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The Locker Room
Bob Gould Sprays Gerard Henderson
War and Peace
A Strange Light
A Little History
Does It Have To Be?
The Locker Room
The Numbers Game
It has been noticed by those that care that sport is a good outlet for the repressed frustrations of would be sociopaths. Sport does offer something for obsessive compulsives and their fellow travelers (i.e. crazy people), and that something is statistics.
I mean, how fascinating can it be to discover how many tackles a player makes in a given season? I suspect if asked most players would answer "a bloody lot", while their coaches would reply "not enough".
While stats junkies may gasp in horror it must be said - do the numbers mean anything. What other activity this side of accounting (which may or may not be a sport) is so heavily dependent on numbers?
Alas, statistics are no substitute for life. The most is seldom the best and many a game has swung on one or two incidents, rather than reams of statistics. Then there is also that certain indefinable something: call it charisma, call it psyche, call it Cliffy Lions - but there is a metaphysical side to sport that can never be captured by numbers. You may as well introduce statistics as a way of measuring art, but then again accountants have already done that.
We here in the Locker Room firmly believe that what sport needs is something like the old counting system of one, two and many, so favoured by cave dwellers in Europe during the recent cold snap about 10,000 odd years ago. The advantage of this is that it would suit most forwards. In addition, it would put an end to the gibberish that certain commentators go on with when they start spouting these numbers like some demented actuary.
"Hollywood" Greg Hartley, the self-effacing Rugby League Referee, made an artform of not being able to count. Who can forget Manly scoring on the seventh tackle?
Statistics have come to the fore for your humble correspondent in recent weeks. The ambivalent nature of the television coverage of Rugby League and Australian football so far this season; the test series in the West Indies; and the release of this year's version of Ye Olde Wisdene Almanacke For Ye Recordes Of Thofe Playing At Ye Crickete have all conspired to promote the banality of numbers.
Wisden is, of course, an institution. It has more numbers than a phone book but isn't nearly as interesting. An invaluable resource for those that have too much time on their hands. It's the sort of thing that John Howard enjoys. Cricket For Dummies it is not.
Wisden this year has come up with the "astonishing" statistic (aren't they all!) that the boy from Penrith, Richie Benaud, has seen 486 Test matches - almost one-third of all Tests played.
Wonderful stuff that.
Does this tell us that Richie is the most dedicated cricket fan of all time, or that he should get out more?
Then there is the test series in the Windies. Commentators reel off statistics about grounds as if it has some impact on the event appearing before us. Of course the Windies will have won three of the last five at any given venue if they had Garner, Marshall and Richards in the three sides that won. It means diddly if they have some batspersons they found hanging around the carpark facing a bowling attack that's quicker than a Melbourne summer.
Then there's the TV scheduling for the Rugby League this year. Nine obviously trusted their statistics to program games, and Packers footsoldiers got caught with their shorts down because the best story in Rugby League has been coming out of the nation's capital. No one thoguhbt that the Green Machine would have the impact that they did. Why? They believed the statistics.
As for the AFL coverage, the poetry of a long sweeping movement in defence culminating in a spectacular grab across the half forward line and a snap on goal is being drowned in numbers. Who cares if Nathan Buckley runs eight k's in a match - its what he does while he's running that matters.
If statistics meant anything then something paying in the vicinity of $72.50 would never greet the judges at Hawkesbury - which happens.
Mind you, the bible may counsel us that the race does not always go to the swiftest, nor the fight to the strongest, but that is the way to bet.
As the coach who's "taking iut one week at a time" will tell you, the only stat that matters is the score at full time.
Phil Doyle - knocking on with the line wide open.
PS - The Locker Room dips its collective lid to "Possom" Bourne, the Kiwi rally driver. A personable chap, Bourne put a human face to hooning around state forests and will be sadly missed.
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