Our Ringo

Every fan of every soccer team, it seems, has at least one player about whom they are baffled. We can’t understand why the manager starts the player, and we find fault with their play in every game. “He (or she) is terrible,” we tell anyone who listen. Ben whined for years, "How on earth does Marouane Fellaini play for a club like United?"

Maybe he’s not; maybe he just our Ringo.

In 1983, British comedian Jasper Carrott made the following joke: “Ringo isn’t the best drummer in the world,” he quipped. “He isn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles.” That line clearly resonated with a large number of people. Indeed, the fact that it has been attributed to John Lennon (although Lennon never said it) and the attribution was easily believed, tell us something about Ringo’s reputation in the eyes of the wider public.

Let’s face it: joking about Ringo is easy, both for those who play drums and those who have never picked up a musical instrument.

And yet, there he was, and there he is. Part of one of the greatest rock groups in history and still touring at his advanced age. Could he really be there simply because he’s the luckiest man in show business. Is he really awful? Or is there something more.

If you google any collection of words like “Was Ringo Starr terrible” or “Is Ringo Starr a good drummer,” you’ll get a number of interesting hits, and you might be surprised at the number of articles that are written in defense of his drumming. But, despite the awful busy graphics (I’m warning you) of one published in the Phoenix New Times, I want to take it as an example. In this article, Serene Dominic gives ten reasons why Ringo Starr was a great drummer. The thing is, about half of them are about his actual drumming, making the case that he was a pretty solid and interesting drummer (and “Rain” always convinces me). The other half are more . . . personality based. In effect, the article is making the case that Ringo’s personality not only kept the band glued together in a way that Pete Best’s would not, but also that his personality helped drive the early popularity of the band. Without Ringo, he seems to assert, there may be no Beatles.

Courtesy biography.com

While I cannot judge Ringo’s technical prowess on a drum kit, here’s what I do know: he drummed well enough to be in a very successful group. He had a personality that, over and over, was recognized by his bandmates as extraordinarily important to the way they functioned as a band.

That soccer player, the one you think is “terrible,” the one you yell about on social media (and perhaps, but hopefully not, at games), is not “terrible.” First off, there is no player at this level who is awful. Are players of a variety of talent across a league? Of course. Is your guy the best of the bunch? Likely not, but he’s still an incredibly talented and gifted athlete.

Second, the manager is playing the guy for a reason. And maybe, just maybe, you ought to assume that the manager sees the players more often than you and with a different eye than yours. Maybe you should assume there is something more than you’re seeing.

Finally, maybe there are the “intangibles” that you are not seeing. Maybe the guy brings something to the locker room that gets others playing harder. Maybe he lightens the mood. Who knows? A team, any team, is a complex organism. One bad element can poison the entire system. One positive can move it in a different direction. The thing is, none of us outside that team know what goes on inside that unit. None of us is there for the day to day ways the group works.

None of us were in the Beatles. None of us are on the team. None of us really know. What we do know is that we are talking about talented individuals and that we only see a very brief part of what they are doing. We are only making declarations based on one or two interactions with the ball.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t criticize players or managers. Hell, arguing about this stuff (both athletes and bands) is at least half the fun. Acting as armchair managers is a fan’s right. At the same time, maybe we draw back just a little. Maybe we try to see the larger picture. Maybe more context helps us be better supporters.

He’s not terrible; he may just be our Ringo.


The above is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Speedway Soccer as a whole.

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