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Soup of This Day #278: Burns Like A Red Coal Carpet

December 29, 2012

Worlds End State Park
The skyline at Worlds End State Park in Pennsylvania. It’s a confusing place – Some know it as Whirl’s Glen and from 1934 until 1943 it was officially called Whirls End – The lack of apostrophes doesn’t help either. It seems it’s really hard to identify the End of the Worlds or the Whirls – Photo: Nicholas, 2008. Nicholas is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

The Saturday before Christmas I mowed the back lawn. This is not a euphemism – I got out the mower and cut the grass down to earth. I had planned this, less in defiance of the apocalypse that was supposed to occur on the preceding Friday, and more thinking that I could put it off at least until after the apocalypse did or did not happen.

I just think the lawn being cut right doesn’t rate in an Armageddon-type scenario.

If you’re tucked up safely in some sort of emergency bunker and haven’t heard the news then: a. The apocalypse is off; and b. Why are you getting your end-of-days news from this blog? – This is a sporting blog – The kind that’s more liable to tell you that Megatron has broken the single-season NFL record for receiving yards than it is to announce that Armageddon is nigh.

And no conspiracy folk, that’s not Megatron, leader of the Decepticons. He is a. Fictional and b. Even if those films were documentaries then as far as I can tell he’s been destroyed – Something to do with a spark and all.

Admittedly the plot is a little confusing, so I could have that last bit wrong.

Megatron in this instance refers to the Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnston Jr. Who I’m not calling Megatron any more because I’ve just looked him up and he does not transform into something other than himself wearing casual clothes.

Like a helicopter.

He probably rides in them but that’s not the same as becoming 1. It’s just not.

He’s also not the head of an evil collective of shape-shifting machinery. In fact, about the only connection to the fictional leader of the Decepticons is that Calvin, for all of his efforts, is frequently on the losing side.

The Detroit Lions are disappointing this season – They’ve won just the 4 games to date and contrived to lose the other 10.

In truth it’s been like that for some time. Detroit haven’t ever won a Super Bowl, which is understandable given that they’ve never played in 1. In fact, across the entire Super Bowl era, the Lions have won just 1 post-season game, losing the other 10 that they have qualified for.

They’d possibly have lost more if they’d qualified for more.

That, for 47 seasons, is some kind of epic fail. Thankfully for the good folk of Detroit that same time stretch has seen the Detroit Tigers win 4 American League (AL) pennants and 2 World Series, while the Detroit Pistons have notched up 3 National Basketball Association (NBA) championships. And most successfully of all, the Detroit Red Wings have won 4 Stanley Cups and made the last 21 post-seasons in a row.

The Red Wings are the alternate universe Lions. The yin to their yang. The ice to their can’t-get-a-fire-started-because-the-kindling-is-damp.

Bottom line, it’s not that Calvin is 1 of the shining lights of the Detroit Lions – It’s more the case that he is the only shining light for the Detroit Lions.

In a dense fog obscuring a moonless night. So not so much shining as guiding the faithful to a rudimentary shelter where they can hunker down and wait out the bitter winter to come.

Calvin Johnson Jr. is good – He’s obviously not a game winner though.

Unlike his namesake Mitchell Johnson, who can swing a match his team’s way seemingly off of his own efforts.

Only sometimes though, and not in American football to be fair. That latter is mostly because he’s spent the bulk of his adult life honing his talents on a cricket field and that just does not translate to out-foxing a tight-end on the fly – Instead Mitch Johnson is a strike bowler for Australia.

A strike bowler is at the pointy end of a cricket team’s attack with the ball. They typically open the bowling with the cherry-red new ball – Firing it in with pace and movement, looking to explosively blast bats out of their crease.

Like this:

If you can’t go around the bat…

A good strike bowler can turn a match in 1 dragon’s breath of a spell, tearing through the opposition batting order with stumps sent cart-wheeling and keeper’s gloves singed.

This is what Mitch Johnson offers Australia.

Mostly.

Mitch is not consistent. When he’s not having a great day at the office, he’s been known to spray deliveries left, right, extremely left, waaaaaay right, short, juicily full and through a previously unseen 5th dimension that happens to end right in the batsman’s power zone. Your average opposing bat loves Mitch when he’s not got his mojo on.

This has been unsettling to Australian cricket fans who, through the 90’s and the early part of the new millennium, were used to seeing a pace attack that was so invariably good that from 2005 to 2008 they equalled the world record for the most consecutive Test wins at 16. They share that record with themselves – Australia also achieved 16 wins in a row back across 1999 to 2001. The next best is just 11.

1 of the chief architects of this astonishing run of success was Australia’s primary strike bowler of the time, Glenn McGrath.

Glenn is known as Pigeon.

I’ve checked and it doesn’t seem like pigeons by-and-large are portrayed as transforming into anything fearsome. Which is problematic because pigeons themselves are hardly going to inspire shock and awe in their natural state.

The US did investigate the possibility of using pigeons to guide missiles during World War II and beyond. The pigeon pilots would use pecks to guide a projectile towards a target that they had been trained to identify.

That’s hardly transforming though.

And it didn’t work – There was no buy-in from the pigeons.

Pigeon McGrath by contrast had his guidance system locked on to pretty much any target with a cricket bat. And once he was zeroed in there was a high probability of a successful surgical strike at some point – He’d doggedly fire down metronomic line and length missiles with a patience that would have worn down the Dalai Lama, had his serene holiness tried waving the willow.

Across 124 Tests McGrath took 563 wickets at 21.64. He’s 4th on the all-time list in terms of his total number of Test scalps and that average is better than anyone else in the top-10.

Yep, Pigeon would home in with seemingly repetitive deliveries, introducing subtle variations that only a bat of the winged variety could have detected, teasing out false strokes and genuine nicks to the slip cordon. He was a homing Pigeon alright – The kind that could have steered a missile on target before casually parachuting to safety.

Mitch Johnson is not so much the guidance system – He does pack more of a payload though and when he gets it on target there’s generally an almighty boom and a dejected walk back to the pavilion for a stunned batsman. It just doesn’t happen as regularly – Mitch has taken 202 wickets across 49 Tests at 30.63. Those numbers though don’t tell the full story, so here’s some that do a better job…

In the recent Boxing Day Test against Sri Lanka at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) Johnson took 4 for 63 in Sri Lanka’s 1st dig before backing up with a cultured 92 with the bat. The last time an Australian had knocked over 4 and scored at least 50 in the 1st innings of a Test had been in 2011.

That was Mitch Johnson too.

As was the 2 times before that.

See, this is a guy who can turn a match. Who can put opponents on the back foot and keep them there.

He could probably do a better job of an apocalypse too than the 1 those Mayans didn’t predict.

Mostly.

Burns Like A Red Coal Carpet

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