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Soup of This Day #214: I Tell Myself Before I Go To Sleep

July 16, 2012

Crossing the Neman River into Russia in 1812
On June 24th, 1812 Napoleon Bonaparte sent his 685,000-strong Grande Armée across the Neman River and into what was then Russia. 7 months later he made it back with just 120,000 survivors, defeated by the combination of a Russian scorched earth mentality and a harsh winter. 131 years later Adolf Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, his own attempt to successfully invade Russia. He should have gone over his history books in school with a bit more care because he too suffered an inglorious defeat, like Bonaparte, wrought by a combination of a Russian scorched earth mentality and a harsh winter – Image: John Heaveside Clark, 1816. John Heaveside Clark is not affiliated with Longworth72, despite repeated invites to tea. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I didn’t study English in senior high school.

Instead, I took the option of taking on English Literature, which at the time was thought of as being sort of an advanced English. In truth it wasn’t really – It was more of a different take on English, focusing more on it as a craft, rather than as a trade.

I tell most people that I stuck with it because there were something like 20 girls in that class and just the 3 guys. Which is a nice ratio and it reads even better when I explain that every one of those girls was hot. They were intelligent too. Hot and intelligent – I was secretly in love with all of them.

It remained secret too because, and this bit works well in an English class, I was invariably tongue-tied whenever 1 of them so much as glanced at me.

The girls are not the reason I took the class though and as it turns out they couldn’t have been – I enrolled in the class before I knew who was in it.

No, the truth is a little more geeky – I love reading books. Always have done – Can not survive without those stories floating around me, without those worlds to explore. English Literature satisfied that need – It essentially consisted of reading books, talking about them and then writing – That was as close to happy as Longworth72 got in senior high school – Because I knew stuff, could talk about stuff (Except to those hotly intelligent girls) and could write down stuff, eloquently too, without a hint of my tongue being twisted around itself.

And there was no fuss made around the mechanics of English. It was assumed that you knew how to string a sentence together, how to structure an essay, where to use a comma, when not to use an apostrophe and that you could tell the difference between a verb, an adjective and a noun.

Which was lucky for me because I hadn’t paid any attention to those sorts of things across the previous 10 years of schooling. I had instead just read books. A great stack of books. And from those books I learned what all of those rules were to a point – That point was to tell a story. Everything else was just a distraction from my goal of devouring every readable tract that I could get my hands on.

So I don’t care what a verb is, or an adjective, or a noun. I do care how those types of word play out in a story – In Jeff Brown’s wonderful children’s book Flat Stanley there is a line that reads:

‘Arthur let out all the string and Stanley soared high above the trees, a beautiful sight, in his green sweater and brown trousers, against the pale-blue sky.’

See, I know that there is a verb in there (soared), and an adjective (beautiful) which nicely pre empts a noun (sight). I know this yet I don’t generally consciously acknowledge it. What I do register is a beautifully constructed part of a rather wonderful story.

It’s a little like me going for a run – If studying the map attentively means that I get less time running then I guess I’d like to skip the cartography and instead just get lost in the rhythm of the beaten track.

Sometimes it’s ok to not be pedantic.

That is not an excuse for being lazy though. The use of English language should always be about clarity of communication and most of those idiosyncratic rules exist to satisfy just that. Which is why I get twitchy when I hear a sports commentator suggest that a player is about to create history by sinking a 20 footer on the putting green. Or by scoring a goal after the siren to win a game of football. Or by knocking a home run over the fence.

Which is correct but slightly misleading. That golfer missing that 20 footer is history – As it is if the footy player shanks his kick out on the full for no score and if the home run attempt falls short and subsides into a fly out to the right fielder. In fact, me typing this post is history. Me going to bed tonight is history – At least by the time you read this it will be.

History you see, is everything in the past. In Mel Brook’s brilliant movie Spaceballs Rick Moranis’ Dark Helmet asks, ‘When will then be now?’

‘Soon!’ replies Colonel Sandurz.

We could offer this to our sports commentators – When will now become history?


To be fair, I think what the journalists and broadcasters mean is that significant and notable history will be created – History that will be recorded and that people will reference later. As opposed to the fact that I go to bed each night, which is pretty much a given these days but is by no means worth someone writing it down for posterity.

Which I just did anyway.

This is 1 of the reasons why I love baseball. Baseball values it’s history – All of it. Almost every statistic that you can think of is recorded and preserved for anyone to digest at some later time. Take this morning’s Red Sox vs Tampa Bay Rays game at Tropicana Field in Florida.

I didn’t watch the game – Couldn’t have – I had work to go to this morning and while I know that I missed some history being created in St Petersburg, Florida, I was focused on creating some history of my own.

With a pillow and a doona. In Perth, Western Australia, where it was dark and early.

So I didn’t watch the game. But because it is now history and sites such as Baseball Reference have committed it’s minutia to the public record, I can relive it in all of its statistical glory.

The game started at 1:40pm local time. Under the Tropicana Field dome it was a pleasant 72°F (22°C) and there were 26,131 fans in to watch this clash of American League (AL) East rivals.

Josh Beckett had the start for the Red Sox, taking his 4 and 7 record up against James Shields 8 and 5. Beckett was recovering from a virus while Shields was suffering a recent run of poor form – He’d coughed up 10 or more hits in each of his past 3 starts and conceded at least 4 runs in each of his last 4. Unlike Beckett though Shields had been getting run support and so he was able to get the win in 2 of those.

Josh Beckett started slow – He’s always been 1 of the slowest workers on the mound but disorientated by flu meds he was taking up to 45 seconds between pitches. He was also expensive early, continuing a recent trend among Red Sox starters by giving up runs, 3 in this case, in the 1st. Thereafter though he settled down and the Rays could not get anything more out of him.

Which was a problem for them because James Shields needed that run support again. Across 5 innings he gave up 11 hits and was tagged for 6 runs. His bullpen buddies rode to the rescue and managed to limit the Sox to 1 further run. That though was 1 more than their Boston counterparts gave out and so the Sox took the game 7-3 after 3 hours and 36 minutes of play.

That result meant they won the series 2-1 and now head home with a 45 and 44 record, level with the Blue Jays and just 1 game adrift of the Rays and 1.5 behind the Orioles. The latter currently occupies the 2nd wild card slot so the Red Sox are in the mix with 72 games to play.

So that game is now consigned to history and sabermeticians and for Red Sox fans it’s time to turn attention to tomorrow morning’s game against the White Sox. That’s just another thing I like about baseball – The next game in a season is never too far away – Then will shortly be now and soon it too will be history.

As nice a place to end this post as that would be, I’d like to finish with another quote from Flat Stanley – It sums up this blog and in a small way covers off my feelings for baseball:

‘Well, it may not be art, but I know what I like.’

I Tell Myself Before I Go To Sleep

  1. Excellent placement of that very quote at the very end to finish off a post that…once posted…has now of course become historic. I know a lot of folks probably feel the same way about the game but don’t realize it consciously in the manner you explained it. Well done!

    • Thanks for the kind words – And as always, thanks for taking the time to read and post a comment.

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