Torres the Tank Engine

“This is the biggest electric train set a boy ever had!”

So said Orson Welles once upon a time – a pithy observation you’ve probably heard, or half-heard, before. He was, of course, talking about the business of making movies, at a point in time when Hollywood, in its infinite wisdom, still figured him rather good at it. (Basically, before he was obliged to sell peas for a living.)

Welles couldn’t have guessed, I suppose, that he was not so much the train driver as just another passenger. Sure he made Citizen Kane, and, sure, he did that after conquering radio and Broadway first, and, sure, he did all of this before turning 30… but somewhere along the line his playing became a nuisance and he was sent to his room. Well, Europe, via chat show guest slots and commercial voiceover work.

I’m simplifying grossly, I know. But that’s okay, it gets me more quickly to my point. Orson Welles never owned the train set, he was merely allowed to borrow it occasionally. And the owner? Whoever he happened to be, he was the one with the money – and the talent for making even more of it.

I’m not sure how big of a difference it makes either way, but it was John W. Henry who got me thinking. This guy right here:


Just another old white guy in a suit, right? Yeah, and also (as some of you will doubtless already know) principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, and, as of October last year, Liverpool Football Club. Never mind a simple little train set, this man can’t even move for rolling stock. He is, indeed, that rare example of a person for whom owning one of the world’s most beloved sport teams isn’t quite enough. (Though, in fairness, he only has to look to his business partner, Tom Werner, for another: a TV producer who made his money bringing us, among others, Mork & MindyThe Cosby Show, and Roseanne.)

So, anyhow, here’s a question. What do the two biggest 2010/11 offseason baseball trades and the two biggest European football 2011 winter transfers all have in common:

$154million / £96million (Adrian Gonzalez, San Diego Padres to Boston Red Sox: contract over seven years)

$142million / £88million (Carl Crawford, Tampa Bay Rays to Boston Red Sox: contract over seven years)

$81million / £50million (Fernando Torres, Liverpool to Chelsea: transfer fee)

$56million / £35 million (Andy Carroll, Newcastle United to Liverpool: transfer fee)

That’s right: John W. Henry. That same old white guy in a suit was the kingmaker behind all four deals, three times as the ‘buyer’ and one time as the ‘seller.’ In the span of less than two months, he presided over $433million / £269million changing hands – an amount that doesn’t even include the wages due to Torres and Carroll. Unless I’m very much mistaken, that’s a decent chunk of change for a new first baseman, a new fleet-footed left fielder, and two center forwards. But, of course, that’s also modern sport for you: truly, the biggest electric train set a boy ever had.

…The only thing is, what about the fans? Maybe it has always been the same, but for something so many of us care so very much amount, isn’t it just endlessly peculiar how incidental we sometimes seem? How what we’re invested in, with our silly hopeful hearts, is more and more a plaything for wealthy strangers?

I know I can’t wait to see Gonzalez start hitting long-balls out of Fenway Park – and yet how hard will it be to shake the feeling he’s only doing it for us because a futures and foreign exchange trading advisor woke up one morning with $154million burning a whole in his pocket and nothing else to spend it on? How loud will our cheers have to be, in other words, to drown out the sound of Henry going ‘Choo choo!?’

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About newjonnytransit

Same as ever, only better.
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4 Responses to Torres the Tank Engine

  1. Rob C says:

    I am not so much interested in Liverpool.

    Its mass of third class, shell suit clad fans, with their faces full of despair and their pitiless lack of recent trophies, most memorably for me, being the league trophy, is a source of much happiness for me.

    The sight of a scruffy scouser lying in a gutter, surrounded by his starving children dressed in tatty rags would make me smile, as I cough up a hearty lump of phlegm and spit it into its horrible face. Next, reaching a heavy object and proceeding to bludgeon to death, the starving children, doing my bit to reduce the future benefit deficit.

    I joke of course. As obviously I would not want to walk near a scouser for fear of catching some terrible third world disease, like cholera.

    Maybe John Henry has made a terrible mistake. I give this project 5 years. In which time, they will still have won nothing, and have hired 2 more managers after Kenny ups sticks. The once loving scouse mob, who revered King Kenny, reduced to a mass of hate filled thugs who, after a home defeat to Everton, scream out death threats from the Kop End.

    The day the mighty red devils overtake Liverpool’s league trophy record (It could be sooner than you think…) will be a day that burns everlasting in my memory.

  2. Wow, what can I say? Your comment is surely one of the most unpleasant things anyone’s ever written… That’s to say, even for you!

    Have you ever even been to Liverpool?! (And I thought you had a strong dislike of Chelsea fans…)

    In any case, am much obliged as ever for your contribution. I like to think it adds a nice touch of despicable invective. Either way – in other news – Man Utd’s next five games: Man City (H), Wigan (A), Chelsea (A), Liverpool (A), Bolton (H). Arsenal’s: Wolves (H), Stoke (H), Sunderland (H), West Brom (A), Blackburn (H)… Say goodbye to that slender 4-point lead. Hope you enjoyed it while you still had the chance.

    PS. Liverpool fans will never turn on King Kenny. If you believe otherwise, you really are crazy…

  3. Rob C says:

    I like to offer an offbeat, somewhat disturbing perspective. I feel that my view, regardless of its unsavory content and perhaps dark, violent undertones, is just as important as any other.

    In addition, I must protest to your statement “Your comment is surely one of the most unpleasant things anyone’s ever written”. I could happily quote some verses from a religious text. But that didn’t do old Rushdie any favors…

    Regarding a once planned trip to Liverpool land, my train was canceled due to a high volume of track theft up North. To make matters worse, the train that was due to commute to the civilized south to pick up passengers, was found propped up on bricks in the train yard. Police presumed a mop-haired scouser had stolen the wheels.

    ‘Man City (H)’ went very well. Courtesy of an absolutely splendid goal, scored by such a very rare thing. A good thing to come out of Merseyside.

  4. Wow, ‘happily quote some verses from a religious text…’ I don’t know, that really doesn’t sound like too much fun to me! But never mind that – your comments are, of course, always welcome and greatly appreciated. Even if (and often especially because) they have dark, violent undertones… still don’t quite get your strong anti-Liverpool stance, though. Not a big fan of The Beatles, I guess?

    I watched the Rooney goal on some sketchy foreign website, by the way, (Fox Soccer Channel naturally preferring to show the Arsenal game): not bad, I admit. But also surely not enough to make up for a year of being shit?!

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