A Blog Post by @christheneck
Many years ago I came up with something I call “pessimistic optimism”. I hope for one particular result or another, but presume that it won't happen. If the result happens I'm happy; if not I was right. I can't lose. I'm told this is an unhealthy way to think however as a lifelong Aston Villa fan it has served me very well.
Although I would have liked England to win the 2010 World Cup my suspicions that the hype surrounding England's qualification had little solid foundation were confirmed firstly by this book and of course secondly by the results.
I first came across this book, written by an economist and a sports journalist, when it was featured on Tim Harford's BBC Radio 4 programme, More or Less
These questions along with many more are answered in full, predominantly with background and source based and statistical evidence with credible (and credited) origins. All except the Heskey one – no-one knows. Pre-tournament I tried to counter the “Play Heskey because, although he doesn't score, Rooney plays better” argument with the fatuous example of “Play someone who can't stop a shot/cut off a pass/mark a striker next to Terry so he plays better” and then Upson came along and Terry fell apart too. I digress.
There are many fun parts to the book. There is an explanation of how
The authors deconstruct the myths of football as big business, the benefits of high priced players, the necessity of a manager getting anywhere near the bank book, and the idea that the dominance of the big 4 (or is it now 3) is a “bad” thing. From a skeptical point of view it is amusing to see so may questions of “Why is it done like this?” answered with “Because that's the way we've always done it.”
More serious issues are covered regarding the battle against racism toward black players in this country and when monetary equality was finally reached (a lot later than you may think) and which sections of society are currently still excluded, whether footballing successes or failures affect suicide rates and whether the shared happiness of a nation hosting a tournament can make up for the horrendous costs of hosting one.
Amongst these many other things it shows, in detail, that the results
I would recommend this book as both informative, readable and fun but with the following reservation. As in many things skeptical it will be difficult, nigh impossible, to discuss its contents with anyone down the pub who knows anything about football. They won't believe a word of it.
Chris Richardson is a skeptic, atheist, musician, cook, gardener, and sci-fi and comedy nerd who lives in Staffordshire.