Still settling in to the new job, but so far so good. With me, it is always the case that I take on challenges that are outside my comfort zone. I spend 6- 9 months getting comfortable, another 12 months or so optimizing and then, if things don’t get shaken up pretty significantly, I start looking for other challenges. One reason Siebel was such a good fit all those years ago is because we grew so fast for 5 years that there were constantly new challenges. I was always busy and had the opportunity (and the difficultly) of traveling pretty much non-stop all over North America and Europe and occasionally Asia and Africa. So a great experience professionally. But the new job has smart people and that means a lot to me. I can learn a lot from all 3 of my bosses. They are good folks; high performers; demanding but also very approachable and reasonable and we are in a transition phase and that is always good for me because I like the controlled chaos that goes with major business transformations.
Lovely night at home tonight. I got home from work at 7:00. Walked and fed the hound and then sat on the deck with a great Porter and smoked the last of the Churchill’s Sjoerd gave me in France. I then had a terrific dinner and soon will settle in with a book. Just now having a glass of Midleton Irish–which as always, is smooth and delicious.
For some reason I have been dreaming a lot lately about rugby. Generally speaking, I have no regrets about getting older. Except for rugby. I absolutely loved playing rugby. And age takes that from us.
In the dreams, it is almost always the case I am playing casually. With a pick up team or sometimes my team but never in a big tournament game. Just fun games. Sometimes, as is the case in dreams, maddeningly, I am slow like molasses in winter and can’t run away. And I wake in frustration about my inability to move. Other times, like last night, I have my full skills. Not extraordinary at all; my normal speed and strength which was never too impressive but was not nothing. Last night, in my dream, I took a short pass from Kip who had broken a tackle and cut back inside and made a brilliant pass to me about 30 yards from try line and only the fullback and a winger remained between me and the goal zone. But both the fullback and winger had drifted outside thinking that was Kip’s line. Rugby is about trajectory–which is to say angle and speed. And our brains are amazingly brilliant little calculators. I immediately realized the fullback had already figured my quickest line of sight to the try line and adjusted his trajectory to engage me. The winger took a deeper angle just in case I was able to get by the fullback. But last night, for whatever reason, whatever set of rules governs how capable we are in our dream state, I was able to read the situation and very barely break through and score. I took the angle the fullback had calculated for 8 or 10 steps until he was fully committed. The winger also stayed on his course. Just a few yards before I would have collided with the fullback I made a slight feint in the direction I was heading and then cut hard back in. I knew I had the fullback beat, but the winger had more time to adjust. And it was the case that I had him mid-stride when I cut and he took and extra half-second to respond and that is what I needed. He turned and it was a foot race to the try line. Again, my amazing brain immediately did the math and I took the angle that gave me the shortest possible distance but best angle to extend the wingers distance — for he was slightly faster than me. So I had the better angle and the head start and I was able to stretch out and just place the ball on the try line while he got me in tackle. Try.
On any given season, I think I may have had 5 or 6 really good offensive plays. I was always a solid defensive player. But creating offensive opportunities takes years of playing and a special skill. Kip probably executed 12-15 great plays in an average season. Maybe the same for Dwight. Mickey Coward created 40 or 50. He was exceptional. Probably top 5 in the US in his prime years. A guy like Rockee or Daryl could score a lot, but it was more on supreme talent rather than overall strategy. Most likely, someone else had some some inside work to get them into the position to score. One-on-One with a little open field, almost no one in Pacific Northwest was going to chase down Rockee or Daryl. I only played one game with Mark Smith. It was his last competitive match–I suspect he was more in Mickey’s league as he had an elegance with ball handling that was amazing. He was a good athlete, but not exceptional. What made him exceptional was his focus and ability to see the field and create opportunity.
In competitive rugby, offense is all about creating space and understanding angles and trajectories. And seeing the field. Perhaps that is most important. The ability to know who is around you; your guys, in support and there for a pass if necessary. Or a competitor coming from behind as you slow to allow your support to catch up. You then must decide in 1/100th of a second to cut, drive into a couple of tacklers to take them out of the play, pass, or kick. Often the best thing is to let yourself get tackled, control the ball and set up another phase and let your support get in position. It happens so quickly that players with more than 10 years of competitive experience have a great advantage over less experienced players, regardless of the difference in physical skills.
It’s an amazing game. If I were a young man, I would play twice as much rugby and I would bother to get in shape to really see what my limitations were. I know I was not good enough to get too much farther than I did, but I was a solid player in my day. Always reliable on defense. Not so creative or effective on offense, but I had my days.
I was watching Mandela in the yard tonight. It was a beautiful evening. She is an interesting dog. Ever watchful, as dogs tend to be. But Dela is selective in her pursuit of other animals. She is not fond of magpies and if one lands in what she perceives as her field of responsibility, she will set those birds a flight post haste. She gives them no quarter. She will not tolerate a magpie. But if a Robin or a Cardinal lands, she is fine. She stays steady and keeps a watchful eye but will not give chase.
Same with flies and bees. She hates them. She catches them with her mouth, best she is able. But if a butterfly comes along, she just watches it go by.
I choose to think she appreciates beauty. She is an admirer of grace and elegance and despises obnoxious behaviors among animals. Bees and flies make too much noise while the butterfly has just the gentle disturbance of paper-thin wings on the air. Magpies are stark and unlovely in their black and white; not like the subdued robin or the glorious Cardinal.
Anyway, that’s how I view it.