Field Theory by Hadyn Green

7

Real Fans

Wellington is currently consumed with the toughest philosophical question ever: who is a real fan of the Hurricanes?

It’s a pretty fucking deep question. As tickets to the final sell out in unbelievable time are the real fans the ones who a) slept in the queue for tickets, b) got priority as season ticket holders, c) paid inflated prices for them on TradeMe, or d) complained online about who weren’t real fans.

That face you make when they swear they were there all year but all you saw were yellow seats. pic.twitter.com/eSUjWRosxV

— Whā Kapow (@Rarerecordings_) June 30, 2015

'Real fans are only the ones who refuse to pay any more than face-value for tickets' - seems kinda stupid, really. #rpt

— Jamie Wall (@JamieWall2) June 30, 2015

Wellington the city of glory supporters. We were using people's spare tickets as beer mats last season.

— Dan Hargreaves (@Raise1glass) June 30, 2015

"I queued for 13 hours to get Hurricanes tickets, and all I got was this shitty bottle of chocolate milk?"

— Ferdy + Slugso (@ruggerblogger) June 30, 2015

Most people I know see the humorous side of the situation but some people are grumpy as fuck about it. WHY WON’T THE GUBBNAMENT STEP IN TO HELP?!

Which is kind of funny in itself. This Government has painted itself into a corner as the “Rugby Government”, everything must be done to make rugby great! After all our PM is the captain of the All Blacks. He’s a real fan™!

I was on a bus after the election and overheard a young man recounting why he voted for “good cunt” John Key: “He went to heaps of [Rugby] World Cup games!” Motherfucker, I went to more games than he did and I paid the same amount of money for my tickets that he did, $0. But at least I was working when I was there.

Where was I going with this? Oh right, there’s no such thing as a real fan, a #1 fan or any other fake metric for determining who likes something more than someone else. Wellington does have a lot of fair weather fans though. Literally.

Watching the Hurricanes play in the summer is much nicer than watching them play in autumn or winter. The Caketin is a freezing cauldron of icy wind and very little rain shelter. Empty yellow seats everywhere. So I can totally understand why the numbers of people wanting to attend games would increase the closer you get to the final. And when have the Hurricanes ever been the in-form team?

The only other time they reached the final, no one saw them lose.

The tickets are so in demand because fans are hoping to see the Hurricanes in the final for the first time ever. pic.twitter.com/QKDxA4WKkc

— post-scott (@buzzandhum) June 30, 2015
0

The World Cup is over

“The Cricket World Cup is officially over.” That’s me quoting myself before New Zealand smashed England in a surprisingly short game in Wellington.

I don’t follow cricket, as many of you know, but it’s bit of fun to watch when we’re doing well and the games are short. So my reasoning for that premature statement on the Cup was based on the what the goal of any World Cup actually is.

World Cups are not about finding out which team is the "Best in the World", and they aren’t even about the more cynical goal of discovering which team is best at making it through a knockout tournament once every four years. World Cups exist solely to further the sport and rake in those television eyeballs.

Well the India versus Pakistan match in Adelaide brought in 1.5 billion viewers (estimated). That’s 21% of the world’s population watching a single sports event. Looking at the world population table, you aren’t going to get a significantly bigger audience for any other event ever (unless China gets really into football and then plays Brazil at the World Cup).

As for furthering the game, Ireland and Bangladesh have already had their boil overs against much higher rated teams. Of course at the Irish match a man was caught relaying info to a betting syndicate. Cricket is gonna cricket I suppose.

Back before the cup actually started I wondered aloud to a friend if the country wouldn’t respond well to a World Cup that we, most likely, won’t win. His response was that we actually were one of the favourites. I raised my eyebrow in reply. Had the “Black Caps aren’t very good” meme disappeared, literally that’s all I really knew about cricket. When NZ won a match it was a big deal because it was never a guarantee.

Now I have a new concern: What do we do if we lose?

14

World Cup of Evil

I'm not sure what theme FIFA was hoping to emphasise at the is world cup, I'll bet good money that it wasn't "villainy". 

Almost as soon as the knock-out stages started the bad guys started their evil works. Perhaps even before then.

Obviously FIFA itself is evil, like the worldwide sporting branch of SMERSH, but that usually doesn't translate directly onto the field. With this in mind, I offer you: The World Cup of Evil!

Making my life easier, I'm going to start with the round of 16. This means I don't get to include Cristiano Ronaldo. So before I kick off (see what I did there?) I'd like to make a quick mention of the Portuguese striker.

From what I understand, the English really don't like Cristiano Ronaldo, FIFA's player of the year. But they seem to not like him in the same way they don't like huge binging nights out drinking. They publically scorn him, then chuckle quietly remembering all the cool things he does.

His main issue seems to be diving, which he does at a rate that looks similar to other players. (Portugal in general has a similar time taken per "fake injury" as England in the graph below that I made from WSJ data). 

Let's be honest, it's probably this though.

Round of 16

Chile v Brazil - Winner: BRAZIL

While I don't particularly think the Brazilians are evil, the Chileans are just so damn nice!

Colombia v Uruguay - Winner: URUGUAY

Yeah he wasn't playing, but Uruguay has a guy who bit another guy! Then they complained that FIFA didn't let him play any more, suggesting instead to just wheel him on the field like this.

France v Nigeria - Winner: DRAW (France on penalities)

No ones really complaining much about these teams so France wins a scoreless draw because they take so much time when they draw penalties.

Germany v Algeria - Winner: GERMANY

It was once said "Nobody who speaks German could be evil" and I'd like to believe that. But the Algerian goalkeeper was just so damn cool, that I can't let them keep going in the evil tournament.

Netherlands v Mexico - Winner: NETHERLANDS

Robben, admits diving in the game against Mexico, then says: "In recent days there has been a lot of talk about diving and actually I’m tired of this bullshit." I don't think that's how it works after you admit something. "I'm really tired of every talking about me shooting someone after I admitted I shot someone."

Greece v Costa Rica - Winner: GREECE

Austerity measures reach sport as the Greek team constantly plays for 0-0 draws.

Argentina v Switzerland and USA v Belgium - Winner?

(I can't see too much anger aimed at these teams so I'm just going to flat out ignore this whole arm of the bracket and assume the USA makes it to the semifinals simply for teasing a whole lot of fans who otherwise couldn't care less about football.)

Quarterfinals

Brazil v Uruguay - Winner: URUGUAY

So not only did Suarez bite the Italian guy, he's bitten a bunch of other people and may be racist. No matter how silly Neymar and friends act, they have yet to place part of another person in their mouths with intent to injure. And even after he bites the Italian, Suarez falls to the ground holding his mouth seemingly to claim he had been fouled.

...

You know what, let's just skip to:

The Final

A packed stadium holds it breath in anticipation for:

Uruguay v Netherlands

The Netherlands play the entire game while lying on the ground should an Uruguayan player near them. While left alone though, the Dutch play with pure skill and excitement, causing fans to truly believe that this is a good team and not, as it turns out, terrible, awful people.

In the meantime Uruguay, continually annoyed at giving away penalties to the Dutch, continue their simple game plan of "get the ball to Suarez" (as this is the evil World Cup, he hasn't been banned, but will instead win the Golden Boot.) Should Suarez be sent off, the Uruguayan team will pack a collective sad, but he won't be today.

Instead he launches face first at Robben during a corner, jaws open wide. Sadly he misses completely, causing Robben to fall and be awarded a free kick.

...

All fiction aside though, it's quite odd watching these games and watching so many of the players diving. Especially when you see that players, like Neymar, actually getting quite badly injured. I get the fall down if you're tripped thing, because maybe the ref doesn't see it, but to then writhe as though your body is aflame, is so bizarre. 

Full disclosure: I'm doing very poorly in my tipping pool.

21

It has started

I really am quite bad at this. I figured that the World Cup would start Friday night because I don’t understand how time works. FIFA went and opened the largest sporting event of the year on a Thursday, clearly undeterred by the possibility of low attendance.

Still arriving at work to see the game stream live on TVNZ (despite pretty crap quality) was a blessing. The fact that the game was fun to watch was also fantastic. The Croatian keeper was making some great saves, right up until the point where he decided to stop doing that.

The new spray paint from the referee was kind of cool, and I personally cannot wait until one of them accidentally draws a penis. Speaking of the ref, I missed the penalty, but some grumpy folks on twitter called bullshit, and that FIFA had “talked” to the ref.

And then the Croatian coach threw his toys about a game that they were going to lose in any case.

Croatia manager Niko Kovac on the match: 'We better give it up now and go home. We talk about respect, Croatia didn't get any."

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 12, 2014

Frankly I’m just glad the stadium was finished.

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I was planning to talk about all the wonderful adverts you get before the World Cup.

Like this my favourite one from Nike:

And Beats by Dre try to capture the essence of the pre-game ritual:

Adidas on the other hand seem to think that this is entertaining:

Or that adding a bit of Kanye West will make it edgy:

McDonalds at least seems to understand that when the World Cup is in Brazil that we want to see some flair:

I’m mainly surprised no one didn’t just flat out recreate these ads from the 90s

Oh those were the days, when football teams could run unfettered through minimal airport security.

15

Call it what you will

The World Cup starts on Friday and we are all so very eager to see it, then see it end.

As is always the case with large, four-yearly sporting events, there are two parts. Obviously there is the wonderful spectacle of the sport which we stay up late with a cup of Milo to watch. And then there's the heart-breaking waste of resources and potential abuses of human decency that is the running of the thing.

John Oliver has done himself proud explaining the “sausage principle” of it here:

FIFA is a maggot-riddled piece of filth, in my humble estimation. A group that is in charge of something known as the “beautiful game” that have a vested interest in keeping up that appearance, while all the time raking in as much money as they can. (See also: IOC)

With my disgust noted, I am still actually pretty keen on the World Cup. Here is a chart of my excitement levels (x) over time (t):

The first big dip you see is the first time someone takes a dive. That second dip is when after the millionth dive or hand ball or whatever, I am told to my face that “this is how the game works” or “rugby’s worse for cheating” or some other crap to try and smooth over what essentially a pretty broken part of the game.

And yet, I’ll be there, Milo in hand, watching the games hoping Germany wins (cause fuck, why not?).

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Now because this is me, you possibly think I’ll do some stupid thing where I look at and rank the uniforms. HAHAHA! No. Instead I’m going to point you at Nate Silver’s wonderful sabermetricising of soccer and its associated interactive chart. The tl;dr is Brazil wins and is paying $3.50 at the T.A.B. if you’re curious.

I read Moneyball recently (and recommend it strongly to anyone who likes professional sports) and as I did my mind wondered what other sports you could do this to. Cricket was top of my list, followed by football… IF you can get the data, and I’m not wholly convinced you can. Moreover, “moneyballing” predictions (and predictions in general) get incredibly iffy when it comes to knock-out tournaments (see: All Blacks 1991-2007).

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So where will you be watching this spectacle? Probably on TVNZ or the internet, because, like me, you’ve realised that Sky Sport is a rort and that FIFA don’t really need any more money.

But will they call it football or soccer? The NZ Herald seems to think you give a shit about this. And if you are one of those grumpy motherfuckers with British accents at the pub wearing a Phoenix jersey and trying to elbow me out of the way while I’m waiting to be served, then you probably do.

In fact it doesn’t really matter. Like aluminum/aluminium the words are mired in creations and Anglo-American tensions from before anyone currently alive ever existed and frankly by this stage every knows what they both mean, so feel free to use them interchangeably… or use soccer when you feel like trolling your friends who insist on football.

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I'm sure I'll be less cynical when the games actually start, let me consult my chart...