首页  | 专栏作家

Weakest link? 最薄弱的一环

中国日报网 2019-09-27 11:23

Reader question:

What does it mean exactly when a player is described as “obviously the weakest link on the team”? Does it mean that this player is the worst or most inferior in skill?

My comments:

If he/she is the weakest link on the team, he or she certainly may be seen that way, as the worst player on the team. He or she may also be the most inferior in terms of skill set, i.e. all the solid skills they possess (or don’t possess).

But, I think, “weakest link” may be best interpreted to mean that this particular player possesses some glaring flaw that may be exploited by the opposing team. I mean, this player’s skills or lacks thereof should not be considered individually. Rather, it should be understood within the team setting or concept.

Anyways, that’s what “weakest link” implies.

The weakest link, you see, is the weakest part of a chain.


A chain is a piece of flexible series of links used for pulling or supporting loads. The links are each in the form of a ring or loop. Individually, each ring or loop is tough but small. By linking them together, you can form a lengthy chain.

Yes, by linking these rings or loops together, you can make a chain as lengthy as you want it to be.

Now, here’s the rub – the lengthier the chain, the more number of links are needed. And, quite obviously, each and every link needs to be equally strong in order for the chain to do its job.

Suppose one of the links is fragile and breaks easily, then what happens?

Then the whole chain breaks at that link.

Then you have a broken chain, and a broken chain is, of course, is a worthless chain.

Back to our example, I think the player who is described as the weakest link is likened to such a fragile link. A player who’s unable to play any defense, for example, can be such a player. This player easily breaks down when they’re under attack. Knowing this, the opposing teams keep attacking this poor defender in search of a breakthrough. And when one defender breaks down, often the defensive system as a whole begins to wobble, crumble and collapse.

That’s why there is this saying, a proverb – a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

In other words, if any of the links is weak, the whole chain is weak. If any team member is weak, the whole team is probably weak. You cannot claim otherwise.

Well, you can claim otherwise, of course, but only at your own peril.

Got it?

All right, here are recent media examples of “weakest link”, which is a thing:

1. Close to the north pole of the moon lies the crater Anaxagoras, named for a Greek philosopher who lived in the fifth century B.C. The eponym is fitting, as Anaxagoras the man was one of the first people in history to suggest the moon was a rocky body, not all too dissimilar from Earth. Streaks of material thrown out during the impact that formed the crater extend 560 miles southward to the rim of another crater, this one named for Plato.

Like Plato, Anaxagoras the scholar did most of his work in Athens, but the similarities between the two men stop there. Influenced strongly by the Pythagoreans, Plato posited a mystical universe based on sacred geometric forms, including perfectly circular orbits. Plato eschewed observation and experimentation, preferring to pursue a pure knowledge he believed was innate in all humans. But Anaxagoras, who died around the time Plato was born, had a knack for astronomy, an area of study that requires careful observational and calculation to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

During his time in Athens, Anaxagoras made several fundamental discoveries about the moon. He reiterated and expended upon an idea that likely emerged among his predecessors but was not widely accepted in antiquity: that the moon and sun were not gods, but rather objects. This seemingly innocuous belief would ultimately result in Anaxagoras’ arrest and exile.

Piecing together the lives of early philosophers such as Anaxagoras, who is thought to have written just one book, lost to us today, can be a major challenge for historians. Modern scholars have only “fragments” to describe the life of Anaxagoras—brief quotes from his teachings and short summaries of his ideas, cited within the works of scholars from later generations, such as Plato and Aristotle.

Through persistent observation, Anaxagoras came to believe that the moon was a rock, not totally unlike the Earth, and he even described mountains on the lunar surface. The sun, he thought, was a burning rock. In fragment 18, Anaxagoras says, “It is the sun that puts brightness into the moon.” While Anaxagoras was not the first to realize that moonlight is reflected light from the sun, he was able to use this concept to correctly explain additional natural phenomena, such as eclipses and lunar phases.

Hailing from Clazomenae in the Ionian lands east of the Greek mainland, Anaxagoras grew up during the Ionian Enlightenment, an intellectual revolution that began around 600 B.C. As a young man, he saw Athens and Sparta align to drive the Persian Empire out of Ionia. When he relocated to Athens, Anaxagoras and his contemporaries brought philosophy to the budding Athenian democracy. Although many Greek philosophers of the sixth and fifth centuries B.C. believed in one or a few fundamental elements—such as water, air, fire and earth—Anaxagoras thought there must be an infinite number of elements. This idea was his way of resolving an intellectual dispute concerning the nature of existence that had emerged between the naturalistic-minded philosophers of Ionia to the east and the mystical-minded philosophers to the west, in Greek-colonized Italy, such as Pythagoras and his followers.


Such an idea should have been welcome in democratic Athens, but Anaxagoras was a teacher and friend of the influential statesman Pericles, and political factions would soon conspire against him. In power for over 30 years, Pericles would lead Athens into the Peloponnesian wars against Sparta. While the exact causes of these conflicts are a matter of debate, Pericles’ political opponents in the years leading to the wars blamed him for excessive aggression and arrogance. Unable to hurt the Athenian leader directly, Pericles’ enemies went after his friends. Anaxagoras was arrested, tried and sentenced to death, ostensibly for breaking impiety laws while promoting his ideas about the moon and sun.

“In the Athenian democracy, with its ‘democratic’ trials before large juries on criminal charges being brought by private citizens—there was no district attorney—all trials were basically political trials,” Graham says. “They were often disguised as being about religion or morality, but they aimed at embarrassing some public figure by going after him directly if he was vulnerable, or a member of his circle if he was not. If you wanted to attack Pericles, but he was too popular to attack directly, you found the weakest link in his group. As a foreigner and intellectual with unorthodox new ideas, Pericles’ friend and ‘science advisor’ Anaxagoras was an obvious target.”

Still holding some political sway, Pericles was able to free Anaxagoras and prevent his execution. Though his life was spared, the philosopher who questioned the divinity of the moon found himself in exile in Lampsacus at the edge of the Hellespont. But his ideas regarding eclipses and lunar phases would live on to this day, and for his recognition of the true nature of the moon, a lunar crater, visited by orbiting spacecraft some 2,400 years later, bears the name Anaxagoras.

- An Ancient Greek Philosopher Was Exiled for Claiming the Moon Was a Rock, Not a God, Smithsonian.com, June 20, 2019.

2. After giving up 10 earned runs -- the second most in any start of his career -- Chicago Cubs left-hander Jon Lester called himself the “weakest link” in the team’s rotation.

“I feel like they had a better plan than I did,” Lester said Tuesday of the Oakland Athletics hitters. “Plain and simple. They executed their plan and before we could make the adjustment there’s eight runs up there.”

Oakland sent 12 batters to the plate during an eight-run second inning, then scored three more in the fourth on a Stephen Piscotty home run. Dustin Garneau also knocked in three with a long ball in Oakland's 11-4 win.

“What happened is I gave up 11 runs, so it doesn’t matter how I feel,” Lester said. “Doesn’t matter about a game plan, doesn’t matter about executing pitches, doesn’t matter about anything. I gave up 11 runs, so it really doesn’t matter.”

Lester has given up 35 hits over his past four starts, and his ERA has ballooned to 4.46. He was asked about the injuries to the Cubs’ bullpen but pivoted the conversation back to him.

“When it comes down to it, the injuries are the injuries, but I’m pretty much the weakest link in the rotation right now and have to figure out a way to right the ship, pick my end up, and do better,” Lester said. “Flat-out do better.

“Our rotation has pitched well, except for me.”

- Roughed-up Lester: ‘Weakest link’ in Cubs rotation, ESPN.com, August 7, 2019.

3. The weakest link at Disney is its merchandise business. It’s so weak it’s no longer a separate division in the company’s otherwise highly transparent quarterly reports. Instead it’s lumped in with the revenue from amusement parks, the biggest segment of the business.

The toy segment is weak because Disney never learned how to make video games. Instead it turns such properties as “Toy Story” and “Star Wars” into plush dolls and action figures, mainly sold at the parks. Free-standing toy stores have been disappearing for years.

But in a move labeled as “brilliant” in the business press, Disney is putting mini toy stores inside 25 Target locations, with plans to open 40 more next year and for Target to open a small-format store near Disney’s Orlando resort in 2021.

The move is smaller than it looks but could prove to be a win-win. Outside the parks Disney has mainly been selling its merchandise in Disney Stores, located in select malls and downtown locations. But malls are dying. The number of Disney stores has declined from almost 750 to just 300 over the last two decades.

- Can Target Help Disney Stock Recover its Weakest Link? InvestorPlace.com, August 28, 2019.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


Start from scratch? 从头开始


Homing in? 归巢


Standard bearer? 旗手


Drain the swamp 清除弊病源头


Rubbing elbows? 接触