Of all the animals of prey, man is the only sociable one.
Every one of us preys upon his neighbour, and yet we herd together.
The Beggar's Opera: John Gay

Friday, 12 June 2009

Addicted to Statistics


What is it with football and statistics?

The sports pages of the newspaper are not my usual stamping ground but, contemplating a follow-up piece to a post on Kaka, I have been reading up on the details of the £80m price-tag attached to Cristiano Ronaldo.

In fact, it’s all so ridiculous that I can find little to say on the matter, but I was amazed at the way readers are bombarded with pointless figures. Why on earth, for example, should I want to know that Manchester United’s football pitch measures 116x76 yards, or how many Wayne Rooneys you could sign up for £80m? And as for ‘how many Ronaldo minutes per successful dribble’, whatever that may mean! (It’s 36, if you must know.)

Amidst all the doom-mongering that surrounds GCSEs and the dumbing-down of the nation, there exists this small anomaly; that people who applied themselves in the most rudimentary manner to the acquisition of knowledge at school can effortlessly reel off arcane statistics ad nauseam when discussing football.
These statistics have become a liturgy; the secret knowledge that binds a club’s supporters together in a tribal group. As such they must surely play a part in the emotional blackmail that keeps fans paying out as ticket prices and subscriptions rise inexorably to feed the ravenous maw of professional football.

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