CSotD: Spoilers, incentives and unplanned results

I’m still furious with the Washington Post for running a headline last week that spoilered the World Cup game between Australia and Denmark by revealing the winner on the paper’s main page. I was avoiding sports pages, knowing I planned to watch the time-shifted game as soon as I was done here, but now there was no point.

But the next game, the one against Sweden, was incentivized, not spoilered. As is generally the case, when I logged on at 4 am, my feed had a heavy mix of Australian posts, the obvious result of the time difference, but they were largely just “OMG! OMG! OMG!”

Which alerted me to a suspenseful game without spoilers, and good for them. Even John Shakespeare’s cartoon here — which appeared a few days later anyway — suggests how it ended, but without giving away the ending itself.

But enough about sports reporting. The real insight here is more sweeping and important.

Glen LeLievre, another Aussie cartoonist, illustrates something a bit more profound that struck me in watching things unfold between the Matildas and Sweden: For all the differences and nuances in the men’s and women’s games, the constant is that the keepers aren’t messing around.

Both my boys played keeper in high school, but younger son also played a lot of intramural soccer in college. He was regaling me one day with a scoring play he’d made. I stopped him and observed that his college stories always involved playing on the field rather than in goal. Had I pressured him to play a position he didn’t like?

Oh, no, he responded. He is a keeper, and thus couldn’t play the position in fun games, because he’d be kicking ass and knocking people down. Later, I ran this past his older brother, who agreed completely. There is a passion in the penalty area that can’t be switched on and off.

The keepers in the Women’s World Cup seem cut from the same cloth, and my reaction is a bit of jealousy that I was born into a generation that encouraged women to hide their confidence.

As Miranda put it, “O Brave New World, that has such creatures in it!”

(Side Note: I knew a woman half a century ago who had a dog named Caliban. Damn good name for a dog. Damn good woman, too.)

From the sublime to the ridiculous, Crabgrass (AMS) left me contemplating a difference between city kids and country kids. As a kid, it never occurred to me that this could be any kind of problem, because, as Robert Frost wrote in another context, the woods were lovely, dark and deep.

It may also be primarily an American thing. I was driving an American friend and his Japanese wife and daughter back down from Pikes Peak one summer when he asked me to pull over so he could pee. I suggested he wait until we get below the timberline and he said to his wife, “See? This is what I mean about Americans!”

Someone should compile a chart of various cultures and where you’re allowed to pee in each of them.

Permissions and incentives don’t figure in this one, and that’s the point. We find Kim in Between Friends (KFS) preparing for another “time to make the donuts” day, with which I can strongly relate.

If being a keeper is more of an obsession than a hobby, so is writing. I often approach the morning with ambivalence, if not foreboding, wondering what I’m going to say and why I even bother.

Until the fingers start across the keyboard and the endorphins begin to flood the brain. Kim may attribute it to caffeine, but the coffee is simply part of the ritual that helps make the transition happen.

Every writer has rituals. Hemingway became the model for such things, as revealed in his Paris Review interview:

He wrote in a world of paper and pens, but the principals don’t change much: Have a schedule and meet it. I’ve worked on a computer for some 40 years, but it’s still a matter of making words appear, and it’s still largely intuitive and instinctive, with a dash of discipline.

The platform I work on here offers handy tips, but they are tips for people who can’t write. For instance, they’ll analyze a piece and tell you how often you used passive voice, one of the great hobgoblins for writing coaches who think mechanical pedantry will change bad writing into good writing.

That’s just not how it works. Coaching, at best, turns bad writing into coherent writing. Artistry happens on a whole other level, in writing, in music, in any of the arts.

And even beyond the formal arts. Everybody should have a way of summoning the endorphins. Some do it on paper, some do it with a crescent wrench, some do it with a guitar.

The surgeon who did my cancer operation in 2006 had me on the table for 12 hours. I’ve asked him about it since and he shrugs it off.

He was in the groove.

We don’t all find ways of monetizing that groove, mind you, but, in Too Much Coffee Man (AMS), Shannon Wheeler at least suggests a way to exploit it.

As a young lad, Samuel Colt (No, Eli Whitney. See comments) stayed home from church one Sunday, disassembled his father’s pocket watch and had it back together and running before the family returned. History does not record the number of curious young boys who took a watch apart and were not able to put it back together again.

But that, too, would be a regrettable choice, and don’t say nobody warned you.

Though I suppose it beats eternally wondering what might have been. Better to have loved and lost and all that.

Pierce is right: Having a plan is worth it, even if it seems like a vast plan but is only half-vast.

This feels like the kind of transition I’m hoping Zits (KFS) will dive into more deeply, because not only is Jeremy outgrowing the teenage slug period but the teenage slug gags in the strip are becoming tedious.

The joke here, of course, is that building impermanence into your plan sounds like no plan at all, but, then again, going for security at the expense of never feeling all those endorphins seems a tragically poor tradeoff.

Though I guess we all make choices, even if they don’t qualify as “plans.”

One size definitely does not fit all.

5 thoughts on “CSotD: Spoilers, incentives and unplanned results

  1. One of the papers I get features a comic called “Dustin” (as a play on Duncan, Jeremy’s last name ??) which is basically “Zits” without the cleverness.. The main character is Jeremy’s age and such a slug that he makes Jeremy appear hyperactive and completely Type A.

    My interaction with “Crabgrass” left me surprised that it was Kevin who felt the need to do anything but walk out to the curb where bypassers could admire his prowess.

  2. The story about Samuel Colt certainly says something about the length of church services in those days…

  3. I first heard the story about his father’s pocket watch applied to Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin.

    1. Ah, the dangers of relying on memory. You’re quite correct, though I’d add that the story of Whitney inventing the gin after seeing a cat try to claw a caged rooster is fiction. But no moreso than Colt’s father’s pocket watch. Turns out young Sam preferred blowing things up and was better at doing it than at avoiding being caught doing it.

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