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Soup of This Day #289: And The Stars Look Very Different Today

February 13, 2013

Charles Minthorn Murphy
This is Charles Minthorn Murphy sitting in the New York Police Department monoplane in 1914. Despite ‘Minthorn’ being about as cool a middle name as you can get, Charles is better known as Mile-A-Minute Murphy, because he was the 1st cyclist to pedal a mile in under a minute. He achieved the feat by drafting a train, having wildly boasted that no locomotive could get away from him. Arrogance and the assist from the steamer don’t lessen the achievement – Photo: Bain News Service, 1914. Bain News Service is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I’ve just finished reading an Esquire article on Megan Fox. I checked out the article for the words, which I had been led to believe had been formed into an unintentionally hilarious piece of bad writing. The Guardian goes so far as to describe the whole thing as ‘Megan Fox and Esquire: the Stupid Off’.

Esquire wins apparently.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not writing this to put down Esquire – Mostly I was hoping to identify exactly what everyone thinks is bad writing and then maybe not do that myself. In this, I think I was moderately successful, learning a couple of key guidelines that I will now cover:

Lesson 1: Go easy on the metaphors if you’re trying to be serious.

That’s a big 1 for Longworth72. I tend to mix my metaphors like a drunken sailor kid in a china shop. Thanks to Esquire and Megs I now know that describing a brow as a problem of logic, like a visual labyrinth is probably not going to elicit serious consideration from an audience.

Some of that was redundant – I’ve checked and labyrinths tend to be visual by nature. I’d go so far to say that non-visual labyrinths are just open-plan spaces with no furniture.

Like football fields.

I guess it’s good that Megan Fox doesn’t have an open-plan brow like a football field.

Lesson 2: Be sympathetic to your subject.

This seems difficult – A real fine line to tread. It’s ok to reveal for instance that she isn’t convinced that leprechauns bring you a pot of gold. It’s probably not so good to let slip that she does believe in leprechauns regardless.

Likewise, it’s not such a brilliant idea to suggest that she thinks she is removing tattoos via will-power. It is however, not so bad that she had ink of Marilyn Monroe. Most people have heroes and whilst tragically flawed, Norma Jean can’t be too far off the mark for an actress.

Marilyn is a kind of a linchpin in this post. I once skimmed over a book about her. After a sudden attack of depression I’d got stuck on the 5th floor of the university library and without looking, picked out something to read – Sort of a justifying my reason for hiding out in a book depository.

About 10 pages in I realised that, all power to Marilyn, but it wasn’t really the subject matter for me. So I skipped whole chapters, flipping pages until I got stuck on a bit that struck a chord.

It was about Joe DiMaggio.

Joe was a baseball player and a stupendously good 1 at that – The 1 thing every sports fan needs to know about him is The Streak – A feat so astonishing that it gets capitalised, preferably in a font size slightly larger than the surrounding text.

Because, in 1941, Joe DiMaggio hit safely in 56 consecutive games.

A player might get 4 at bats per game. The very good players might be knocking the ball around at a shade over .300 – Less than 1 hit per 3 at bats. Across his career DiMaggio hit at 0.325 – Still less than once per 3 trips to the plate – And that’s only if the hits, when and if they arrive, are evenly distributed. Each game therefore has an element of a lottery to it, with multiple factors in play – Like what the pitcher is going to throw, how the field will be set and how that field will throw to 1st on that 1 grounder you scramble out for that game. A player has to get an opportunity to make a hit and then he has to be good enough to exploit that opportunity, no matter how narrow it might be.

DiMaggio took his chances and made them count – He hit at .408 across The Streak, notching up 15 home runs and a staggering 55 runs batted in.

56 iterations in a row, Joe DiMaggio played that skilful lottery and beat the odds each time out. The next best is Pete Rose’s 44 in 1978 and that’s before you figure in that Joe embarked on an additional 17 game streak the day after The Streak ended – His combined 73 hits out of 74 games is yet another record.

Joe DiMaggio was also the 3rd husband of Marilyn Monroe. It was a short marriage, ending just 9 months in when Marilyn initiated a divorce.

In spite of this the 2 were reconciled as friends and maybe more, some 7 years later and DiMaggio had even asked the actress to re-marry him.

Just days before her death via an overdose.

That, according to the book, devastated DiMaggio. He claimed her body, arranged a funeral and according to what I read in that book, delivered flowers to her grave for many years after she died and never found another love to rival that of Norma Jean.

Which struck me as a cool way to behave and right then and there I took Joe DiMaggio to heart as a hero, even though he had committed the sin of being a Yankee.

Not long after that – During another bout of depression – The bloody things just kept happening – I found myself hiding in the same library. This time I ended up with a book about Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. A book that claimed that J.R.R had not written his great work as a piece of fiction, but rather as a historical record of fact, i.e. There really was 1 ring to bind them all and once upon a time, elves, hobbits and dwarfs walked this Earth.

Which does explain Yogi Berra but otherwise the only ring involved in this thesis is the 1 left around the glass the author surely had more than a few pints of mead from before he concocted his half-arsed hypothesis.

This was a cautionary tale for me – Maybe you can’t always take as gospel what you read in a library. And sure enough, the Joe DiMaggio that I’d built up in my mind began to crumble under the weight of slightly more in-depth research.

Thank you Internet.

It turns out that Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio originally reached Splitsville, population them, because of the mental cruelty inflicted upon the former by the latter. Their relationship was what cautious people used to call stormy but pretty much everybody else now labels as abusive, both mentally and physically.

Now there are 2 sides to every meteorological instability but it doesn’t take a genius to work out that the guy who hit in 56 games straight is going to probably not be the primary victim of any physical abuse – It’s not exactly a visual labyrinth and personally, I can’t find a way to be sympathetic about it.

Yep, from my list of heroes, Jolt’n Joe has left and gone away.


Which is not to say that he shouldn’t be somebody else’s baseball hero. He’d suit a fan going in with open eyes and an ability to make a clear and logical distinction – Joe DiMaggio is 1 hell of a baseball player, but otherwise he’s flawed. I can’t make that separation work for me – 56 games straight is nowhere near enough for me to get my head around the abuse. Let’s call that a problem of logic for me, like a visual labyrinth, or Megan Fox’s apparently impossibly symmetrical brow even.

By contrast Lance Armstrong is still my hero. You’d think not given the furore around his admissions over the past month, but there is some reasoning to my apparent madness.

Mostly because I went into that arrangement with open eyes and was able to make a clear and logical calculation. I knew that he was almost certainly doping. He couldn’t not have been. The great Belgian cyclist Rik van Steenbergen once said:

‘The top riders are obliged to be fresh each time and they can’t do that without stimulants. Nobody could or ever will be able to do that because there are no such things as supermen. Doping is necessary in cycling.’

Rik would know – He won nearly 1000 pro races in his career and retired to make adult films.

So you had to dope to compete. Armstrong though did not just compete – He won the gruelling Tour de France an unequalled 7 times. That is some phenomenal drive, an obsessive, pathological need to win that also happened to get him through cancer.

I celebrated that last bit. I’d watched my Mum die a slow and painful death from cancer. Lance Armstrong though beat the Big C, won the Tour 7 times and then parleyed that into an assault on cancer that few others could match. He was, and still is in my eyes, 1 of Van Steenburgen’s impossible supermen.

Sometimes though, even superheroes need help. Roger Ramjet needed his Proton Energy Pills (PEP) to make the crooks begin to worry.

Jacques Anquetil, who won the Tour de France 5, reckoned that taking some PEP was ok if the fight was right:

‘I do not wish to hear spoken the word doping. Rather, one must say ‘treating yourself,’ and speak of treatments that are not appropriate for ordinary mortals. You cannot compete in the Tour de France on mineral water alone.’

You can’t survive cancer on mineral water alone either. And anyone in that fight is no ordinary mortal.

Maybe doping is cheating. Maybe that makes Lance Armstrong not your hero. That’s ok, because my eyes are open and he is mine.

And The Stars Look Very Different Today

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