In spite of the sacrosanct rules of Englishness (S.R.E. – see also The Better Empire pamphlet of 1862), when it comes to sport I never root for the underdog. Maybe elsewhere in life I do – but on playing fields and running tracks, pitches, circuits, and courts, I’ve always been the biggest fan of stronger, higher, faster. (Unless I ever happen upon the New York Yankees, of course, in which case such things are instantly unendurable.)
Whatever it says about me (if anything), I’ve never managed to summon much enthusiasm for the plucky trier or the gallant effort… True, like most people, I don’t care for ruthless efficiency or clinical victories either – but I do, always, go galloping after each and every kind of excellence. Shame on me (perhaps!), in all those FA Cup ties between minnow and champion I pretty much want the former team embarrassed every time.
But why, and does all of this make me a rotten sort of chap?
Well, from where I’m sitting (at the moment, watching England v. Sri Lanka in the cricket), sport damn well should be difficult. It should involve the best trampling underfoot the rest. And why? Simple: because otherwise why bother watching? Why carve out a crazy amount of time for it? Or, to put it another way, if any bugger can do it, wouldn’t you rather, you know, do it? I know I would – even if the watching does come a very satisfying second.
…Basically, then, if you’re lucky beyond measure enough to play sport for a living, at least have the decency to be ferociously good at it, and maniacally committed.
…And even more basically, unless you want to be the worst kind of irritating arse, don’t be this guy:
And don’t do this:
(Six of John Lackey’s 13 starts for the Boston Red Sox this season – all of which, essentially, an open invitation for the other team to win.)
April 2 @ TEX – 3.2IP / 9ER (Lackey Gets Shellacked by Rangers)
April 8 v NYY – 5.0IP / 6ER (Another Subpar Start by Lackey)
May 5 v LAA – 4.0IP / 8ER (Lackey Hammered by Halos)
May 11 @ TOR – 6.2IP / 9ER (Lackey Frustrated After Subpar Performance)
June 22 v SD – 3.1IP / 5ER (Lackey Roughed Up as Sox Fall to Padres)
July 4 v TOR – 2.1IP / 7ER (Another Truly Poor Lackey Outing)
Hmmm, but how to explain how epically awful these numbers are to someone who doesn’t really know their balls from their strikes? Well, if that’s you, consider this:
a) Teams typically have five starting pitchers who take turns to pitch every fifth game;
b) John Lackey is a starting pitcher;
c) A starting pitcher really only has two jobs: one, get ‘outs’ (three per inning up to a total of 27 for a nine-inning game), and, two, don’t give up runs…
d) …As recorded by: IP (innings pitched) & ER (earned runs; runs scored off of pitcher);
e) So: the closer IP is to nine the better & the closer ER is to zero the better.
f) Therefore: 3.2IP / 9ER = pretty much the baseball equivalent of going three-nil down before halftime – only, while also being almost entirely one person’s fault!
Has there ever been a brand of uselessness more thoroughly injurious to a team’s chances? And to what metaphysical extent, I wonder, is John Lackey ‘earning’ his $82.5 million contract?!
Yep, me, I definitely prefer good sport to bad…