cycling/car divide. I support cyclists – On dedicated paths. I understand the law and I get that we should all just find a way to get a long but… I’m driving a ton of metal and I’m surrounded by 1000’s of others. Some of us are idiots. Some of us make mistakes – motorists and cyclists. The problem is that with that kind of equation there are going to be high costs for everyone if we are sharing the road.

        A very contentious subject – As you say – Perhaps another post.

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  1. Soup of This Day #219: Like Sting I’m Tantric « Longworth72

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