This is a comment from Joe Posnanski’s blog:
I think this is about two things: meaning and chance.
Meaning–People want sports to mean something. They want it to be about dedication, or about drive, or about a team overcoming obstacles. It’s usually just about the player or the team that executes or gets lucky on a given day. But when there is a good guy and a bad guy, a redemption, a comeback–something–there is a story with meaning. People like to have meaning. Sports provides meaning and stories provide meaning. So people like for there to be stories in their sports (and sports in their stories).
Chance–people hate chance. They find it revolting and hard to comprehend. People like to eliminate the chance element in sports, even though it’s so dominant. Why did Tiger miss that put? Probably a chance event–he misses lots of puts and this was one of them. People don’t like to think that, so they create a story (popping up again) that explains the event in a way not depended upon chance, a way that has meaning. Who will win this upcoming game? Well, it’s likely that chance will play a huge roll in it. (As an aside, that’s why European soccer fans don’t like playoffs–the team with the best record after 38 games is the best teams, playoffs are too often decided by change. That’s also why the MLB regular season is so good–it a big enough sample to eliminate the chance element. If you’d in first after 162 games, you’re the best team). But we don’t like having change play such a big role, so we come up with narrative-centric keys to the game (stay committed to the run; be tougher on the line of scrimmage). People also, because they don’t like change, confuse execution with results. Sometimes you can make a good decision–even a great decision–and still have the result go against you. That’s why we fire coaches too often.
When people talk about sports, they don’t want to talk about chance. They want to talk about stories. So we create stories to talk about.
Interesting. Chance plays a massive part in football. While bad outcomes usually have some root in bad somethingorothers (e.g. England were poor at the World Cup… but had the Germany game gone to 2-2 as it should have, Germany would have been deprived the counter attacking opportunities they thrived on and England could well have won the game, resulting in stories about mental strength and English spirit in adversity which could have propelled us onwards. But didn’t, because a clear goal was ruled out) the breaks of the ball do matter, football games do take on a life of their own.
I’ve done a lot of research on football’s past recently, and it was reasonably common for teams to play twice in a short period of time (often twice in two days). Once in the 50s, Fulham beat Wolves, then an amazing side. A few days later Wolves beat Fulham 9-0.
How could this happen? Answer: that’s football. Weird things happen all the time and however much we might analyse it, there isn’t always a reason, a problem or something to fix. The trick is to think long-term, do the right things and allow this to even out over the season. People got bent out of shape about the Wolves game and I found that surprising. We played really, really well, Schwarzer had very little to do, and Wolves scored out of nothing. Play that game another 10 times and we’d have won 5-6 of them. That’s the key: do the right thing and let results take care of themselves. I’ve seen enough from recent performances to believe that we’re broadly on track. No quantum leap improvement under Hughes, just the same team doing things a bit differently. Which is fine for now.