Monday, July 14, 2008

The Point

MONKEY [Reporter]: If, say, you win here in South Carolina, what do you do then?
[Mike] MURPHY [McCain's Chief Campaign Strategist]: Fly to Michigan that night.
MONKEY: And what if hypothetically you, say, lose here in South Carolina?
MURPHY: Fly to Michigan that night win or lose.
MONKEY: Perhaps you can explain why?
MURPHY: 'Cause the plane's already paid for.
MONKEY: I think he means: can you explain why specifically Michigan?
MURPHY: 'Cause it's the next primary.
MONKEY: I think that we're trying to get you to elaborate on if you will, Mike, is: what will your goal be in Michigan?
MURPHY: To get a whole lot of votes. That's part of our secret strategy for winning the nomination.

exchange recounted in David Foster Wallace's Up, Simba from "Consider the Lobster"

One would be hard pressed to imagine a more ridiculous, although entirely predictable, turn of events today as Iwelumo is off to the Wolves and Marcus Bent is, well, Marcus Bent. Iwelumo packed up and moved to Molineux, to the (at least to me) inexplicable delight of a significant number of Charlton's faithful. Iwelumo plugged in 18 goals for Colchester in the Championship the season prior to joining the Addicks. 18. Pause on that for a moment. In Marcus Bent's entire career, according to ESPN's profile of him, Bent managed a high of 11 goals in one season with Ipswich in the Championship. 11 goals. As New York Addick notes, Bent netted a meager number of goals (five times over three years) in a Charlton kit. A younger Iwelumo has far more impressive numbers.

Now, I admit to being unrepentantly American. And, as such, I admit to a focus on statistics that is inappropriate for the beautiful game. But goals, after all, are goals. Indeed, goals are the very purpose of the game, being the "goal" and all that. And, so, when a player leads your team in goals slotted and managed to put through double digits of them at that, it is a difficult thing to look around and say with conviction that the squad could have done better. The "secret strategy" of winning a soccer game is, ultimately, scoring goals.

Also, admittedly, Bent scored seven goals with Wigan last year in the Premiership. And he had previously managed Premier League goals with Everton. But Bent was not productive, in any sense of the word, as a member of Charlton Athletic. And as the reports today indicate, he may not be any time soon. I've thought of pejorative terms to use for the player (perhaps circumstances such as these are what lead folks to refer to others as "gits" or "wankers"), but, in the end, I can only feign outrage. Bent blow off a physical and then announce he is going to play for someone else? Why not? What are the chances that burning that bridge to Wales will ever haunt him down the line (after all, he'll undoubtedly stay with Birmingham for the remainder of his prolific career)? The worst thing that Bent has done is toy with Charlton's supporters. They (we) want him to go. It can't happen soon enough. And, nevertheless, at day's end, he's still around, lurking around menacingly like some unkillable psychopathic subhuman tormentor from a teenage slasher flick.

Iwelumo out, Bent still hanging around = net negative for Charlton Athletic.

Which brings me back to the block quote above -- totally tangential to the plight of Charlton. However, Charlton Life features a fascinating thread on the financial state of the club. There is much speculation surrounding the dire (or not so dire) circumstances the team finds itself in and no end to prescriptions. Some of this is fashioned by the hysteria of the summer transfer window, some from a failure to come to grips with a fall from Premiership, and some, no doubt, is generated by Pards' bizarre statements about moving bodies in and out of the squad. Whatever the prescriptive value of any of these claims, the fact remains that soccer is a simple sport... the team that scores the most goals in a match wins the game; the teams that manage the best and second-best record in the league are promoted back to the land of milk and honey. Whatever else there might be, right now, the point is to win with the squad before you.

All of the foregoing constitutes talking loud without saying something, but this is largely because I am resigned to a longer stay than anticipated in the Championship. It is not a good thing that both Dowie and Pardew appeared to believe that scouting could be more effectively done after a player had been acquired rather than beforehand. Nor is it a good thing that players shuttle in and out of the squad. But, most of all, it is not a good thing that after all these moves, there is little confidence by the gaffer that the team could manage well on its own as it currently stands. I am simply unwilling to accept this conclusion. I've seen most of the current squad play. These lads are talented -- having enough to at least compete competently on the Championship level. And, yet, nowhere do I hear the praises of the squad ringing out from the hilltops. Instead, it is blither about how ZZ is not strong enough to compete in the Championship or how Jerome Thomas has worn out his welcome or that Ambrose and Holland simply are not good enough. That is not what I've seen -- what I've seen is untapped potential (not Ron Turner levels of untapped potential, but something reasonably approaching that level).

The secret strategy for winning promotion is winning more games than your competitors by, largely, putting in more goals than you give up. In the Championship, Charlton already has the tools to implement this strategy and I hope that before August, this view is echoed by those in charge.

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