Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas and miscellany

Sport Geek #33: the underdog media-cycle and Leicester City

Where are we in the Leicester City media cycle? Every underdog story has four stages. They are:

1) Aberration: when things are too early. A team that is top of the league in September? BFD. No story. Won’t last.

2) Disbelief: is when things have gone on too long for it to be ignored, but no-one can take it properly seriously. The wheels are going to fall off at some point, surely? This can’t go on.

3) Over-hype: it could really happen. It might actually happen. It’s going to happen. It would be a fairytale! Dreams come true. One in the eye for all the big money sides. Note: at this point, there are lots of writers who either go into meta-analysis of all this (including this post, of course), or go contrarian and stick to the disbelief narrative. The longer it goes on, the harder it gets to stay immune from the excitement.

4a) Hindsight is at the end of the season when the underdog club don’t win. Of course they were never going to do it. What were we thinking? Dreams don’t come true. Money talks.
4b) Canonisation is the less-likely alternative, and is the reaction to the underdog actually winning. Reams of stuff about how it makes you believe in miracles, the country needed a boost, MBEs all round. Recent scandals (sex tapes, racism?) are conveniently forgotten about.

We have just switched from disbelief to over-hype. It will hit another level if Leicester beat Arsenal this weekend. Brace yourself.

Fewer stories this week, but all highly recommended.  Continue reading

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Sport Geek #32: angry stag, loving Novak, and football Brexit

First – apologies to anyone who got last-week’s newsletter yesterday. I screwed up a Mailchimp setting. It won’t happen again (promise).

Now to the sport. Novak Djokovic’s win in Melbourne gives tennis an all-too familiar and predictable feel. Which is a shame, as he’s clearly doing everything right. The strange thing is, the storyline should get way more interesting at the French – yet it probably won’t. Were he to win, the criticism will be that he is too good, making the game boring, too dominant. Lose, and it’s 2015 all over again. Lose-lose. At some point in the not-too-distant future, we will miss him. We just can’t see it yet. Continue reading

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Sport Geek #31: the problem with betting data, x3

The tennis fixing debacle has turned from spreadsheet sleuthing to flawed methodologies. For those who have lost track: The BBC and BuzzFeed ran their investigation, but didn’t name names. Dry hump. So everyone worked them out anyway, and it all went sort-of-public. Except, Lleyton Hewitt was named, and let’s face it, he’s the last person on earth who would fix a match. Cue lots of yes-but analysis of strange betting patterns. The only way this is going to get resolved is when we follow the money. More evidence, please. But the right kind.

So to the must-read stories of the week. Continue reading

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Sport Geek #30: in a fix

It’s usually money that corrupts sport. But in the case of tennis, it’s also technology. As I wrote this week in the FT, there are betting exchanges with a huge range of under-the-radar matches where you can bet on set outcomes. It makes match-fixing look incredibly easy. The hope is that the very technology that allows the match-fixing can also help catch it. Readily available data means anyone with a spreadsheet skills can track what’s going on. Surely, if BuzzFeed and the BBC can do it, tennis can monitor itself properly?

Here are the stories of the week: Continue reading

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Sport Geek #29: Yaya no-no; LA-la land; Fifa foe

There are some phrases that, by their very nature, make it very hard for the listener to disagree. They are like putting “right?” on the end of every sentence. At some point, the response needs to be: “wrong” – but that makes you sound aggressive and antagonistic. Right? (see what I did there).

Case in point. When Donald Trump called for a ban on Muslims entering the US, he followed up with: “We have no choice. We have NO choice.” Well, yes we do have a choice, but the battlelines have been drawn in a place you don’t want them. Arguing about choice isn’t the point.

And so to Yaya Touré. Having come second as African footballer of the year, his classless reaction was to ponder: “what can we do?” The obvious response is: “there is no ‘we’. You need to grow up and stop being an arrogant git”. Yet that’s too aggressive. The polite response is to quietly ponder: “Hmm, what can we do?” But that’s giving in. He’s already won if we do that. So while Trump and Touré don’t seem too similar on the surface, they are both very good at framing the debate in their terms. Beware.

And so to this newsletter, which is back after a holiday hiatus. Not comprehensive, but hopefully thoughtful. Enjoy. Continue reading

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Sport Geek #28: Blatini, frisbee, Chelsea

It’s a busy time of year. Let’s crack on, shall we?

FOOTBALL
Mourinho’s gone. Here’s the inside story of how it all unfolded. It all started with Eden Hazard’s injury at Swansea. So who’s to blame? It’s not just Jose, surely. Have the club made an error by sacking him? And can Hiddink (if it is to be him) turn it around?

2015 should be Arsenal’s year to win the title. The other usual suspects won’t all be as weak in the future.  Here’s a look at how topsy-turvy the season has been so far. Much will depend on Ozil and Giroud.

This changed things forever: Bosman, 20 years on.

RIP Jimmy Hill.

Abby Wambach is one of the greatest female football players ever. She’s retiring. Have you heard of her? No, well, she wants you to forget her, anyway.

Heard of Football Leaks? Dutch side F.C. Twente certainly have.

2015 LOL.

FIFA
Blatini banned. But they aren’t sorry. No siree. Not. At. All. But Tim Roth is, at least.  Continue reading

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Sport Geek #27: a betrayal worthy of playing sub-standard football

Jose Mourinho feels betrayed by his players at Chelsea. He did all the hard work, you see, when they won the title, conveniently forgetting the running-about-and-kicking-the-ball-and-scoring-the-goals bit done by those blokes on the pitch. And now they are playing badly, it’s their fault, not his. Credit where it’s due. He can’t be blamed for the biggest reversal of fortune since Max Zuckerberg was born.

So how would you feel right now as a Chelsea player? Motivated to prove him wrong, play your best and move out of the relegation zone? Or poke him in the eye, play like it’s a testimonial, and move out of London? If Mourinho thinks that rubbishing his players will somehow work, it’s a huge gamble. That, or he’s given up too, and might as well take everyone down with him. Brilliant.

And so to the best articles of the week. Continue reading

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Sport Geek #26: Tyson Furore, 140+7, and stop the toss

Glory fades. Just ask Tiger Woods, who is still week after week the subject of speculative articles about his future. Just look at Tyson Fury, who wins those heavyweight titles from Wladimir Klitschko and promptly gets (rightly) pilloried for his sexist and homophobic comments.

The sports person who seems most in tune with the fleeting nature of glory at the moment is Andy Murray. After a huge effort to win the Davis Cup, he put the boot into the LTA and British tennis. That’s good. Right time, right moment to get maximum impact for an important message about your sport. Forget personal glory. It doesn’t last, anyway.

And so to the pick of the week… (in alphabetical order this week) Continue reading

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Sport Geek #25: sleeves, pink balls, and vanishing spray

Just for a change, let’s start with US sports.

BASKETBALL
Just guessing, but I assume Drew Magary isn’t on Kobe Bryant‘s Christmas card list.

What’s with the sleeves? Continue reading

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Sport Geek #24: the undefeated, remembering Lomu, and NK weightlifters

A later edition this week, but some cracking stories. With no further ado: Continue reading

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