Just think for once, commentators!
OK – if you’re expecting a serious piece on the current state of the NHS or anything else, don’t bother reading on – one of the best things about starting a blog like this is that it gives you the chance to get stuff off your chest, and today I want to do just that.
Mostly, the inanities of sports commentators make amusing reading, and those of us of a certain age think fondly of Colemanballs in Private Eye. But there’s one thing they do repeatedly which really gets on my nerves and which has me screaming in frustration at the TV set, and that’s why, still frothing at the mouth, I intend to unload on you all now.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but nearly all commentators have a tendency to simply tot up the missed chances in a game, add them to the actual final score, and say ‘If only they’d not missed those three clear chances, they’d have won 3-2’ Spot the fallacy? Of course you did, but they never do, and no-one ever seems to pick them up on it. And it's not just football, they all do it – rugby, cricket whatever. Let me give you an example from Rugby League (soft southerners won't have heard of it – it's like rugby union, but played by real men). When my team, Leeds Rhinos, lost a close game a couple of months ago, the match summariser said it was a pity Leeds had kicked for touch rather than going for goal with their three, ultimately futile, penalty kicks, because if they'd kicked the goals successfully, they'd have had six more points, and would have won.
YOU CAN’T KNOW THAT YOU NUMPTY!
Look – if they had indeed kicked the first of those goals rather than kicking for touch and getting no return for it, the entire subsequent course of the game would have been different, because the match would have been restarted from the centre spot. Those second two penalty opportunities would therefore never have arisen, and depending on what did happen, Leeds might have lost even more heavily. Alternatively, they might have scored three brilliant tries and/or had half a dozen other penalties awarded and gone on to win handsomely, but THERE IS NO WAY OF KNOWING.
Sorry to keep shouting, but as you may have realised, this is one of those unimportant little things that can take over a chap’s waking hours. And commentators – just in case you’re still struggling with this, let me explain more fully. Our lives (and sporting contests) are made up of a sequence of events, each one of which leads on from, and is a direct consequence of, what went before. Change one of those events by, say, missing an open goal or converting rather than missing a penalty, and you also change what comes after. So, you can’t simply look at a series of missed chances after they have occurred, add the points/goals/runs they would have generated to the actual total and produce a number that means anything.
Of course, quantum mechanics raises the possibility that there is a parallel universe in which Leeds did kick the first of those penalties, but if we had a way of seeing into that universe, we would find that we were watching a completely different game, from that point on, to the one that unfolded at Headingley.
I can’t surely be the only person to have picked up on this, and I wish they’d stop it.