Rob Minto

Sport, data, ideas

Month: September 2015

Sport Geek #16: Yogi quotes, 4×5≠5×4, and a nice tash

“Where did it all go wrong?” is always a good question in sport. For the England rugby team, sadly this isn’t one of the George Best variety. They were leading Wales by ten points mid-way through the second half. Of the World Cup. At home. And due to a terrible run of injuries, Wales had players out of position all over the place. Yet they lost.

So where did it all go wrong? Were Wales inspired, or did England freeze? Should they have settled for a kick to get the draw (yes, obviously in hindsight)? These questions could go on forever. Losses like this one are especially hard to bear, as you can’t work out why. It’s the complicated ones that hurt.

But before England are written off, remember that France lost two pool matches in 2011, and still nearly won the whole thing. England can move on in two ways: either work out what went wrong against Wales, and put it right; or work out what was going right, and do more of that. I’d suggest the latter might be quicker. Roll on Australia. Continue reading

Sport Geek #15: wind-ups, genius, and Corbynomics

Sport exists in a paradox. There is “spirit of the game”, the uncoded ethics of conduct, played out in the media. And there are the rules. The two don’t always sit very comfortably.

In golf, ethics are probably more important than in any other sport. Without the hurly-burly contact of most other games, there is no room for heat-of-the-moment, getting-carried-away excuses. The competitive spirit must be kept in check.

Which makes the actions of the European player Suzann Pettersen so controversial. Close putts are conceded in matchplay golf – that’s what you do. So to call an opponent out for picking up their ball when just 18 inches from the cup is clearly bad. Her apology was a good idea (when it eventually came).

The funny thing is, I’ve watched golf matches where, as things get tense, short putts aren’t given. It’s understandable. It’s also part of the game to be able to put your opponent under pressure.

It’s also the letter of the law. Should players reject the law just because that’s what has gone before? Why should Australian cricket captain Steve Smith be criticised for the Ben Stokes appeal when he obstructed the field and used his hand to stop the ball hitting the stumps?

In the Stokes case, it was a debatable decision. So that’s what the umpires are for – to make the call. It is naive to think we can do away without referees at the top level of sport, and have players walk when out, make their own line calls, say when they have hand-balled and so on. Nice idea; ain’t gonna happen.

Which brings us to Diego Costa. Does he play within the spirit of the game? He certainly oversteps the rules of the game now and then. But is there a validity to being a wind-up merchant? England rugby hooker Brian Moore used to be praised for his ability to antagonise the French. Is Costa so different (even if his teammates also call him a cheat)?

And so to the best sports writing of the week: Continue reading

Sport Geek #14: upsets, green cards and blood

When Serena Williams lost at the US Open, falling short of the calendar Grand Slam, I was gutted. But on reflection, it’s a good thing: it stops Serena being called the greatest of all time without question, when she clearly isn’t (see below); and it’s a great reminder that upsets are key to sport. Without them, it’s dullsville.

Which brings us to the Rugby World Cup. An All Blacks victory is obviously the smart prediction, but the 2011 edition aside, it’s been a great world cup when New Zealand don’t win.

And so to Chelsea, whose title defence is already in ruins. Nobody saw that coming. You can’t win the season after five games – but can you lose it? I suspect so.

Read / click on for the best sports pieces of the last week or so. Continue reading

Sport Geek #13: villains, stress and YouTube

Something of a summer recap, this one, after a month’s break. Happy reading. Continue reading

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