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Soup of This Day #315: Down The Neon River The Sadness Canoes

May 31, 2013

Barra Airport
Beach volleyball players on An Tràigh Mhòr (The Big Beach), Barra, Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, frequently have to contend with the threat of a DHC-6 Twin Otter cruelling their vibe – Photo: James Gray, 1998. James Gray is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

The other morning I got stuck in traffic behind an ordinary car. That it was a lukewarm coupe is not in of itself a hot scoop – I spend around 2 hours stuck in traffic each day and the vast majority of cars around me are of your garden variety mid-size box on wheels. Which is ok – I drive 1 myself and it’s really comfortable, good on fuel consumption and just sporty enough that I can occasionally imagine myself to be a barely-restrained-but-coolly-controlled tarmac rally driver.

That doesn’t stop me pining for even a glimpse of this:

Wildly impractical, quixotically uncomfortable and wholly lacking any connection with the modern world I inhabit (Including a licence to be on Australian roads). And I really would love to have 1, good Morgan people.

The car in question the other morning was not as sexy as the above. Which is nowhere near as sexy as my wife. Who is smoking hot in a way that melts all of my wheels to the ground.

Back to the ordinary car…

For a start it seemed to have 4 wheels, 2 of which were, as per standard, at the rear. It also had an enclosed roof, limiting egress in and out of the vehicle to, what were apparently, conventional doors. All very functional but as a whole, not really suggestive of timeless class – This car was definitely not styled to make the driver feel like the pilot of a fighter plane – Though that could be achieved by the driver acquiring an actual fighter plane and then using it to blow up the car. Sadly, a painted on shark’s mouth would not by itself do the job – Not even Biggles himself could make that fly.

So the car itself was mediocre – In spite of this it was symptomatic of what has gone wrong in the world of professional football in general and in particular in Scotland.

Scots people, don’t get me wrong – I think your country and people are wonderful. I have this idiotic dream of taking 1 of those ridiculous Morgan 3s on a tour of your extraordinary countryside, pulling over every now and then, and cutting that motor so that I can hear what I think is the coolest accent in the world.

And it’s not just the way you talk either – The way you approach sport, and Longworth72-type sport in particular, is something to behold – The likes of Billy Liddell, Bill Shankly, Ron Yeats, Graeme Souness and Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool have been instrumental in shaping that great Anfield club. Going further back and Liverpool’s 1st captain was Andrew Hannah, a Scottish international. Their 1st successful top-flight captain was Alex Raisbeck, also a Scottish international, and the on-field leader in 1900/01 as the Merseysiders scooped the 1st of 18 championships.

So I know and appreciate the tartan contribution to football.

It’s just that the Scottish football league is in a @#$% state right now and getting worse.

Not all of it to be fair – The problem can best be explained by a quick look at what that ordinary car had that grabbed my eye.

It had some bumper stickers and a personalised number plate.

The latter had the legend ‘badbhoy’ in white letters on a green background. The same green and white colour combo could be found on a sticker above – That was the club badge of Celtic FC, the Glaswegian football club. A nickname for that Scottish giant is ‘The Bhoys’ so credit the owner of the car for his creative plate – He’d got it half-right at least.

And then I saw the other 2 stickers and reckoned he’d got it all right – He was clearly a bad, bad bhoy. Mostly because his 2 other stickers had the flag of republican Ireland as the background, and over that, expressions of joy that Celtic’s arch-rivals Rangers FC were dying.

Sectarianism in a sticker. Or 2.

Which is daft but that is the upper echelon of Scottish football. Actually it’s really just the upper ec because it’s just the 2 teams – Glasgow’s Celtic and Rangers, the 2 powerhouses of Scottish football, known collectively as ‘The Old Firm’. And by powerhouses I mean nuclear models, while everybody else has 1 of those smallish wind turbine jobs.

So vast is the gap in power generation that of the 117 Scottish Football championships, Celtic have won 44 while Rangers have notched up 54. All the rest combined have won 19, including Edinburgh’s 2 teams, Hearts and Hibs, who join Aberdeen in equal 3rd place with 4 wins apiece.

The last time The Old Firm didn’t win the title was in the 1984/85 season when Aberdeen, coached by the up-and-coming Alex Ferguson, triumphed. Forget all of those titles he won with Manchester United – Ferguson did his most worthy work guiding the Dons to victory over the cabal that is The Old Firm.

Or Rantic as I will now call them. It just fits.

That kind of dominance is not good for the game. It’s stifling and just a bit boring – Rantic wins, Rantic gets more money, Rantic wins again.

Until 1 of the nuclear powerhouses has a meltdown, having spent more than they had, and thus burning a hole in the floor of the Scottish Premier League (SPL). And the 2nd-tier 1st Division. And the 3rd-tier 2nd Division, before finishing up as a sort of cooled pile of radioactive slurry in the 4th-tier 3rd Division. A rung so low that you can’t actually be relegated from it – Trust me, East Stirlingshire have tried numerous times and still can’t get booted out.

All of which left Celtic to win this year’s title by 16 points. And probably the next 4 or 5 thereafter by various stupid margins, at least until Rangers can work their way back up and Rantic plus hostilities can be resumed.

It’s hardly the stuff of sporting legend and to an extent it’s being replicated across Europe, with for example only 4 clubs in with a realistic shout of winning the English Premier League (EPL) each year and perhaps 2 in the Spanish La Liga. Which is great for those megolithic institutions but not so wonderful for the 98%* of supporters who couldn’t give a bumper sticker for them.

I have a solution though. It’s what we use here in Australia for our football leagues. It’s called a salary cap and it works to fix spending at clubs, thus ensuring that the playing field is level. This could level the playing field in Scotland too.

Metaphorically only. I once heard a Scots commentator explaining that a particular ground had a difference of around 4m in elevation from 1 end to the other and thus 1 team would be enjoying the downhill attack in the 2nd half. He seemed puzzled that an English colleague had not heard of this previously. This is as quixotically brilliant as a 3-wheeled car and so should remain that way inclined.

So how this would work is to pool some of the TV rights monies and all other income and then to disburse it equally amongst all of Scotland’s clubs with no over-spending allowed. Sure you wouldn’t attract big-name overseas players but that would just mean more home-grown talent – The next Kenny Dalglish perhaps.

The grass-roots of Scots football would be stronger and the best bit is that everybody would be financially viable and spending within their means. Of course their means would need to include a small consultancy fee for Longworth72.

It won’t cost a packet – I’m thinking I need just a small new car. It doesn’t have to be too elaborate – I’d even settle for 1 with only 3 wheels, no doors and no roof…

*Actual figure may vary with actual research, rather than wildly unfounded speculation. On the flipside, exactly 100% of authors of this post couldn’t give a rat’s @#$% about accuracy in this instance.

Down The Neon River The Sadness Canoes

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