There’s a scene in the loosely historical Baseball chick flick A League of Their Own where coach Tom Hanks yells into a tearful players face “There’s no crying in baseball!” In recent weeks there I’ve found myself screaming “there’s no deserved in football!” at various media. There has emerged a narrative that somehow Tottenham deserve to be in the cup final, that they deserve to win the league.
After the cup semi final the story seemed to be of how Tottenham were somehow the better side. Most memorably the butt sore and lachrymose Jermaine Jenas. N17s finest were seemingly the victim of a highway robbery. On what basis? 4-2 even allowing for Ovrebo levels of refereeing makes it all seem a bit far fetched. In fact it isn’t, it’s bollocks, and it is the last desperate resort of the entitled. But, but the stats!
In football there are only results – the team that scores the most goals wins. Oh yes Michael Owen use that, it’s as insightful as anything that has rattled out of your sphincter whilst supposedly commentating matey. Don’t even credit me. It’s free.
And another thing (sounds like a divorce argument doesn’t it?) the point of a league is to harvest as many points from the fixtures over the course of a season. You could quite conceivably remain unbeaten all season and end up on 38 points (and get relegated). McManaman you can use that – even in your whiny pre-orgasmic voice that might sound authoritative. I mean just look at Manchester United’s interminably long yet meaningless winning streak that has, over the course of something like 23 games propelled them from 6 th to 5 th .
And part three of the trilogy of the bleeding obvious – the only thing that matters about cup football is getting to the next round, no points for style, possession or even corners.
So far, so true. But there has evolved a hideous wider narrative that you can look at stats and decide who “deserved” to win any given match. And it’s similarly cobblers. There IS no deserved in the game. I blame this on two things; fantasy football and the possession obsessed arm throwing shaved monkey Pep Guardiola for he created a possession hogging winning machine at Barcelona and this has become the prescribed, aesthetic way of playing football. This is according to purists – whatever they may be (a cult – no misprint – I suppose). Anything counter to this philosophy was petulantly dubbed “anti football”. Especially if it happened to outscore the metronomic Barca beat. But for my money Ramires lobbing Valdes and waving his Hampton at the collected “cules” was as entertaining as any soporific pass-pass- pass tiki taka borefest.
Football was always about one manager setting out one team and another trying to outwit him one way or another. Often involving a clash of styles. It’s what makes it interesting.
Spurs fans were particularly animated about winning 11 corners to our 1, somehow this represents dominance. Except it doesn’t – any more than their 9 shots off target.
This is just unproductive wasteful football. If Spurs had ever led the tie – the game would doubtless have taken on a different statistical shape, they didn’t, it didn’t. Seeking solace in such impotence is frankly strange behaviour.
If you compared this to industry it would take on quite pythonesque proportions: I mean it’s a lovely factory, it’s full of lovely staff and lovely whirring machinery but it what does it produce?
Er nothing, but admire its elegance – it deserves to earn money and market share but we would much rather luxuriate in its elegance.
This is the world of the stats onanist.
Stats are handy for coaches perhaps, for casual observers they have no context and no real interest. So I suggest that we start punching anyone that produces or retweets any such nonsense, the world will soon be a happier place.
And I’m acutely aware we recently suffered similar at the hands of Crystal Palace, but for the most part the reaction was quite different, frustrated, sure and yes ultimately you do sneak a surreptitious peek at the stats and go “Christ we battered them, pathetic that we couldn’t muster a goal out of that”. And that’s really as far as it should go. That’s all it tells you.
There is no deserved in football. Just like there’s no crying in baseball.