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Soup of This Day #397: Our Name Is Our Virtue

November 17, 2014

Madison Bumgarner
San Francisco Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner. Can be frugal – Photo: X Wad, 2011. X Wad is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

Many years back I had a job that involved talking to a lot of academics. Mostly the conversations were short and dry because all I needed out of the exchange was verification of research activities. Almost always though it was a pleasure – Academics generally love what they do and are happy to chat about it. I particularly liked talking to those who came at their research from angles that I was unfamiliar with – This could be because their particular subject was from left-field. It could also be simply about them being based in a country other than Australia.

One time I remember having to call a researcher from a South East Asian country. I was a little nervous ahead of the call because I understood that the guy was a leader in his field.

Also because his name was Kunt.

This might not be significant to the majority of people in the world, including Kunt and the folks he regularly was surrounded by. For me though, there was a small concern that I’d pronounce that name with a hard ‘k’ and the back end of ‘bunt.’ This would be bad in Australia because I’d be uttering a word that for most is crossing the line of good taste. I rationalised though that I’d be ok and so when I got the prof on the phone I simply and safely pronounced his name as ‘koooont’ like I was a dove clearing my throat after every soft call. Surely that’d be alright I thought.

Nope.

The professor gently corrected me by pointing out that his name was pronounced with a hard ‘k’ and the back end of ‘bunt.’ I spent the next couple of minutes floundering on the phone, trying not to say his name, while he simply verified the research output I was calling about.

Which as far as I can remember was totally top-notch.

As was that produced by a host of other names in my work that could (and sometimes did) trigger amusement – I came across a Dr Death (Yes, a medico) and academics named Tuna and Onions. I’m pretty sure the latter two wrote a paper together, mirroring two thirds of a favourite sandwich of mine. There was also a Wild and a Pigeon who apparently wrote a paper with someone with a name like Foock as second author.

Wilde, Foock and Pigeon.

Say it fast and you can almost forget that at least two of those authors (and probably all three) were brilliant scientists.

That last bit is the important bit – Those names didn’t define who those people were or what they did. Instead those people gave new and wonderful meanings to their names.

This kind of thinking came to mind during the recent World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the San Francisco Giants. This was not because any of the player’s names amused me. I probably wouldn’t have noticed if they did anyway. Simply, for me this series was about classic baseball and, with it going the full 7 games, there was plenty of that to watch.

Not so for an acquaintance, who to be fair, had no more than a vague interest in baseball and even that was mostly because he’d latched on to the name of Giants’ starter Madison Bumgarner.

Taken in isolation, that name is a little quirky. It might well engender a smile.

You wouldn’t be smiling if you were facing down Madison Bumgarner in the 2014 World Series though. Because Bumgarner pitched one for the ages. Technically he pitched three for the ages – Two starts (Games 1 and 5) and one long relief appearance in the deciding Game 7. Those appearances totalled 21 innings of work and across that he scattered just the 9 hits for not much runs.

One run, in fact.

That’s a staggering ERA of just 0.43. A closer would be ok with that across three World Series appearances. Bumgarner though is a starter and for him to turn out 21 closer-like innings is just phenomenal. The stats though get even better when you look just a little deeper. There you’ll find gems like, one of those games was a complete effort and a shut-out to boot. Then there’s that, across his three appearances, Bumgarner struck out 17 and walked one.

Three games, 21 innings and Madison Bumgarner walked a bat just the once.

That bat did not go on to score.

In fact the only run tagged to the Giants’ righty was a solo blast. Yep, just one of those 9 hits scored and even then it was just one run given up.

There’s more – Bumgarner also clocked up a save. That was in Game 7, with it all on the line and the San Francisco starter Tim Hudson being benched after just 1.2. Just 2.1 Jeremy Affeldt-innings later and Bumgarner was in for a five-inning save, protecting a one-run lead.

On two days rest.

That right there is the absolute definition of a clutch performance and is a pretty good reason as to why Madison Bumgarner won the 2014 World Series MVP award. If you need another, there’s the fact that his 21 innings was 13.2 more than the next most prolific Giant (Hudson) and 8.2 more than the most prolific Royal (Yordano Ventura). And Hudson (5) and Ventura (2) both gave up more runs.

Madison Bumgarner’s name isn’t quirky anymore. I can say this and I wasn’t even barracking for the Giants in this World Series – Instead I was rooting for the fairytale Royals. I can still say this when I consider that Bumgarner’s nickname is the otherwise ripsnortingly quirky Mad Bum.

Now I want to be known as Mad Bum.

Names don’t define us. We define names. By pronouncing his handle in a way that I figured was offensive Professor Kunt wasn’t saying anything about himself – He’d done that already with his work, a spread of quality research innings. What my reading of the pronunciation did say was about me and for that I’m sorry.

Our Name Is Our Virtue

3 Comments
  1. In my WordPress reader the very same day as this Soup comes one from Main Street Musings. She is a wonderful writer and in her post today shared the time her Aunt proudly announced to all in attendence at Thanksgiving Dinner years back she had to run back to the kitchen as she had forgotten to serve the “anus.” Indeed, the poor woman did not know how to pronounce anise. A clerk at the store she bought her groceries at introduced her to the concept of its use but unfortunately not how to use it as a word. As for Madison he truly sucked all the joy out of Game 7 for me. I wanted the upstart (i.e. low budget) Royals to prevail and instead of marveling in his accomplishment for the ages just felt…aged. His performance was so dominating indeed. We likely will never see such an achievement again…unless the Giants find a way to keep their team together and healthy…and of course, pay him more than the entire worth of most nations.

    • On your recommendation have had a read of Main Street Musings. May not look at anise the same way again.

      There was something a little joyless around Bumgarner’s performance, however superlative. Maybe it’s that without him the Giants would surely have been handily defeated in around five games – The Giants just weren’t that good. Maybe it was that the Royals’ fairytale felt like it deserved a grander finish. Either way, baseball is done for 2014 and it’s time for the ‘silly season’ – Where clubs get out too-fat wallets and splurge on players they probably don’t need.

  2. Wanted to check in and say I hope all is well with you and yours and 2015 is off to a very good start. I was thinking about the start of the upcoming baseball season and this post from the end of the prior one…and then thought to myself…self…I have not seen a recent post issued let alone the next one will be historic Soup #400! Best, Bruce

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