Thursday, September 10, 2009

Layer 194 . . . Fair Play, Delights and Rapport


Fair Play

It's not often when you watch a live football match on TV that you experience a moment of sheer joy that has you yelling out or jumping up in ecstatic amazement and excitement - and this goes for whichever team you support (as if sitting on a sofa constitutes support!), or whatever match you're watching. Those moments of terrific surprise and delight when somebody or some team does something so beautifully and so unexpectedly that it sends a shock through your nervous system so as to cause an involuntary spasm of shouting, cheering and swearing – such moments tend to be very few and far between, especially if you're English and you enjoy football.

To have it happen three times, then, in a match - and what's even more amazing, in a match involving England - is a rare treat. To see an England team completely dominate and outplay another team ranked in the world's top 10 is – well, unknown. Almost. I won't forget the 5 – 1 thrashing of Germany, in Germany. And so it was when England defeated Croatia 5 – 1 at Wembley last night, and in doing so qualified for the finals of the World Cup in South Africa next year. Job done. Capello 8 – Others 0.

What a guy. Talk about emotionally intelligent! He doesn't fake or exaggerate excitement, or anger, or disgust, or frustration – and if he feels those things he doesn't necessarily try to stop himself from showing small signs of them either. What you see is what you get, and what we have is a team manager who's a real man – a mensch – who can keep a check on his dominant emotions without completely covering them up or denying they exist.

According to Leo Rosten, the author of The Joys of Yiddish, a mensch is “a person of integrity and honor, someone to admire and emulate, someone of noble character. The key to being “a real mensch” is nothing less than character, rectitude, dignity, and a sense of what is right, responsible, and decorous”.

Capello's a three-dimensional human being who's a thinker and a planner, a plotter and an analyst, a calculator and a strategist, as well as someone who knows how to relate to the people he's leading and managing, both as professionals and as human beings. He has intellect, plus emotional, social and spiritual intelligence, in abundance and in harmony, in contrast to every dork of an England manager you can possibly remember, with the honourable exceptions of Bobby Robson, dearly departed, and maybe Ron Greenwood and Alf Ramsey.

He doesn't try to be overly pally with them, like the Rain Man - the Wally with the Brolly - who shall remain nameless, who so shamefully and so spectacularly fucked up on the job, finally crashing and burning in a corresponding fixture with Croatia two years ago, a game that England unbelievably lost 2 - 3 at Wembley.

Capello is polite, and courteous, and professionally distant, as he should be. But he also knows how to coach, how to explain things, how to empathise, how to enthuse, and how to motivate. But not in a gung-ho up-and-at-em ridiculous pumped-up adrenaline-rush kind of a Keegan or (ahem) 'Turnip' Tayloresque way. (I still have to smile to myself whenever I remember dear Graham's little gems – Do I Not Like That!, You've Just Cost Me My Job!, etc)

“Very few of us have any idea whatsoever of what life is like living in a goldfish bowl, except, of course, for those of us who are goldfish.”
No – forget I said smile - laugh uproariously out loud.

Two of the goals last night gave a quiet little buzz of pleasure – when Lennon jinked his way through to a penalty and Lampard efficiently slotted his kick, and when Rooney also unspectacularly threaded the ball past the goalkeeper after the hapless chap had dreadfully mis-kicked to our unmarked striker. (A real shame for the poor goalie – his superb 'keeping had kept the score down to only 2 – 0 at half time when it could easily have been 5 – 0 by then.)

The other three goals were all superbly made and superbly taken headers that flashed into the net – very “English”, as Bilic, the Croatian manager, might have said. Cue ecstatic celebration. To be fair to Bilic he later admitted his team had been humiliated and destroyed.

Whenever someone asks me which team I support I have to admit I don't really 'support' any team. What I do is watch with interest, and hope to enjoy some brilliant action – thoughtful, disciplined and passionate teamwork, great skills, effective defending, dynamic attacking and brilliant goalscoring. I hope to see the game well played, with lots of goals, and victory going to whichever team deserves to win.

I know people who are passionate supporters of a particular team – certain Millwall supporters for example – who don't give a shit about the quality of the football or the justice of the result. Winning is all that matters, no matter how badly the game is played, no matter how dire the football. It's 'my team right or wrong', which is pretty much the way they play the game of life. Within their own little world, their family and their mates can do absolutely NO wrong, and they'll support them and fight for them no matter what, against all comers if necessary.

Sadly such people often only get really excited in life when they're seeing their team win a match, or when they're having a fight or a 'bundle' on 'behalf' of their team or their mates. They might admit to themselves that their team deserved to lose, and they might mention it to their mates down the pub, but they'd never let on to an 'outsider'.

Thankfully, though, there are many more people who have a sense of 'fair play', and who will even feel some odd little sense of satisfaction when their team loses a match, on the basis that the useless f****** b*******'s deserve to be beaten up and defeated. Lots of English people don't like winning if it's a result of cheating or unfair tactics, and lots of us don't even like winning if the victory is undeserved.

But even those of us who are the least partisan and the least nationalistic feel some sort of emotional attachment to our national and our city or town teams, and we get enormous amounts of enjoyment when 'our lads' do their jobs as well as they did them last night.

It's the women's turn this afternoon – 5.00pm BBC2 – England v Germany – European Nations Final.

Bafana Bafana? Crazy name, crazy guys:


PS Try to record the sounds you make (by using some mechanical or electronic means) as you read the following quotes, because I guarantee you will never laugh so much again in your entire life. If anyone ever doubts the power of words and language to affect our moods – here's the proof. Have some tissues handy to dry your eyes. Do NOT read this if you're in your office, supposedly working. But DO make a recording of your laughter the first time you read it because nothing's ever as funny the second time around.


Life's Little Delights

Yesterday on the Today programme there was a discussion about what delights us in our day to day lives. Oxzen had always been a strong believer that the capacity and the ability to experience delight is a strong marker of spiritual intelligence. It's the little things . . .

Here's a description of the book called Delight that JB Priestley first published in 1949 – taken from the Amazon website -

“In the years following the Second World War, there didn't seem much to smile about, but as JB Priestley illustrated in the classic "1949 Delight", there are many joys to be found in even the simplest things. This charming book comprises a series of short essays, which all depict a simple pleasure - the smallest things in life that Priestley delighted in at that bleak time - a notion that chimes perfectly with the current national mood. Just some of the simple things Priestley enjoyed include; fountains; a walk in a pine wood; a new box of matches; Sunday papers in the country; reading in bed about foul weather; suddenly doing nothing and waking to smell bacon . . .

Priestley's sense of humor and literary flare are in evidence on every page. Each self-contained essay is a joy to read and will no doubt bring a little 'delight' to the reader - just as Priestley originally intended sixty years ago. In 'timeless mornings' Priestley muses, 'There is one kind of morning in early summer that is for me very special, the most delightful of all mornings. The sun is up and blazing somewhere but not visible yet down here, where there is a lot of gold mist about and the birds are singing from lost thickets.' The new 60th anniversary edition of "Delight" contains the full, unabridged text of over one hundred of Priestley's personal joys and pleasures.”

On the Today programme Alexei Sayle, the one and only, the wonderful, said he delights in re-reading old copies of guides to restaurants and bars that no longer exist.



I have a new theory that the secret of his success is the 'rapport' that Capello has developed with his players, and it's also what readers have with a writer like Priestly, or whoever their favourite authors happen to be. To have rapport with someone doesn't mean you have to like or admire that individual. You may have reservations about them as an individual, and you may even dislike some aspects of their behaviour or their ideas. But what you do have is the ability to be on their wavelength, and to be able to communicate or empathise from a basis of shared assumptions about life or about the nature of the task you're working on, or whatever.

To experience 'flow' is hard enough as an individual. For two or more people working together to experience it simultaneously whilst engaged in a particular project, or activity, or game, is almost impossible unless you have rapport. I suspect that what great coaches can do is build rapport, between themselves and others, and between other individuals.

It's a shared sense of what's right and what's wrong, what's effective and what's not, when to do something, and when not. It's part instinct, part empathy, part logic, part knowledge, part understanding, and part intuition. We need rapport that's both inner and outer, within oneself and with others. It's a coming together in three dimensions. It's harmony and resonance, like voices in a choir or strings on an instrument.

Or players on a pitch. England's play last night had a 'flow' to it. They're finally starting to play as a team whose members have a proper rapport. After years of failing to play well together, people like Lampard, Gerrard, Lennon and Rooney are beginning to 'gel' and harmonise. It's partly down to experience, and partly down to the consistent messages and sets of beliefs and understandings that a good coach or manager is able to instil. It's the fine tuning as well as the correct choice of strings, instruments or players. Without rapport and flow nothing is achieved. You can have great skills and individual flair, but without rapport you tend to go nowhere.


Obama and his Congregation

Like a priest talking to his parishioners Barack Obama yesterday met with, and spoke to, the Congressmen and women and the Senators of the House of Representatives who may or may not be willing to vote for his health care proposals. It seems he made a great speech, or delivered a great sermon, whichever way you prefer to look at it. It seems like a great effort to establish, or re-establish, some rapport with the teams that must function properly together if anything is going to be achieved, and if the country is to make any progress towards becoming more civilised and properly democratic. The country voted for change. Will it be allowed to have it?

30 million Americans can't even get health insurance, let alone are able to afford it. 46 million of them have no health insurance whatsoever.

Check out clips of his speech here:

“We did not come here to fear the future. We came here to shape it.”

Full text of the speech here:

Michael Tomasky's blog on the speech:

Tons of comments on it already.

Other Random Musings

Abdullah Abdullah

In case you haven't been paying attention, this is the name of the hapless guy who lost out in this week's election for the presidency of Afghanistan. How lucky is he! However, he's now complaining that the vote, and the count, were fixed. Some people just don't know when to shut the fuck up and just be grateful.

I'm always fascinated by these guys with double names, like Boutros Boutros-Ghali – people so good they name them twice. Imagine Obama Obama, or Barack Barack. Which would it be?

Brown Brown. Cameron Cameron.

I remember Billy Connelly once making a comment about posh people in Scotland having surnames as first names. Like Cameron.

This naming business is really bizarre. What happens to people, that they want to actually change their names? The most famous examples are when people change their religions, or suddenly adopt a religion. On the other hand, why should we stayed lumbered with names we don't like?

Oxzen Oxzen. Definitely a ring to it.

John Cooper Clark

I  think I wrote about JCC some time ago, and yesterday I came across a poem of his on Spotify that you should listen to if you ever get so angry with someone you want to beat them up and call them a twat. It's called Twat. Just type Twat in the Spotify search box.

Dion, Dion

I know I've mentioned Dion before, but I'm going to put in another plug for King of the New York Streets because I think it's possibly the best anti-drug song ever written. It's not didactic – it just sets out what it feels like to be someone living a coke-fuelled life, thinking he's the boss and the head honcho of his neighbourhood, or whatever, and ends with a blank statement - “This attitude comes from cocaine lies ”- the delusions of that particular drug. The refrain goes, “I was only sixteen years, so what could I have known . . . . ?”

The very best thing about the track is that it ROCKS. You want to listen to it on account of the great rhythm and the driving groove, plus the great vocals. Catch it on Spotify and YouTube. Steve Cropper's wearing the same sweater he wore on the Booker T/Green Onions video!

The lyrics are hard to find on the Internet, but you can see them here:
– a great piece of rock n roll writing by Dave Marsh. Read it at your leisure.

Dave Marsh

Here's another great example of his writing – about Springsteen:

“Marsh is also a member of the National Advisory Board of PROTECT: The National Association to Protect Children.”   -  The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made.

This man has TASTE! Feel the rapport.

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