Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Rationalists release sober World Cup analysis

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I must apologise for the lack of blogging – I've been away for a couple of weeks. It was nice to see on my return that the Church of England have caught a dose of World Cup fever and released a series of prayers for devotees to turn to once the tournaments gets underway on 11 June.

The prayers are the work of the Bishop of Croydon, Nick Baines, who appears to have steered clear of accusations of football tribalism by avoiding asking for divine intervention in England's campaign. (Seems strange to me – if the Church of England isn't there to secure miracles for Stevie G and co, what is it there for?) There are two prayers calling for God's general blessing for the World Cup, and another for non-football fans frustrated by the tournament's month-long hegemony. Here's the first of the three:
Lord of all the nations, who played the cosmos into being,

guide, guard and protect all who work or play in the World Cup.

May all find in this competition a source of celebration,

an experience of common humanity and

a growing attitude of generous sportsmanship to others.

I particularly like the first line, with the idea that God "played the cosmos into being" – sounds like God created the universe with a classy through ball (or perhaps a deft one-two with JC, though I may be getting theologically confused with that one).

All of which had me thinking – what are we doing for readers looking forward to the World Cup? Well, if the Church of England can offer prayers, we can offer some cold, rationalist analysis. So here goes (non-England fans will have to forgive the focus of this one, I'm afraid).

Group stages: Empiricism has historically played an important role in rationalism, and looking at Group C, where England will come up against the USA, Algeria and Slovenia, it would be very difficult to present a rational argument, based on past experience, statistics and the quality of players available, for England failing to progress. So we say, put aside your irrational fears, rejoice or despair at the sheer number of live games available during the groups, and look forward to England's assault on the knock-out stages.

Last 16: With the work of Enlightenment figures such as David Hume and John Stuart Mill reassuring us of England's safe passage from Group C, our thoughts turn to potential opponents in the first knock-out round. Consultation with our office wallchart (kindly provided by a printing company, who have clearly anticipated their clients' main focus in the coming weeks), and further application of rational analysis, tells us that England, if they win Group C, will likely face Serbia, Australia or Ghana. (Here's a link to the Daily Mirror's downloadable wallchart, should you feel like consulting one). None would represent an easy game (after all, are there, err, y'know, any easy games, Gary?), but if we're keeping things rational, England should have the players and the Italian tactical nous to see off those opponents. A second-placed finish in Group C (which would frankly already mean that rationalism has let us down) might leave England facing arch-rivals Germany – a daunting prospect, but with the Germans missing some key players and lacking a credible strike-force, it's possible they could be overcome (not that you should ever, um, write the Germans off, Alan).

Quarter finals: So we've seen off all-comers and the quarter-finals beckon. Irrational superstition and blunt historical fact would suggest that penalty shoot-out ignominy awaits, but we're supposed to be analysing things rationally, aren't we. The most likely scenario has England facing France – past winners, sure, but they're only in the tournament by virtue of a Thierry Henry handball, and they've arguably become somthing of a joke under manager Raymond Domenech, who was last seen by many international fans proposing to his girlfriend live on TV immediately after his side had been eliminated from Euro 2008. He also has a tendency to use astrology to help him pick his side (Scorpios are out of luck, apparently) so, if this is about rationality, we're backing Fabio's cool calculation to win the day and see England through to a first semi-final since Euro '96.

Semi-finals: Potential opponents become increasingly hard to call at this point, but they could include Italy, Spain, Holland or Brazil. Sorry, rationalism can't help anymore.

Time to start praying, perhaps?


D-Notice said...

"[Germany are] missing some key players and lacking a credible strike-force"

Surely that means that there's a good chance of Germany finishing second in their group?

David Waldock said...

Can no-one leave this sodding subject alone?

I don't CARE about the outcome of 22 over-grown millionaire ignorami whose sole skills are associated with the kicking of an inflated pigs bladder through two poles and cashing massive cheques.

And whilst I recognise the rights of other people to enjoy it, why does EVERYTHING jump on to the bandwagon? Even our company rag is issuing a "World Cup Special" next month (like it's going to be collectable), and we're an environmental consultancy.

I'm already fed up with the media saturation levels, and I suspect that by end of June I'll have to sit in a small padded room with my fingers in my ears and scream "lalalalalala" just to get some time off from the national obsession.

(PS - there's a whole ocean's worth of oil being dumped into the Gulf of Mexico, aka "Real News")

derek said...

@David Waldock
i know what you mean, its simply the way the world and media is, our culture is increasingly hype without the substance. I say this as someone who is only slightly looking forward to this world cup as Ireland aren't there, though i do have a definite interest. Unfortunately for you though, its a big deal to billions, so inevitably its going to be milked for everything it is worth.

David Waldock said...


Given there are 6 billion people on the planet, most of whom don't have access to TV are we sure it's BILLIONS?

Millions, I'll grant you!

Caspar Melville said...

You make good points about media saturation and hype David, but I think you're being a little unfair - perhaps we are completely deluded but there is some excitement in our little office about the World Cup because we think, well I think I can't speak for the others, that underneath all the hype and corporate entertaining, and grotesque salaries and bad behaviour somewhere sedimented in a football match is still at least the possibility of wonderful human artistry (Bergcamp), passion, drama, surprise, shame (Beckham), regret, endeavour, bravery, poor judgement (Zidane), gamesmanship, sportmanship, underdog-triumph, national disgrace and sweat. The possibility, that is, of something very human and very wonderful. It doesn't happen often and disappointment is the lot of the England fan (yes I am one, though a conflicted one), but when it does its... sublime (Archie Gemmil, Gaza, Bergcamp - again- Zidane- again, Argentina's 27-pass goal, and, maybe, even, Rooney). There will always be more important news stories happening in the world than anything you choose for entertainment, but that doesn't mean that these dramatic distractions are necessarily worthless. Nor does the fact that you don't care...

David Waldock said...

Fair point, Caspar

It's possible, of course, that a large part of this is associated with extremely negative associations with football when I was younger (largely associated with various forms of abuse [in, coincidentally, an Evangelical Christian school - who was it said that religion poisons everything]).


derek said...

yes billions. at the very least hundred of millions. given that the earths population is at around 6.8 billion as of last year. and considering that it is the worlds most popular sport by a long long way, then yes, i think its reasonable to assume that 2 billion people are interested. What does having a TV got to do with it? I taught in Uganda in a village with no TVs but where people listened to football on the radio.

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