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Soup of This Year #352: Time’s A Thief And Stole The Show

December 31, 2013

B Strong
Ahead of the 2013 World Series the Massachusetts State House proudly flies a banner in support of Boston and the home-town Red Sox – Photo: Albany NY, 2013. Albany NY is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Here now are the 2013 Longworth72 Awards for Sporting Things That Made Longworth72 Happy. They have no cash value.

The Ephraim Longworth Memorial Lock of Hair for Loyalty in Sport.

This award is named for the redoubtable Liverpool defender who also gives this blog its handle. Ephraim played in 391 games for the Merseyside Reds across an epic stretch from 1910 until 1928, before retiring as a 40-year old. He was apparently known for a signature lock of hair that hung over his face.

Because Ephraim died in 1968 I’ve substituted in a lock of my play-off beard. Please don’t be weirded out…

John W. Henry.

Yep the award goes to the principle owner of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool FC. Sure, I could have given it to Dustin Pedroia or Jamie Carragher, who both have given heart and soul performances week in and out for those respective clubs. Given that in 2013 the former inked a new deal that will see him in red stockings for the next 8 years (To add to the 7 he’s already completed), while the latter ended a 737-game 1-club career with the Merseyside reds, either would have been worthy winners.

But in 2013 I couldn’t find room for them on this podium.

And nor could I for Matthew Pavlich, although the proud South Australian captain of the Western Australian Fremantle Dockers does merit a very honourable mention in this category. Pav has played only for Freo, notching up 291 games for the Dockers, a club record. In spite of scant team success Pav’s loyalty has been beyond reproach and in 1 moment in 2013 he demonstrated that it goes beyond just his team:

Immediately after leading his team through to its 1st Grand Final appearance via a defeat of reigning Premiers Sydney, Pav eschewed the wild celebrations that mark modern sport and instead quietly arranged an honour guard for retiring opponent and Sydney stalwart, Jude Bolton.

This act though was not quite enough to net him the hair. Instead, the award goes to John W. Henry – What scores him this win is that across the 2013 English summer he firmly rejected any move to transfer Luis Suárez out of Liverpool.

In Suárez’s case, Liverpool were offered £40,000,001 for their goal-scoring public-relations nightmare. The extra £1 was supposedly supposed to trigger a release clause in want-away Luis’ contract.

John Henry said no anyway.

And he said it in such a way that nobody could doubt his resolve. Thus the transfer didn’t happen and in December Suárez signed a contract extension at Liverpool, saying:

‘I love the city and the supporters. They have helped me and I try my best on the pitch. It was a difficult time after the summer, but they helped me come back and play and I think when supporters help you off the pitch you try your best to make them happy on the pitch.’

For mine, I think John W. Henry deserves some of that credit too – He’s simply reinforced what all fans intuitively believe – That the good of the team is what counts.

John, the hair is in the mail.

The Mark Webber Nürburgring Plate for Unbridled Joy in Sport.

This award is named for Mark Webber’s almost-wordless cries of joy when he broke through for his debut Formula 1 victory in 2009. That triumph came at Germany’s Nürburgring and followed 7 years and 129 Grands Prix of not winning for the likeable Aussie driver. Scarcely has there been a more deserved race victory in motorsport and you’d have to be a hard-hearted bastard to begrudge Webber his in-car sobbing.

The winner of this 2013 award shed a few tears himself across the past year but it was his high-5’s that make him the hands-down best in this category. Koji Uehara started the 2013 season for the Boston Red Sox as a 38-year old middle reliever of no real note. By the end of it he’d become not just the supreme clutch pitcher of the Majors, but an emotional touchstone for everything good in baseball.

And he did it all with some slaps of the hand.

Koji’s high-5’s were imbued with the kind of childish enthusiasm that should mark everyone’s time at work. They were accompanied by wild leaps and an infectious grin that couldn’t but help suck in everybody. 1 time he high-5’ed teammate Shane Victorino, only the Hawaiian outfielder wasn’t ready:


Irrepressible.

So this award goes to the veteran and surprise closer of the Boston Red Sox. It won’t be his last either…

The Lionel Messi Cup for Scarcely Believable Achievements in Sport.

This award derives its moniker from the world’s greatest footballer, Lionel Messi. More specifically from the Argentine’s extraordinary ability to do stuff on a football field that I can’t fathom. Seriously, even in super slow motion I’m still befuddled by what he’s done.

Koji Uehara did that this year.

It was his splitter. A pitch that dips over the plate became the ultimate strike-out tool of 2013 for Koji, and just like 1 of Messi’s deft lobs at pace, nobody could seemingly work it out. It wasn’t the speed – Uehara was getting them in at the low 80’s. Instead it was his command, with the ball effortlessly dropping under each despairing swing. The game’s best sluggers were helpless against that splitter and even with the modern penchant for video analysis it seemed like the bats were blinded by the lights.

Koji Uehara finished 2013 with 4 wins, 1 loss and a barely believable ERA of 1.09 across 74.1 innings. He was the MVP for the American League Championship Series and he gets this award too.

The Murray Walker Trophy for Excellence in Sports Commentary, Part 1.

This award is absolutely unique but for the 1 that follows it. Aficionados of Formula 1 commentating doyen Murray Walker will understand that. For everyone else, you’ve missed out because Walker epitomises the kind of sporting commentary that this blog aspires to emulate. Not entirely accurate but good enough and bloody entertaining to boot.

For the 1st part of this award I’d like to acknowledge the commentary that best encapsulated a moment of sport in 2013. The winner arrived late in the year but it was worth the wait and it happened here in Perth.

It was Day 4 of the 3rd Ashes Test at the Western Australia Cricket Association ground, better known as the WACA. England, down 2-0 in the series and needing not to lose to retain any hope of winning the urn, were in trouble – They needed to survive for almost 2 full days to draw or chase down 504 runs for an unlikely win. It was a time for stout hearts and a dour defence. Step forward England’s captain Alistair Cook to open the reply and Englishman Jonathan Agnew to the microphone:

‘And with 3 slips and a gully, Harris is coming in to bowl the 1st ball of England’s innings. Up he comes and bowls… and he’s BOWLED COOK! FIRST. BALL. FIRST. BALL. England’s captain is bowled. Goodbye to our Western Australia country listeners. Goodbye to the Ashes. Blimey O’Reilly!’

Sublime.

The Murray Walker Trophy for Excellence in Sports Commentary, Part 2.

And we are GO! On Part 2 of this sporting commentary award.

This time it is for sustained excellence and there is no more fitting recipient than the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Kerry O’Keefe. An at 1st unlikely fixture in the ABC cricket commentary team, Skull, as he is known, has become an irrepressible mainstay. His manic cackle lights up even the most dour session’s of cricket and with his wit and wisdom shining at the crease, bad light can never stop play.

Sadly Skull has announced that he will be declaring after the Sydney Ashes Test in just a week or so. I will remember him most fondly for his telling of the frog joke and for his shrewd handling of this sizzling incident:

Good luck Skull – You’ll be sorely missed.

The Impossible Dream Trophy for Sporting Glory.

This category is named for the 1967 Boston Red Sox and their ‘Impossible Dream’ season. The year before they had won a paltry 64 games. They should not have been contenders in 1967 and yet they knocked out 93 wins and came within a game of winning the World Series.

For 2013 there were some fitting contenders for this mantle: The Fremantle Dockers made their 1st ever Grand Final in a season when most experts had them outside the top-8 sides. Adam Scott went a step better and became the 1st Aussie golfer to win the Masters in that tournament’s 77-year history. Meanwhile the Australian Cricket team bounced back from a year of shambolic results to miraculously blow away England and reclaim the Ashes.

All wonderful achievements to be sure, but there can be only 1 winner and it can be none other than the 2013 Boston Red Sox.

In 2012 they won just 69 games. In 2013 they swung that around to an astonishing 97 wins. That’s a turnaround of 28 wins, just 1 less than that wrought by their 1967 brethren.

At the end though, the 2013 Red Sox did win the 1 more game that mattered – The last of the season and the Game 6 of the 2013 World Series.

Happy New Year 1 and all! Thanks for reading in 2013 and best wishes for 2014.

Yours,
Longworth72, 2013 (Just)

Time’s A Thief And Stole The Show

One Comment
  1. Here’s to a fabulous sporting 2014! (I had little doubt those Red Sox would be.judged to be the winner of winners…)

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