Tale of three mindsets

Pardon me for being both saddened and excited.

Sergei Ovchinnikov

First two mindsets

High price of Olympic failure? Russia’s women’s volleyball coach found hanged in hotel in Croatia

Watching the Russian match against Brazil, and Brazil against the U.S., the contrast was stark.  The U.S. were a professional outfit, with skills coaches who went to individual players in time outs and there was almost no team address.

At one point, Hugh McCutcheon [U.S.] in the last couple of seconds, having been deep in consultation with his laptop and assistant coaches, almost as an afterthought, finally addressed the players who’d been just standing there after Brazil had been hammering them and said: “Hey, ebb and flow people, ebb and flow.”

That was it.

After they were further pummelled, he called them off again and again did not address them immediately, then saying: “Hey, ebb and flow, yes but we have to work some as well.”

Third time he said, quite without emotion: “We’re being outplayed but we shouldn’t be outworked as well.”

Then they did that ritualistic all hands together in a maypole, they mechanically chanted “U.S.A.” and the players went out.   Even when they were winning, there were no smiles, only silence. The assistant coach, a volleyball champion in his own right, made a timid suggestion and the Head Coach, McCutcheon, said, “I know, I know but …”

Strictly hierarchical.

There was almost no emotion from the U.S. girls and the whole scene in their camp was bizarre.  Sure they’d won 21 on the trot from 21 but when the other team started coming back, they seemed to have no answers.   They didn’t fall apart but neither did they know how to counter counter-moves.  And so they proceeded slowly to defeat, stunned that their formerly omnipotent, slick team of professionals weren’t creaming their opponents as they had been.

By way of contrast, Brazil never leave you wondering what they’re thinking.  In the first set of the final, they were woeful – truly they were – shots missed, the central engine spluttering and seemingly uninterested, the girls just not even cutting it at top level and yet they were supposedly the reigning champions, packing five lethal spikers and the best setter in the competition.

Brazil coach tearing strips of his girls:

Their coach, already a double Olympic champion, went ballistic, at one point actually manhandling his centre and dragging her aside.  He was shouting at them, everything the textbook on coaching says you must not do, a textbook which the Americans follow slavishly because these players are top of the food chainers with “rights” and can’t be castigated for poor play.

The Brazilian centre who’d been manhandled was now just nodding, they went out and lost the set but between sets, the Brazilian coach changed everyone’s role and that just threw the U.S., Brazil gained confidence, shots went in which hadn’t before, shots reached the floor which hadn’t.   They started all these cavalier moves and won the next three sets and the gold.

After every shot, they were jumping and skipping and dancing as if they were a school team, not the champions.  The girl who’d been manhandled came off during a timeout skipping like a kid, the first set completely forgotten, the coach spoke low and softly now but with passion, no laptops, no “professionalism”, he just knew what he was doing and said it, she nodded again, happy this time.  His love for them shone through – the commentators mentioned that.   That it had been almost an angry papa in the first set – that he’d had to do something to shake the girls up.

In this country he’d probably be up on an assault charge.   The fans were now going delirious, filling the stadium with noise, the coach was dancing up and down the line, the girls were all dancing about and hugging and America simply didn’t know what they’d been hit by.  A girl called Jaqueline would wind up in a sling action and the ball would whipcord past the Americans who reacted with silence.


The U.S. celebrating a point:

Brazil celebrating:

She’d be falling to her knees, every other girl surrounding her and kissing her, they’d jump up and dance back to their positions.

Phew.  I think you can see why I became fascinated by them.

The earlier Russian match was equally as weird.   The Russian side were almost silent and I was listening to what was being said.  They took it up to Brazil and came to match point.  Camera flashed to the coach [the one who was later found hanged] and he was silent on the sideline.

The Brazilians suddenly found something inside them and saved 6 matchpoints before winning.

And predictably, they were cavorting all round the court and descending to their knees, crying, before dancing about again.  In the U.S. game, they’d been somersaulting in a line.

I’ve never seen anything like it.

After the tournament was over, the Americans criticized the Brazilians for their over the top celebration and one of the Brazilian girls replied: “What?  We won gold against the best team in the world.   We love you, Americans, we respect you so much – there is no disrespect at all.   We’re just happy.  What, you want us to stand still, hands by our sides?”

And everyone knew those girls could hardly stand still on the podium for more than a few seconds.  Hugh McCutcheon said: “Hey, that’s just them.  That’s their culture.  I have no issue with that.   The bottom line is we were found wanting when it came to the crunch.”

I wish America and Russia could just have shown a bit of emotion, a bit of passion … a bit of being human beings and not robots because people feed off enthusiasm.   Brazil sucks it up, all the noise from the stands and delivers it as performance.  In the case of the Russians, this internalization of disappointment led to the coach hanging himself [or being hung].   In the case of Brazil, they just sambad on to the next thing on the programme.

Here they’d lost the point and were coming together for mutual reassurance:

Dancing on the podium:

After a castigation:

A few moments later:

Ahem [polite cough]:

Third mindset

Someone forgot to tell him it was his last home match before retirement [September 1st, 2012]:

Their era was over in 2010, done, dusted, too old, too slow, they’d had their glory, now time to step aside for other teams.  But these silly old bu**ers don’t know when to stop.   This year, after losing so many to retirement and injury, it was a “consolidating” year, a blooding of new players year.

They’re expected to finish halfway down the table.

So what happens?

Cats may yet make history

HISTORY is bunk. So said Henry Ford, founder of the company which has been Geelong Football Club’s major sponsor for decades now. It’s a nice link. Because that’s just the attitude the Cats should be taking into this year’s finals series.

Indeed, Ford’s thoughts could make a handy slogan for Geelong these next few weeks. ”We want to live in the present,” he added, ”and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history that we make today.”

And Geelong is very capable of doing so. We’ve never had a side as well-qualified to turn football history on its head from the bottom half of the eight as these Cats.

Sure, the figures are daunting. No side has won from beyond fourth since the revamp of the final eight in 2000. Some 46 of 48 preliminary finalists since then haven’t finished the regular season any lower than fourth. And Adelaide, in 1997, is the only team in history to win four finals to land a premiership.

But none of the top four over the past decade have had a shadow this large looming over their shoulder – nor had as much September know-how with which to deal.

They’re seriously amazing – taking on the best 6 teams, they lost just one of them and won again on the weekend.   They’re actually a team decimated by injury and retirement and they win?   That has to be down to what experience brings and on the club culture itself.  I’m so proud of them and their culture and wouldn’t support any other team.

Well maybe the Brazilian girls.   It’s a lovely thought.   Next Saturday, if they lose, they owed nothing – three flags in five years is enough in anyone’s book.   If they win – I’m scratching my head – what will the silly old bu**ers do next?   Think they can beat a team above them in the semi-finals?   They have no hope.   Or do they?   What was it the chief journo wrote again?

But none of the top four over the past decade have had a shadow this large looming over their shoulder

That shadow being us. Oh I adore it – nothing to apologize for if they don’t, everything to play for if they do. Oh yes, those odds are nice, thank you very much. And yes, it does inspire me no end. What was it our feminist friend Suzie wrote about me the other day:

As a washed up male who supports squatting rights because that’s where he might end up next week (certainly not because of any logical ideology) you should just shut up. You are not a good person and most of the time you speak tripe.

Oh I like these odds very much. You’d have to be a bit crazy to be inspired by a putdown but that’s what Suzie does for me. Being written off is a position I find delicious.

I’ll report back to you next Sunday, those who’ve made it this far in the post. 😉

1 comment for “Tale of three mindsets

  1. September 3, 2012 at 15:53

    What did you think of the Pretorius race and his comments, James?
    Still giggling about Suzie’s comment – sorry….

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