Because Data?

Possibly conflating two things inappropriately but they are linked at an information level.

Games evolve as their rules are evolved. I call it the John Terry effect. When Terry made the overt calculation that a non-violent “professional foul”, perpetrated on other than the last man with a scoring opportunity, wouldn’t get him sent off, and therefore he would commit the foul and take a yellow-card “for the team” …. he was sent off. Applying the rule, in prior knowledge of the rule – being a smartass – changes the rule. (Ungentlemanly conduct is about bad faith in relation to a rule, not about knowing the facts of the rule.)

That’s evolution, by definition.

Jermain Jenas is intelligent. No amount of information will make Harry Kane as intelligent (or John Terry for that matter). The more is known about the game (eg statistical data), the more how it’s played will evolve, the more its rules will evolve in response AND the less current knowledge will successfully predict its future outcomes.

That’s a game, by definition.

Short-term Jenas will probably be a better pundit than his current older peers (old dogs, new tricks is surely as old as the hills). But that’s because he’s intelligent. Don’t believe the big-data hype.

“There’s an expression: when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Computers are our hammers right now.”

(And if you’re interested in football, Inverting the Pyramid is a great book on how successful footballing strategies inexorably fail. It’s all in the game. Even Eco on Italian Fascism invokes Wittgenstein on games.)


[Post Note: And who knew?

Later that same day, yesterday, we now have the Harry Kane and the VAR meme doing the rounds. All games depend on the possibility of bad decisions and actions by players and officials – they wouldn’t be a game otherwise. There’s a kind of sweet-spot between the predictable and unpredictability of outcomes that makes for a “good” game. It’s why the rules of long-running popular games (like football) need to evolve over time, to keep play in that sweet-spot and audiences interested, as technologies and tactics evolve. Three points for a win, the back-pass rule and of course the (apocryphal) offside rule. Often subtle changes are not to the rules (or laws) but to the guidance on how they are applied, handling benefits of the doubt. There are many variables for a wise FA to tweak.

Sometimes technology or extra eyeballs are introduced to reduce doubts – enter VAR. Sometimes specific doubts (goal-line technology), sometimes doubt in general (VAR linked invisibly to the ref’s wrist).

Firstly can I say, it was a dire game by the England team after an encouraging first 20 minutes, and as is normal in international football (which I rarely watch these days*), the refereeing was dire anyway. Kane gets MotM because he scores two goals (!) not because Trippier was the best England player on the pitch by a mile (Khazri was the best player on the pitch). How Young and Sterling even get selected ahead of Rose and Rashford is beyond me, but I digresss. Back to the refereeing: No discipline and control generally, tolerating too much disrespect from the players (see Terry-effect) and too many decisions given to England (eg for Tunisia offside). What was meant to be new was the VAR, but few people, least of all the refs (and possible even the VAR teams themselves) appear to know how it is meant to be used. It will take time – that’s evolution.

The problem was the lack of respect. Blatant rugby tackles on Kane at all set-pieces nonchalantly ignored by the ref as the players knew he would. Crap refereeing spoils a game, even for “winners” – see sweet-spot. The VAR never even invoked to help make any call (few of us will know how or why, there is no public “challenge a decision” concept). The talk is not about the quality of VAR decisions, but about their obvious absence, either way. Nothing marginal or sweet-spot about that. Nothing to do with any game. Apart from artistry of the likes of a Messi or a Hazard (or hopefully a Salah) all the value in any game is in its marginal decisions.

When all you have is a computer every problem is a nail in football’s coffin.]

[(*) Prefer real football in championship and football leagues. Where boys (naive) are men (respectful) and goalposts are jumpers …. well maybe not.]

[Post Note: When it comes to philosophy in football,  David Papineau

Seems I am in good company.]

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