Giant Killing 8 – Old Dudes

In this episode Kuroda felt much more sympathetic to me (Sugie always seemed like a decent guy), not so much because they get on the right path and mesh better with the team, but more so because their predicament is so familiar in competitive sports: That of the once-great (or merely good) athlete whose age and eroding skills force him to change his role on the team. It’s adapt, or hit the road, and it’s not uncommon for athletes — particularly former superstars — to have difficulty accepting this.

Sports figures “age” quicker than regular people, in the sense that they have a relatively small window in which they can perform at a high level due to the natural aging of the body. The more strenuous the sport, the smaller that window of opportunity is. In baseball, the best athletes can compete at a solid level until their late 30s if their instincts are up to scratch (though there is a noticeable dip in talent). A common rule in the NBA is that once a player hits 1,000 games, the combined stress of those games on the body will undoubtedly manifest itself with a sudden drop in skill.

Tennis is infamous for having very young athletes who hit their prime at ridiculously young ages (it’s rare to see someone excel in the sport after they hit 30); when Roger Federer played his legendary match against Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon a couple of years back (he was 26 going on 27 at the time), and lost, some commentators wondered whether Federer was leaving his prime (which he has repeatedly proved wrong in the time since then). The football (yeah, I’ll stick with the worldly word :p) fans here will know better than me, but football requires a particularly great athlete, and from what I’ve read, once a player passes his prime, there’s almost no looking back.

David Beckham was, what, 32 when he signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy a few years ago? And I’m pretty sure he was considered past his prime and unable to compete at a high level in the European leagues. Point is, an athlete’s time in the sun is often brutally short, and it is especially true in football. Once that natural athletic ability starts to erode, the things a player can do become more limited by the game. When that goal was scored to open the game a while back, Kuroda and Sugie reacted like they would have in their younger days, but they just did not have the skill anymore to shore up the defense like the wanted, and they just clashed with the way their younger peers (and Murakoshi lol) were approaching the game.

Even though he is an annoying jerk, I felt sad for Kuroda. It’s tough watching someone who is past his prime continue playing as if he is still a young man. They just cannot do the same things anymore, and it becomes embarrassing to watch for the fans and for the athlete. On the other side, though, it’s tough to know when is the right time to walk away. We despair when an athlete retires at the height of his powers; we want to watch greatness as long as possible. But we also lament when an athlete sticks around past his expiration date. It’s a horrible double standard. I respect a guy who knows the right time to walk away, but I know it’s a difficult choice. How many of us could suddenly abandon our jobs at such a young age?

At the same time, of course, there is the team to consider. I can sympathize with a person who doesn’t want to give up, but my sympathy runs much lower when it’s at the expense of the team. Once again: Adapt, or get out. In basketball, I think, it’s relatively easy for a player to adapt if he is willing to take on one or two defined roles, and simply because the playing field is much smaller. At the end of his career, Reggie Miller was just a 3-point gunner, but still a good one. He accepted that role. Jason Kidd runs the Mavericks offense and shoots open 3-pointers. That’s it. If he is able to accept fate when his skills go into decline, Kobe Bryant will probably morph solely into a facilitator, a physical defender and someone who hits a bunch of open/semi-contested jump shots. (Whether he will accept that is up in the air, though. :p)

Football fans would know better than me: How possible is it to adjust to eroding skills? Does it happen often?

I’m glad Sugie and Kuroda were able to make the necessary adjustments. We always hear that every role on a team is important, no matter how big or small it is, but many people understandably want to be the big dog. That just is not possible, though. A team needs players to compete to their abilities and strengths, and to have those strengths be in harmony with everyone else. I really liked the use of metaphor with the positions on the football field to demonstrate how out of sync Sugie and Kuroda were with everyone else. The ramen shop owner emphasizing switching gears is a bitch much for me, however, haha.

Ah, almost forgot: I’m up in the Aniblog Tourney today against Blogsuki. I’d tell everyone to visit both sites, but really, my site is quite a bit smaller than Jason’s, so I don’t think I need to tell anyone to visit him! Just have fun and find something in either blog (or both!) you like, is what I say.


11 Responses to “Giant Killing 8 – Old Dudes”

  1. The thing about this episode and Kuroda is that his problem isn’t the diminution of his abilities. He was never really that good and he acknowledged it.

    His problem was a tactical and attitudinal one.

    Whenever the opponents score, he plays more conservatively by hanging back closer to the goal keeper despite how the entire team intending to play attacking football.

    Attacking football makes fullbacks part of the attack, at times getting them deep into midfield where they can receive or make short passes that can facilitate openings up front.

    Ageing physically isn’t the issue in this episode, but rather stuck in old practices and attitudes kind of behavior.

    • Well, I don’t think the aging aspect can be entirely dismissed, because Sugie frequently brings up the youth of the team and how ready the younger players will be to displace himself and Kuroda if they do not adapt. I’ll admit I probably overstated it, however, and you are correct when you write that it is as much a tactical and attitudinal problem.

      I think that’s a big part of what the football position metaphor was driving at. Sugie said he and Kuroda always had a natural inclination to be more defensive and fearful after the other side scores on them, which, as you write, is at odds with Tatsumi’s strategy. So that has to be corrected.

      • Right I shouldn’t dismiss the ageing concern entirely.

        What really makes me uncomfortable about this post’s subject is it’s almost game 4 of the WCF baby. DON’T BE TALKIN’ BOUT GETTING OLD AND CREAKY KNEES AND SUCH. Kobe’s gonna play.

        • OH SHIT YEAH :O How did I almost forget?

          And, haha, Kobe is a well-known workout freak, so I think he has a more Karl Malone-esque decline, where he definitely isn’t as great as he once was, but he has a high enough basketball IQ to pick up the slack and contribute to the team. I doubt Kobe will have a fall from grace like, say, Allen Iversion (who was a notorious partier, along with taking an inhuman amount of punishment over the years).

  2. Latching onto what ghostlightning was saying, fullbacks are probably the most important position in modern football as another attacking option. However, most back fours tend to play as though they were linked by an imaginary rope, so the 2 defenders lingering back forces the fullbacks to stay back, etc. However, Argentina’s squad for the coming World Cup has no fullbacks because Maradona thinks defenders have no business going forward. Just watch how accurate ETU’s defensive failings will seem then.

    On the aspect of aging players, Paul Scholes at Manchester United provides a good point of comparison. Earlier in his career he played as an attacking midfielder where his shots from distance would relieve some of the pressure on the strikers and hide his inability to tackle. As he has lost almost all of his pace, Sir Alex Ferguson has played him in more of a holding midfield role where he has to rely more on his tenacity and passing game more than anything in attack. His tackling is still horrible as he is guaranteed almost a yellow card each match, but his leadership is what matters most to them.

    • Ahh Paul I remember playing him and United back in FIFA 99 on the Playstation.

      It kinda seems weird that ETU plays a back 2 instead of 4, or is this just a matter of characterization focus.

      I mean 2 backs? Easiest offside traps evar but I dunno. I remember loving the ‘Total Football’ approach of the Dutch with only 3 at back, but 2???

      • It’s definitely 4 at the back, and with the modern interpretation of offside it is just as suicidal to try to play an offside trap now anyway. Central defenders are going to have a different focus in the series simply because they are much more defensive oriented than the fullbacks.

    • Haha, man, I need to bone up on football positions and strategy. Seems like it would be useful for understanding a bit more. :p

      • Well, if anything, Tatsuki seems to believe in a high pressing game compared to the more conservative coach. Rather than saying that Kuroda is wrong, it is more like the current team is just not well suited to play a hold up (catennacio) style of play. They do not have players who are defenisvely sound, and most of their players are actually better at attacking than defending.

        Hence, it will make sense to play a higher defensive line (despite the risk) simply to maximize your strength. Part of the high line is to push the fullbacks to support (think Manchester United, Arsenal) your wingers, especially to have the “attack is the best form of defense” logic. It’s a very aggressive tactic, but is suited for the current ETU team.

        On ageing, I will say that it is not that much of a concern for the really top players that do not rely on speed. Look at Zanetti of Inter in the Champion’s League. At the end of 36, he is still dominating the midfield. Defenders are also still in great form at their early and mid 30s. I will say David Beckham still has the ability to play at the highest stage at 33 or 34, since his game is never about speed anyway. He did adopt a more central role compared to being on the right wing. ^^

  3. BoozerX Says:

    They have a line of four but the old dudes are the center of the line so if the play far in the back they are hurting the team because the lines are distanced.
    About agin in football is different in the defenders and df midfielders because the most important thing there is experience , you maybe lose in spped but if you know from where the play is coming you have the adventage. Most top defenders are the old ones.

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