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Soup of This Day #286: Fish Pay Attention To The Moon

January 20, 2013

Monks playing volleyball
Buddhist monks playing a game in Sikkim, India. It’s no dream, but it is volleyball nirvāņa – Photo: Sukanto Debnath, 2007. Sukanto Debnath is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

This is a difficult post to write. The problem is physical – I hurt my dominant right hand playing volleyball this morning. My left hand is a fine looking hand but it does not do longhand and this is how this post is being drafted.

The accident came out of nowhere.

I was in the back court when the ball squirted away from a team-mate and slid low to my front and right. I had no hope of reaching it – I was able to work that out even as it left his hand. But still I dived, throwing a despairing punch at the ball.

Which missed the volleyball by a foot. It had been a truly impossible swing through fresh air and into a very solid headboard.

That last is not a euphemism – I slammed my hand into a Tasmanian oak headboard, at the point just past my pillow.

Yep, I was sleeping and playing volleyball in my head while doing so – At least until the very real pain of throwing my hand into something that a large bandsaw was needed to carve up had travelled through to my brain.

It turns out that the impossible shot was really just an impossible dream.

Which is a good place to turn to the 1967 Boston Red Sox. Like me on a volleyball court the 1967 Sox were not expected to do much of anything but be a doormat. They’d been that in 1966 – Finishing with a pretty ordinary 72 and 90. To be fair this was an improvement on the 62 and 100 of 1965, but still not liable to result in October ball – The Red Sox had finished 9th of 10 in both years and that kind of position will not see a post-season return unless there is a Black Sox type scandal involving the 8 teams above.

There wasn’t and even if there had been it just wouldn’t have been right to let the Sox play on – They had a combined ERA of 3.92, good for 10th of 10 American League (AL) outfits and were also ranked 10th of 10 in hits conceded and runs allowed. They were just 9th in home runs given up though, so there’s that to be positive about then, if only in a darkly humorous way.

Even if you are going for a Black Sox like dive it’s almost impossible to do it against that kind of pitching.

So 1967 was not going to be much better – Surely just making 72 and 90 again would be a good effort? An impossible dream then would be to parley that new year into a 90 and 72 season and a 1st shot at a World Series since 1946.

Yeah, that happened. Maybe the dream was not so impossible – Or perhaps it was and that word just doesn’t mean what we think it means. Either way, the 1967 Sox reversed their wins and losses, and powered by Carl Yastrzemski, George Scott, Tony Conigliaro, Rico Petrocelli and Reggie Smith surged to rank 1st of 10 in hits, runs and home runs – An offensive drive that served to offset the better, but still laggard defence. Even when Tony Conigliaro took a season-ending bean-ball to the head the Sox just kept rolling.

All of that added up to an AL pennant and a shot at the National League’s St. Louis Cardinals for a World Series title. That last challenge was to be a bridge too far – The Sox finally reaching the limits of what was possible as they went down 4-3 in 7 games.

There was a tangible link between that impossible dream of a season and the 1 that the Perth Glory Women have undergone across this summer.

Like the 1966 and 1965 Sox, the past seasons of the Glory have been dire. They’ve never finished better than 5th of 7 and last season could manage just 6th of 7. That effort included a baseball-sized thrashing inflicted by Sydney FC – That sorry game ended 11-0 in favour of the New South Wales outfit.

So you could be forgiven for not expecting big things from the Western Australian side this time around.

You’d have been wrong.

Like the 1967 Red Sox, the 2012/2013 Glory Women turned it around. They won 7 of their 12 games, 5 more than the previous season, and good enough for 2nd on the ladder and a home semi-final in the play-offs. Along the way they did the double over the team that had so recently belted them, Sydney FC, beating them 3-1 in Perth and then 7-5 in Sydney.

It was a glorious turn up of form – And just like for those Sox it came about through an offensive onslaught as the Glory scored 34 goals – Not quite 3 a game and 4 more in total than anyone else could manage. The Glory did concede 20 goals, more than anyone else in the top 3, unmasking some defensive frailties, particularly after the mid-season loss of star stopper Carly Telford. Yet, as with the loss of Conigliari for the Sox, the Glory carried on, crucially registering just the 2 losses, the reverse of last season when they won just 2.

And so today they played in their 1st final – A home 1 to boot – against Melbourne Victory. It was a single match tie, with the winner going through to host a grand final against Sydney FC. Perth started as narrow favourites – They had a full squad, bar Telford, and were on home turf, albeit at the bigger NIB Stadium, rather than their regular Intiga Stadium haunt. This latter switch was because Intiga Stadium has a capacity of around 2,000 and more than that were expected for this showpiece game.

The actual crowd size has yet to be confirmed but I reckon that north of 4,000 is not an unreasonable estimate so the move was necessary.

The majority of that audience crammed into the main stand, seeking shelter on a day the mercury topped 35°c. The players had no such respite and the game looked to be a fatiguing 1, in spite of mandatory 1/4 and 3/4 time drinks breaks. This resulted in some cagey football, with Victory seeming to boss possession through-out but with the Glory having the better chances, largely via quick breaks.

It was fitting perhaps then that the 2 sides finished the regulation 90 minutes at 1 goal apiece – Melbourne’s opener being cancelled out by Collette McCallum’s sublime free-kick curler.

Neither side could find an edge in extra time either and so it was a penalty shoot-out that would decide the winner.

The Glory took an early lead, 2-1 after 2 penalties each. They then suffered a slump, missing their next 2 while Melbourne bagged theirs. Perth levelled the score up at 3 each, leaving the Victory with the last kick to win it. Jessica McDonald had the honour for Melbourne and she calmly waited until after Perth keeper Kaitlyn Savage had committed before driving the ball down the middle.

And into Savage’s outstretched foot for what seemed like a brilliant save.

Until the referee ordered the kick to be retaken, seemingly accusing the Glory stopper of coming off her line. McDonald had a 2nd bite of the apple and this time made it count.

Yep, just like those impossible Sox the impossible Glory Women were knocked out 4 to 3.

As to the re-taken penalty? Replays show that the ref’s decision was technically correct as Savage did lean off her line. But so did her opposite number Brianna Davey in saving from Aivi Luik and Rosie Sutton.

Still, the ref’s decision is final and the Glory Women can look back on a season well played. It’s said of the 1967 Red Sox that they:

‘re-invented baseball in New England’

Maybe the Glory Women haven’t quite done that for football in the Western Australia sporting conscious but for mine, and based on the crowd at today’s game, they’ve made a giant leap forward in establishing women’s football as a viable sport out west of the Nullabor. I can also confirm that they’ve re-invented the game for at least 1 fan.


They’ve rekindled my love for a game that I was becoming just a bit jaded about.

Which is more than I can say for my affection for volleyball after this morning. Sure, it was an imaginary game, but the consequences were quite real. In some ways though I am glad I missed that dreamy attempt at a dig – If we’d have won that point then I’d be next up with the ball and I’m honestly quite @#$% with the serving thing – I’m all limbs flailing.

I could have really hurt myself with that.

Fish Pay Attention To The Moon

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