Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Titus Bramble

I first heard the phrase "another Titus Bramble moment" last season, as I watched Newcastle suck as hard as it is doing this year, and the commentator (I'll just assume it's Martin Tyler) referred to a defensive error by the then-Newcastle defender. I thought that was British witticism at best - such a simple turn of phrase, yet full of bite and possibilities. I decided then that if I ever formed a band (i.e. when I can afford an Xbox 360 and a copy of Rock Band, and when I have three non-imaginary friends), I'd name the band "The Titus Bramble Moment".

We've been generally free of Titus Bramble Moments (TBM) this season, save for the swing-and-a-miss against Citeh, and he's even helped snatch a point from my beloved Liverpool (basically, he's personally swung 4 points to the blue half of Merseyside - we'll get to that later). But as my blogmate (good lord that sounds homoerotic) Lingering Bursitis has already mentioned, he up and gone done it again.

Wigan manager Steve Bruce said of the error,

"The boy has all the attributes to be a top player, but the one thing he has to do is work on his concentration levels."
Besides ranking as one of the greatest understatements of all times, Brucie's assessment begs the question, when you rank all the attributes for a top central defender, doesn't maintaining focus for the full 90 minutes rank pretty high up there?

Though come to think of it, that a player whose name is synonymous with lapses in concentrations and their disastrous results has a job in the allegedly Best League in the World may be an indication of how much his managers past and present value him (holy shit, that's a run-on sentence if there ever was one). It's like in a relationship - every girl's going to have some quirk that will drive you fucking insane, but as long as the awesomegirlfriendness outweighs the crazybitchness, you're good. In fact, your willingness to put up with a girl's negative qualities can be an indication of exactly how freaky she gets behind closed doors (though a video is probably the best indicator). A club like Wigan who's fighting for Premiership survival, they can live with Bad Titus as long as Good Titus shows up most of the time (residents of Newton Flotman are probably less comfortable with Bad Titus, however). THAT'S HOW GOOD HE IS, REALLY! Plus, have you seen Newcastle's defending lately? It ain't Jean-Alain Boumsong they miss, that's for sure.

As sacrilegious as this may seem, I'd almost want Bramble instead of Sami Hyypia in the Liverpool backline. That's right, you heard me. See, you know how in Moneyball, they discount traditional fielding stats, because it punishes players with superior range, which is exactly what you want in a fielder? Hyypia is basically that Yankees shortstop who has limited range, and therefore has a deceptively decent fielding percentage. Think about it - would you take Hyypia, whose deficiencies not only force the backline to adjust, but also holds back the attack. I'm no sabermetrician, but I'm willing to bet Sami costs Liverpool more points than Bramble does Wigan.

By all indications, people seem to like the guy, and the more I think about him, the more he intrigues me (he reminds me of back when I was trying to convince people that Rasheed Wallace was actually really great off the court, and that he has an incredibly high basketball IQ). For starters, there's that goofy anti-gang gang sign thing. And shit, I totally forgot he helped Ipswich Town qualify for Europe. Ipswich! Did you know? He's eligible to play for Montserrat, who actually holds the unofficial title of the worst footballing nation in the world after losing to Bhutan!

Though really, more I think about him, the more he reminds of me, and humanity in general. I consider myself to be fairly intelligent and well adjusted, but I make my share of stupid mistakes. I'm fine with the big picture - it's the details that escape me. In a sense, we all have our Titus Bramble Moments. Except when we make embarrassing typos, spill coffee in the break room, hit "Reply All" by accident, we're not televised worldwide and we don't affect the company's balance sheet for the next fiscal year by tens of millions. What Bramble does, in effect, is to absorb all our everyday humiliations. He is truly our patron saint of silly mistakes.

So why have I just written 50,000 words on a low-level Premiership player? Probably because it's a lot less painful to think about the meaning of Titus Bramble than to face the fact that Liverpool won't challenge for the Premiership title for the foreseeable future. Better to think about Titus Bramble Moments than to ponder the Liverpool Season.

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