- Missing Link
- The Club
Chelsea Birmingham, 0-0, second half well underway and I’m beginning to think, ‘Come on guys, you’re all over them, don’t screw this up now.’ When what should flash across the screen but a small statistic stating quite simply “2nd half possession: Birmingham 24% Chelsea 76%”
Well, much like you I suppose, I looked at that stat in amazement. I stared in awe at those numbers, at the time on the clock, at the score… I couldn’t believe it. Someone, somewhere, was sitting at a computer at that very moment, clicking a stopwatch and working out who had the better part of the possession.
Wow! That’s a job. That’s a way to spend an afternoon. I mean, I thought there were some pretty thankless tasks out there, proof of at least one being Claudio Pizza Man’s haircut, but really, sitting in an office starting stopwatches has got to take the biscuit.
Then I thought, come off it man, don’t be ridiculous, there’s no way one guy is responsible for that. It’ll have to be done by computers, or some sort of digital set-up. But no, I’ve seen photos and his hair really is that pube like. I joke of course, if Pizza Man turned up at my door with a Domino’s I’d check the seal on the box I tell you… on time delivery or not, I’m not taking any short and curlys in my quattro formaggi.
And yet think about it (the stats thing I mean, not the Pizza Man’s head pubes) how could a computer do it? This isn’t a computer game; it can’t tell who’s on whose side. Only a person can decide. And then I got to thinking about the complexities behind the possession stats. How do you decide who really has possession? I mean, of course if Ashley Cole is haring down the flank, pulls off a cheeky one-two and then runs it out for a goal kick, that’s clear enough. But what about a shot blocked that loops into the air for two seconds? Who do those two seconds belong to? The person who touched it last, the person most likely to retrieve it, or the guy who took the shot? And what about through-balls that don’t quite work? When do they cease to be one team’s possession and become another’s?
Now I know what you’re probably thinking by this stage, you’re probably thinking leave Pizza Man alone, it’s not his fault he’s got puby hair. But I say, wait a second, take another look at those glistening shiny ringlets and ask yourself, how does he get them so shiny? I think a steady application of Soul Glow may be the culprit, and who’s responsible for that? But we’re getting sidetracked again; the point is those tiny, indecipherable moments can’t possibly be counted in the possession stat, they’re too ambiguous and so must be left aside. The stat can only offer a broad overview of who’s had most long-standing control of the ball.
Which, frankly underlines the thanklessness of the task. That guy in the booth with the stopwatches is sitting there, beavering away, and what does he get for it? The simple, unarguable line: “Yeah well, who cares what the possession is? It’s what you do with it that counts.” And he’s right, whoever said that, the possession stat is basically useless. Ironically, it would seem, it is indeed those tiny seconds of fifty-fifty balls, of quick one-twos that might just set Anelka through on goal, those immeasurable instants, that make the result. Talk about a thankless task.
Then, out of nowhere, as the epiphany was brightening my thoughts, a corner swings in and for one fraction of a second Pizza Man pops his noggin into the frame, Keeps sees something dark and curly on the ball and thinks I’m not touching that, and it’s a tidy one nil victory to the boys.
To paraphrase Dusty Springfield: “The only boy who could ever please me, was a puby-haired Pizza Man… Yes he was, he was, ooh yes he was.”