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Soup of Some Day #262: And It Comes Around

November 7, 2012

Eugene Cernan
On the 14th of December 1972, Eugene Cernan became the last man on the Moon. In the image above, he salutes the US flag. Just visible on his left arm, secured by an oversized strap, is an Omega Speedmaster Professional timepiece. Will humans return to the Moon someday? Watch this Space – Photo: Harrison Schmitt/NASA, 1972. Neither Harrison Schmitt or NASA are affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72, leaving 1 reduced image of a man, but 1 giant image of mankind.

For this post I’d like to take you all on a journey through space and time.

Metaphorically – This blog does not have the budget to build its own TARDIS. There’s probably some other issues holding me back on that project too.

So the upshot of these limitations is that you’re going to have to imagine that I have conjured up a machine to take us back in time. We’re not going back too far – Just to the summer of 1969, back when you could get your 1st real 6-string from the 5-and-dime and there was this girl on her Mama’s porch, telling you that she’d wait forever – Although since you now have access to a time machine that’s probably a moot issue.

We’re not here for that kind of thing though.

We’re here to go to the Moon with the guys on Apollo 11.

Both Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took watches to the Moon. They were standard NASA issue Omega Speedmaster Professionals, tested to ensure that they could withstand the rigours of boldy going where nobody had gone before, whilst simultaneously letting somebody know what the time was when they got there.

And 1 of those Speedmasters became the 1st watch to be worn on the Moon.

It wasn’t Armstrong’s – He’d left his in the Lunar Module (LM) because a timer in there had failed. Aldrin on the other hand felt that his Speedmaster deserved a little more:

‘It was optional to wear while we were walking on the surface of the moon … few things are less necessary when walking around on the moon than knowing what time it is in Houston, Texas. Nonetheless, being a watch guy, I decided to strap the Speedmaster onto my right wrist around the outside of my bulky spacesuit.’

And there it is – You see, just like Buzz Aldrin, I too am a watch guy. Not with a Speedmaster Professional – I’d love 1 but they retail for over $5,000 Australian and even if I had that kind of money there’d be some competition on my wrist.

I already have a watch.

It’s a bit less expensive – It set me back $200 or so 16 years ago. It was a bargain – Someone had accidentally put a $600 model into the wrong box and neither the salesperson or I picked up the error. The cost though is immaterial.

It’s a simple watch – Analogue of course – with just the 3 hands showing hours, minutes and seconds. There is no date, no light even, and the face does not glow in the dark. The face is off-white and the numerals are a subdued bronze. The whole is set off by an unadorned stainless steel case and band. There are no complicated bezels or functions – This watch just loyally tells time.

If I could be summed up by a watch then this is the 1. Oh sure, I’d love a Speedmaster, would dare to believe that I’m a Speedmaster guy. But deep down I reckon this timepiece is me in a nutshell.

A stainless steel nutshell. With a precision mechanical movement inside – Each tick and tock measured, obeying the precise rules of simple time – Stubbornly principled.

And that is me. Of late I’ve been thinking about that – My wool-headed adherence to doing things right. The prompter for this was the crisis now allegedly facing the sport of cycling – It seems that for a period of time there, pretty much everybody in the peleton was juiced.

There were exceptions – Riders who said no and who laboured on at the tail-end of the pack or just walked away from the sport altogether. These decisions are what I’m wondering about, although I should be clear – I’m not trying to work out if I’d have doped or not. Mostly because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have.

I can’t really say for certain but I’d like to think that I would have kept at it, steadfastly plugging away, most likely off the back of the field, and clean of any illegal performance enhancing assistance.

You see, I’m the kind of guy who goes to swim 50 laps of the pool, loses count and then insists on restarting the tally from a point well before he was likely to have reached. In other words I’d always do more laps just so that i could be happy that I’d done what I aimed to do.

I lose count a lot.

You’d think that would be hard to do – I mean, it’s not like my brain is spectacularly over-taxed out there. But, no, I’ll be halfway through lap 36 when it occurs to me that it might actually be lap 34. Or 32. So to be on the safe side I’ll call it lap 32. I just wouldn’t be happy if I didn’t.

Now imagine how pissed off I’d be if I rode the Tour but did so knowing that I’d had some help. Colour me stubborn but I reckon I’d probably insist on doing each stage over again and, for bonus martyrdom, I’d do it on 1 of those trendy fixie bikes – The 1s with no gears.

Which, FYI, were not cool when I had 1 as a kid. Back then a bike without gears just seemed like a lot of extra work on the slopes for no real point. It still seems a little sub-optimal – Why don’t we all get back into penny-farthings if we’re concerned with the purity of riding?

My advice – Use gears, people. If you’re not planning on amping your blood up with EPO then just accept the basic mechanical principle of gearing. Be reasonable – Like my watch…

My watch you see is stubbornly non-digital but it is practical – It’s battery-powered.

Unlike the Omega Speedmaster Professional, which requires winding manually. It’s a class timepiece that Speedmaster, crafted meticulously and not dependant upon crass batteries. It is practical and refined. It is the kind of watch I’d pick for Lance Armstrong.

Ok, so a while back I said I was done with writing about Lance Armstrong. He’s a complicated figure I argued, and you couldn’t just judge him on whether he had doped or not. For myself I’d done the math and figured that on a sliding scale of good or bad Lance featured somewhere on his own graph but on the side of the good. Sort of.

Oh, he’s flawed for sure. The kind of drive needed to win 7 editions of 1 of the world’s most gruelling sporting contests was ever going to be the stuff of pleasing aesthetics.

It’s looking even uglier now.

Following the drip-feed of USADA’s report on Armstrong, former team-mates and other cycling officials have lined up to sink their cleated riding shoes into the charismatic Texan. Some 15 riders have given weight to the allegations and now still more are alleging that Armstrong lied under oath in civil cases with regard, not just to doping but also the fixing of races.

If the evidence is to be believed, and it is rapidly becoming such an avalanche that the snow of paperwork has reached all the way to the town of Compelling, population Longworth72, then Lance is probably going to need some lycra prison stripes.

I hope it doesn’t go that way.

He’s still a hero of mine.

Not for any half-arsed justification based on test results or procedural fairness – Although Lance could certainly find some grounds for appeal in those areas. That though is for lawyers – My reasoning is a little more esoteric…

Lance Armstrong is a Speedmaster Professional kind of guy. That’s the kind of watch you wear when you’re taking it to the Moon or fighting cancer. They’re both tough missions and I figure you go on either and you’re not just a watch person, but you’re a Longworth72 kind of watch person as well.

The Speedmaster Professional is not the kind of watch for your average juiced bike rider though. It’s tough enough but there’s something not quite right with the style. Nope, your garden-variety doped cyclist needs a Swiss Military 20,000 Feet model.

Cyclists need endurance and this timepiece endures like no other. As the name suggests, it’s good in water depths of up to 20,000 feet or approximately 6kms. Just for good measure the makers also tested the watch by firing water from an airport fire truck cannon at it. Then they used it as the target for some shotgun practice, before finally detonating a stick of dynamite next to it.

It came out of all of that with barely a scratch, still ticking away with its uncanny Swiss precision.

Which is nice but a little disturbing too. Humans you see, can’t survive the tremendously crushing pressures 6kms down. We could just about manage the water cannon but we’re not good with solid shot or dynamite. The wearer of that watch, facing those challenges, would be dead.

This watch would outlive you. All it needs to do is learn to think and you’ve got the basis of Skynet right there. And that seems a little wrong, macabre even – A watch made for humans that can exceed the natural endurance of those same humans, that will persist, long after we have succumbed.

Am I crazy or is that not the right fit for doped up riders of the Tour?

And It Comes Around

4 Comments
  1. Ironic my watch just stopped working a couple of days ago. Battery died. Now normally, this would not be an issue…except my watch is about two decades old and for whatever reason was not designed to have its back easily removed to affect a battery change-out. Each time the battery has needed changed over the years my wife and I take turns trying to wedge a knife-like device – like a crowbar – into the back to pop it out and change the battery. Hope all is well with you and yours.

    • You’re better folk than me – I lazily head to the jeweller’s to get my battery replaced. He seems to have a better crowbar.

      We’re all good down here. I suffered some trauma from the Red Sox 2012 season but that has been somewhat relieved by the end of the Valentine experiment. The family just ignored my ranting throughout.

      Hope everything’s ok in Philly? Election fatigue?

      • We dodged the Superstorm Sandy but everyone east and north of us was obviously not so lucky. The election was actually “lost” in all the storm aftermath. A lot of the hotness regarding election day was cooled off by the disaster nearby. Some in our area did lose power for awhile but it was nothing compared to what you see in North Jersey and New York. I am glad the Red Sox finally jettisoned Bobby V, even though I lost my self-imposed betting date of Fathers Day…which was when I was sure they’d do the deed and cut the cord. Right now, the Philly region is at one of its lowest sports points in history. The Phillies have too much money spent on too many guys who can’t carry forward…The Eagles are finally – FINALLY – in the death watch for Andy Reid…there is no Flyers season…and the Sixers’ franchise acquisition has a bum leg they knew about when they brought him on. College basketball will ultimately be the salvation of Philly this long, nuclear winter!

      • Good to hear you avoided the worst of Sandy – The pictures out of New York and New Jersey were pretty astonishing – I feel for those folks and politics be damned – I hope they get moving forward a lot quicker than New Orleans did after Katrina.

        I’m no expert but the Eagles don’t look good – That offence is dire. Regardless, college hoops are always a highlight and something we get to see too little of down here, bar March Madness.

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