Could be worse

Baseball has its share of reactionary anti-stathead writers, but we certainly don’t have the market cornered. This from an article in The Times entitled “The 50 worst things about modern football”:

43. Statistics

American obsession that is gradually weaving itself into the fabric of our national game. Do you care how many assists Wayne Rooney has this season? Do you care how many passes Steve Gerrard has completed in the final third? Do you care if Gareth Barry’s tackle win ratio has dropped off since Christmas? Thought not. There’s only one stat that matters. The score.

It’s one thing to say established stat X is better than new stat Y, but this guy is promoting utter ignorance. Or, as reader and link-supplier Laurence Davison put it: “If these people got a crack at baseball you wouldn’t even be allowed batting average and RBIs.”

I know next to nothing about big time soccer, but I’d say at least 35 of the things on this list have some sort of baseball analog. But you know what? The anti-stat entry isn’t even my favorite one one. This is:

18. Opinions

We live in an “Everyone’s entitled to my opinion” kind of world and when it comes to football, everyone’s got one. Rafa’s God. Rafa’s an idiot. Becks is past it. No, he’s not. How can Kaka be worth £100 million? Yeh, but you’d pay £45 to see him play. Stevie G and Lamps can’t play together. But they’re the best we’ve got. Can’t we all just shut up and watch the game?

This from a multi-page column bitching about half a hundred things the author doesn’t care for. If the list of things this guy despises had gone to 51, the last thing listed would be “self-awareness.”

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  1. christopher said...

    It kind of makes me proud that “statistics” and “evidence” are an american obsession.  That’s probably the nicest thing that has been said about us in years.

    Oh, and Kaka is definitely not worth 100 million pounds.

  2. bigcatasroma said...

    Shyster, as a huge soccer fan (and we can call it soccer—the Irish and Australians call it soccer, the Italians call it “kicking;” numerous countries call it something other than “football,” which the British, in their true hypocritical self-aggrandizing way, believe that is the only way to call it—where was I?), it’s fascinating this line of thinking.  Simply because Billy Beane’s brain has been seeping in over there at Tottenham Hotspur, and I’m sure a few other clubs.  Certainly since three of the biggest (Aston Villa, Liverpool, and those frauds Manchester United) are owned by Americans; I’m sure Moneyball is on the office shelves in Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham somewhere . . .

  3. bigcatasroma said...

    Oh, and however bad and uber-reactionary this is (this Times piece reeks of Chass or something), ## 47, 36, 15, 12, 9, 7.

    Of Course, #3-1 are the reason this writer is an idiot. 

    #21 is why I hate the English.  Don’t Tread on Me and Forza Italia. Stuck-up, bloody haughty buggards.  Bollocks on those pompous Brits.

  4. Craig Calcaterra said...

    I have no idea what you just said, bigcats, but I suddenly feel like drinking a pint and oppressing the Irish.

  5. Phil J said...

    Erm, the stat thing in football – I *do* know an awful lot about football, and in the writer’s defence (I actually had read this one in advance and agreed with a lot of the points) and the statistics that are piled out regarding football are close to meaningless.

    “Possession”, “territory” based stats, “shots on target” have about as much bearing on the quality of the game or whether a team has played well or not as the average weight of the fans in the stadium. This doesn’t stop Sky Sports from endlessly showing these meaningless stats before, after and during the game.

    And that’s about as good as it’s got. There’s just virtually nothing to measure objectively other than “goals”. Which is his point….

  6. Phil J said...

    And bigcatasroma – regarding points 2 and 3, *seriously*, they are both the worst things to happen to top-level football in England, ever. Without question. And neither would exist were it not the idea of selling out to point 1.

    1992 was the year any hope of competitive balance in English football disappeared.

  7. Leo said...

    Um, Wooden, I said just the opposite of Buzzy. I’d prefer about Craig’s blog any day over this kind of drivel

  8. Adrian K said...

    Um, Slightly lost the plot of this one. Sabermetrics really don’t work very well in football. Some elements of football are intangible and media driven stats are being slowly introduced by Murdoch/Sky/Setanta/ITV/BBC to promote interest to fans who rarely attend their club’s games.
    I swear, the “man on the Clapham omnibus” has been fairly dull over the years but now…loaded down with the same re-hashed newspaper headlines…It could drive a man to the demon drink.
    $50 a month contracts to the hoi poloi are the lifeblood of the media darlings who value the various football offerings at aprox $2.1bn per year in England.
    Teams live and die by their TV payments and revenues, relegation without immediate promotion can swiftly bankrupt a club, with a penalty 30 points for the next season guaranteeing trouble-ahoy (see Leeds).
    The Stat that matters in football is the bottom line, the big four or five clubs have a competition amongst themselves, the rest are only interested in survival. 17th is just fine, 18-20th is disaster.
    It encouages teams to bring in proven players to fill holes rather than develop their own academy youngsters.
    Stories like the Rays can’t can’t can’t happen here in the league, only investment, the writer and Phil J are correct as far as English football is concerned. The standard has improved in skill and fitness, but the product lacks integrity. It is profoundly depressing.

  9. Phil J said...

    Adrian K – don’t get me COMPLETELY wrong, I’ve been a season ticket holder at Manchester City for nearly 20 years, and have obviously experienced the lowest lows, along with odd bits of excitement – and even before we became the richest team on the planet, I still loved the game, and loved every game I went to, until kickoff whereby I generally was horribly disappointed – but I’m even still reasonably excited by watching Chelsea Liverpool on Sky on Sunday. However, it’s clear that unless you’re bought by the richest people on the planet, you’re destined to AT BEST midtable Prem mediocrity, and even if you are bought by them, you’re still likely to never win anything in your lifetime.

    We have no music played after goals are scored, and long may it continue. But I do remember the ONE game where recorded chanting was played over the PA system during the game. Whoops.

    On the whole, the comparison with baseball is pretty pointless though. Were someone to claim that averages in cricket were meaningless, and a pointless Americanism, I’d be up in arms – but football, nah, not comparable.

  10. Leo said...

    This is reason No. 345,553 why newspapers are dying.  A man who is getting paid a living wage to write articles should be able to put more thought into his work product.  (Referring to the Times journalist, not Craig).

    If bloggers who write for peanuts can create entertaining, compelling and must-read posts, newspapers have a very limited role.  Still good for reporting news, but not for the opinion columns that used to be must-reads.

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