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Soup of This Day #302: Sit Back And Wonder Why

March 25, 2013

Lycium barbarum flower
This is the flower of Lycium barbarum, a plant commonly known as Goji. Its berries are an alleged superfood, although scientific test have been inconclusive on that score. At least the flower is purple, a proper colour for super things – Photo: Javier Martin, 2008. Javier Martin is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

When I was a student at uni I shared office space with a guy that I used to refer to as Healthbar. The name fit because, like a goji berry and greek yoghurt bran bar, he was consistently wholesome.

And he gave me the @#$%s.

1 particular New Year’s Eve for example he eschewed the Australian tradition of getting yourself unmemorably plastered and instead organised a sing-along around a piano. Possibly I’ve misread the moral purity of that event – I wasn’t there, having declined the invite in favour of getting unmemorably plastered – and maybe they were snorting cocaine off the top deck of the baby grand while raucously belting out Beastie Boys’ numbers.

Probably not though.

And this is ok. Different strokes for different folks.

Still, our respective strokes were so out of synch that our oars were bound to clash and become tangled. And because my standards as a fellow student could sink underneath pretty much everybody else’s, let alone under those of the coxswain of virtue that was Healthbar, this is pretty much what always happened. Where he was studious and conscientious, I was mercurial and wasteful. He owned success, while I had a lock on failure. Even his relationship with his wonderful girlfriend was seemingly tightly scripted – They once formed a slick Amway-selling partnership.

By contrast, in my friendship with his wonderful girlfriend I was a car-wreck of amiable intentions. Literally – I smashed her car after borrowing it to go home to pick up some work for a joint paper that I’d absent-mindedly managed to leave there. It was almost worse – I originally got into a car that looked like hers but wasn’t, figuring things out just before driving off in what would have become a stolen motor vehicle.

Technically that would only have been worse for me and the actual owner of the doppelganger car.

Healthbar would never have gotten into the wrong car. He would also not have reversed the right car into another car with such force that it kind of ended up at least partially atop yet another car. Healthbar would no doubt have argued that no car is the right car when you don’t have a valid licence.

Not my finest hour.

This I knew pretty much the instant before I made contact with the rear-end of the Honda Civic that was the 1st to feel the mercurial and wasteful touch of Longworth72. I in fact was remarkably talented at establishing exactly where I’d @#$%ed up, usually just past the moment where the consequences of my @#$% up became unavoidable. So I generally did not need, nor want, to be educated after the fact, even if I deserved it.

That was exactly my experience of Healthbar though. He was a constant and vocal reminder of man’s fallibilities as rendered by me, whether they be with regard to my drunken behaviour in the Common Room, or crashing somebody else’s car, or even my propensity to play Microsoft Soccer instead of studying for the Quantum Physics exam (I was moderately successful at that, which is more than I can say for Microsoft Soccer).

I played a fair bit of Microsoft Soccer. It must have been a mystery to Healthbar how much stuff I did of the non-studying variety, yet managed to survive each semester. This conundrum can only have been deepened by the conclusion of our 3rd-year projects.

Soon after we’d all handed in these show-piece epics, we sat around as a group contemplating what our marks might be. This was a critical business – That project constituted the bulk of our 3rd-year work and provided us an entry into the real world of Physics research. Even I’d got the significance of that and for once I put in a serious effort, working long hours into the nights and often through the next days. I was proud of my completed report and when the subject came up as to what mark I thought I’d get I confidently announced that I deserved a 90%.

Cue Healthbar’s outright disbelief. I was me, he pointed out and nobody had got 90% or greater in recent years. And had he mentioned that I was me?

I’m re-telling this tale today because the relationship between Healthbar and I mirrors for me that between West Coast Eagles fans and those of the Fremantle Dockers.

West Coast is Western Australian football royalty, the blue-bloods of the town, supposedly possessed of all that is beautiful in our national game. They have the success to back that up, 3 times winning the Australian Football League (AFL) Premiership cup, and their seemingly well-bred fans have an expectation that more triumphs will follow, as surely as those nights of work became days of work in my 3rd year project.

Eagles fans are simply entitled. They believe their team works harder and therefore will be successful. The flipside is that they seem to believe that everyone else doesn’t work as hard and so is therefore destined to fail. Particularly the Fremantle Dockers.

The Dockers have been characterised generally as mercurial and wasteful, parleying these talents into not much beyond resigned shrugs and unmemorable nights. Like the frustration that my very existence must surely have generated for Healthbar, Freo grates on the studious and conscientious West Coast.

It wasn’t always so.

When the Dockers were formed in 1995 they existed as a sort of little brother to the State’s finest, the Eagles. The latter had won 2 flags as Western Australia’s sole representative in the national comp (1992 and 1994) and so enjoyed a sort of warm regard in the hearts of the residents of the Golden West.

A regard that they took for granted with respect to the Dockers faithful, and that impression of elitism was further fuelled by the West Coasters winning the 1st 9 Western Derbies between theses 2 sides. By the end of 2005 the Dockers had 5 wins on the board but their cross-town rivals had added another 8 of their own and the record stood at 17-5 in favour of the blue and yellow. Yep, the Eagles owned success while the Dockers had a lock on failure.

Not any more.

The Dockers got tough. Sure, they still have that mercurial thing going on, but now it is underpinned by a kind of street-hardened competence. The wastefulness has been replaced by a mercilessness that Flash Gordon’s nemesis would have appreciated.

Because he was Ming the Merciless.

The Fremantle Dockers aren’t quite up for tyrannically overseeing the planet Mongo but they have learned under coach Ross Lyon how to ruthlessly put away a team. Even if that team is the supposedly superior West Coast Eagles.

This was exemplified on the weekend just past, with Round 1 of the 2013 AFL season. For the 1st time in 11 years the season kicked off for Western Australians with a Western Derby, the 37th edition of the contest. It was predicted to be tight, with the bookies barely able to separate the 2 sides in the lead-up. A fair swag of experts had West Coast as the favourite – The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) website actually had the Eagles as the early favourites for the Premiership, while they dropped the Dockers narrowly out of finals contention in 9th.

The reasoning was simple, with both teams missing quality players the Eagles were adjudged to have more depth in cover. For instance both teams were missing key ruckmen – Fremantle had lost Biggest A, Aaron Sandilands, while West Coast were without the leaping Nic Naitanui. For the Eagles though Nic Nat is just 1 half of arguably the premier ruck duo in the competition, with big man Dean Cox still on the park. Fremantle was without it’s back-up ruckman, Zac Clarke and instead had to turn to the 3rd string Jonathon Griffin to match up against the vastly more experienced Cox.

Early on and this equation looked like a difficult 1 for the Dockers to solve. They trailed 2.0 (12) to 3.5 (23) at the 1st break and then 5.4 (34) to 6.7 (43) at the half.

That though was as close as the Eagles got to winning.

In the 3rd quarter the purple-clad Freo simply switched to a higher gear and blew the Eagles off Subiaco Oval. Griffin negated Cox and the Dockers’ quality in the midfield overwhelmed their opponents. Each of Nathan Fyfe, David Mundy, Michael Barlow, Stephen Hill and Danyle Pearce have the ability to break lines. In that 3rd quarter the Eagles could muster not 1 such player in response and so by the time the dust had settled at the last change Freo had an 11.10 (76) to 7.10 (52) lead.

It was enough for them to ease off, allowing a stunned Eagles outfit to claw it back to a 16 point deficit mid-way through the last. That though was just a spur for a clinical Dockers team to effortlessly step it up again and they closed out the match with a clear 16.12 (108) to 11.14 (80) win.

The lock on failure has truly gone. In truth it went from me too, back with the release of those 3rd year project marks.

I got exactly 90%, the only student from that year to achieve the feat. Thank you Microsoft Soccer.

Sit Back And Wonder Why

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