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Soup of This Day #215: And Curse At The Wind

July 17, 2012

California Poppies
Poppies. The tall 1s need to look out – It does not always pay to grow too far above the rest – Photo: Agunther, 2009. Agunther is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

This blog is a modest 1, at least in terms of its plans for world domination.

Simply, it’s not written for awards or recognition. Which is fortunate because it garners neither and that is not set to change any time soon – E.L. James, of Fifty Shades of Grey fame, is not going to be looking over her shoulder at Longworth72. At least not without the Hubble Space Telescope for guidance.

See that exquisitely tiny and faint star over there? Yep. Well, Longworth72 is the even smaller dark bit next to that.

And I’m cool with that – For a couple of reasons:

For 1, I haven’t read Fifty Shades of Grey but I don’t think I’m up for emulating it. It’s reputably based upon fan fiction emanating out of the Twilight books, which I also haven’t read.

Not my thing.

For 2, fame has limited appeal for me. Sifting through my wildest dreams I’ve only been able to come up consistently with 2 goals – To get someone to pay me so much as a dollar so that I can legitimately claim on my tax return that I’m a writer; and to buy a 3.5 foot long Lego Millennium Falcon, which would set me back around $1,000. Beyond that, I’m a little stumped for ideas.

So I’m cool with just writing for the pure joy of it. It’s a blast, the likes of which I’ve only ever matched playing football or going for a run – It’s like a party in my brain and everyone is invited. That only a handful show up does not cruel the vibe.

It’s also convenient. In Australia we seem to have got good at the Tall Poppy Syndrome (TPS).

TPS is the name given to the practice of slamming those who are the most successful. A fair chunk of the motivation is envy but a certain amount is spite – We want to be up there and if we can’t we’d like to bring the incumbent star down to us.

This is by no means uniquely Australian – The constant attacks on Lance Armstrong have a TPS flavour to them. To be fair though you can’t really call Lance a tall poppy – He’s more of a giant, carnivorous plant a la The Day of The Triffids. Any attempt to cut down the Texan is fraught with risk – If you’re going to take aim, you’d best make sure it’s a definitive shot.

Here in Australia and our targets are safe 1s. We for some reason like to tackle the nice guys.

I’m writing this because we’re smack in the middle of the Tour de France right now. Or as I like to think of it, 3 weeks of bashing Cadel Evans. Evans you see, is a follower, lacking in flair, a grinder who got lucky, boring, boring, boooooooooring. Yep, Cadel Evans is boring. He is therefore undeserving of success, because boring people winning stuff is just a vindication for boringness.

It’s a shame he’s won a bit then. The former World Mountain Bike champ has twice finished 2nd in the Tour de France. Last year be became the oldest winner of that august race and the 1st from the southern hemisphere. He returned home to Australia from that to a warm welcome and a short, modest, parade during which he attempted to stop and shake hands with pretty much everyone. Which strikes me as a very down-to-earth thing to do.

Australians pride themselves on being that grounded. Yet we’re not always appreciative when our sporting stars are like that. F1 driver Mark Webber is your classic laid-back Aussie sporting hero and yet, like Evans, he draws criticism out of synch with who he is and what he does. Mostly this is around describing him as a boring driver, prone to following rather than leading, waiting for others to fail rather than seizing the day. This perception was partly founded in his early days as an F1 racer when, driving a substandard Minardi, he had to just circulate around the track, waiting for other cars to break down or crash out. The ‘Mark Webber is boring’ myth has been further enhanced by his routine failure on starts, where he occasionally seems to be standing still while his rivals blast off around him.

But all of that innuendo became a cloud of dust in his mirror in 2009 as he won his 1st race. In 2010 he won more races and threatened to win the Driver’s Championship, only narrowly missing out. This year he’s sitting in 2nd after 9 races, having notched up another 2 victories and some ballsy drives. All the while he has maintained his easy façade – Just an Aussie bloke who lives with his partner in England and loves chilling by taking the dogs for a run.

That’s not good enough apparently. Our sporting stars should be outlandish and confident, with big ideas and beliefs. This is how we want our sportsmen and women now – They must be celebrities.

Take Jeremy Lin for example. Earlier this year the Harvard-educated Asian-American back-up point guard set 1st the New York Knicks and then, seemingly the world, alight.

For 7 games.

All told he played in just 26 for the season and once the initial hoopla had died down he reverted from being Superman to a pretty decent prospect who could help fill out an NBA roster.

That was on the court.

Off the court and he is still a mega-star, long after his playing minutes eased off. His ethnicity and religion counter that lack of pure basketball exposure though in a way that transcends his ability to play the game. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of experienced pundits rate him quite highly and he’s surely got a decent basketball future ahead of him. It’s just that he also has sandwiches named after him. There are approximately 450 players in the NBA at any given time – If each of them gets a sandwich then a trip to Subway is going to get confusing.

And that’s if they haven’t taken half the sandwiches in New York and named them after Tim Tebow, the back-up quarter-back (QB) for the New York Jets.

Yep, Tim Tebow is the back-up and his name is being attached to everything. At some point in 2011 he was rendered as a superhero in a Marvel comic. Which would be awesome if he had actual superhuman powers. He doesn’t though – In fact his throwing ability is a little less than super – At best he’s a scrappy arm with decent legs to help him out in a tight situation. Yet somehow this deeply religious guy got a press conference on arrival in New York that dwarfed anything that had been previously seen, even for a starting QB.

He was super excited.

Part of his appeal is his religious beliefs. In May of last year Tim Tebow released an autobiography.

At 23.

And it became the best-selling sports book of the year. And the best selling religion book of the year too, although it’s not clear if such a statistic includes the Bible.

I hope not.

Like Linsanity, Tebowmania is surely unsustainable and the worry is that these 2 guys have been stood up on a pedestal so high that the fall will really hurt. Them and their fans.

Which is another reason to admire Cadel Evans and Mark Webber – I don’t know what their religious persuasion is. Nor do I know much about any of their beliefs, including what they think constitutes a good sandwich. Possibly that information is out there – It’s just not in my face and those 2 guys seem pretty restrained about pushing it. The pedestals they stand on top of are modest and built over a fair time – 35 yr old Evans is in his 8th Tour de France while 35 yr old Webber has been a full-time F1 pilot since 2002.

In spite of that success all that I can report to you is that Evans has the nickname, ‘Cuddles’ and along with his Italian partner, music teacher Chiara Passerini, has an adopted son from Ethiopia.

I have no idea what Webber’s nickname is but I can tell you that he lives for most of the year in Buckinghamshire, England, far from the regular tax-haven haunts of his fellow drivers. Webber has eschewed all of that because living in Buckinghamshire suits his family.

Where he likes listening to Pink.

In a nice way, there is no ridiculous grace for either of these 2 to fall from. I could see myself being like them. Apart from the liking Pink thing and being called Cuddles that is.

It’s great to have idols who are good at being heroes. It’s even better when they’re as good at not being heroes. This then is my aim for this blog…

Longworth72: The blog which aspires to being not famous while doing a good job.

Hopefully there is a no award for that.

And Curse At The Wind

  1. TPS is SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for the media. We build people up just so we can pull them apart. On the “Tebow Watch,” I saw where church groups are organizing en masse to visit the Jets’ training camp. The writer referred to them as pilgrimages, which is probably as appropriate a description of why they would go see scrimmages.

    • I think it drives the media nuts when they find someone they can’t pull down – We used to have a captain of our national rugby team called John Eales. His team-mates though called him ‘Nobody’. As in ‘nobody’s perfect’. Eales was though and I think he probably made poor newspaper copy. No sandwiches named after him – The best I can do is to give him a Soup 1 day – Of course I’ll have done 5 on Tebow by then. And there’s the thing – I am intrigued by the upcoming season and how the Jets are going to shoe-horn Tebowmania in with boring old Mark Sanchez.

      • We’re on the “edge” of New York here and I do see their papers covered with stories about every single move both Tebow and Sanchez make on and off the field. The media will truly be monitoring every throw, every play the two make in training camp. Great fun indeed…unless you are Sanchez, of course.

      • Yep, feel for Sanchez. He’s on a hiding to nothing -If he’s good then he’s denying people Tebow. If he’s bad he’ll be shunted for Tebow.

        Can’t help but feel that Tebow was brought in more to sell merchandise and if so that’s a balancing act that surely will be nigh on impossible to maintain. Whichever way it pans out I reckon it will be something to see – either a spectacular implosion or a spectacular success. Maybe even both.

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

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