What is the saying? True prophets wait for events to unfold. That is exactly what our dearly beloved reporters do in practically every game. Not only as far as the outcome of the game is concerned, but also the outcome of a single action. Truthfulness? Objectivity? Judgement? All nonsense, not asked. Insofar as an action led to a goal, rows of errors are recognised that inevitably lead to it. But if an action fails, the chain of errors is simply reversed: the attackers couldn’t think of anything, they missed the moment of the pass, crossed too inaccurately, didn’t move properly, were too stubborn or didn’t occupy the outside positions. Any phrase is just good enough to explain that an action either inevitably had to result in a goal or, equally inevitably, nothing could.
If 19 crosses flutter into the penalty area, all of which are cleared by the usually numerically superior back line, which also has advantages in terms of height and robustness, and which is also (see the part about the rules) favoured by the rules, and which is also happy with any direction the ball flies in, except into its own goal, then they were all “badly hit”, “inaccurate” or in general “the wrong means against this back line”. But when the 20th cross then sails in and actually finds an attacker who can even manoeuvre the ball towards the goal and finally overcomes the goalkeeper, then immediately and without taking a breath, let alone conveying tension and drama, the “collective deep sleep” is held responsible.
Most popular, however, is to wait for a clear score – a 2:0 is enough for that today – and then act as a prophet, adding scorn and derision for the loser: “You’d have to be very brave – or crazy — to bet a single cent on them. Not me, anyway.” The sawed-off branch, by the way, is one’s own (wobbly) seat. Not only is it ridiculous to predict a winner when the score is 2-0 in the 70th minute, but you also want to get rid of the last remaining spectator by robbing him of the last bit of suspense by declaring a winner, and you reveal a complete lack of knowledge about today’s betting market and about betting and thinking in terms of probabilities.
As much as this prefaces the following section on betting, at this point it fits too well to omit it: The occurrence of small probabilities happens the more rarely, the smaller the chance. For a chance of 1/100 to occur, it would take an average of 100 attempts to make it happen once; for a chance of 1:10,000, it would take about 10,000 attempts. As little as one may know about the exact values, one feels that something cannot actually happen any more – until it suddenly does happen (once).
But there is a counter-effect to this very improbable occurrence: if it does happen, it causes quite a stir. For the reporter, it is a feast for the eyes, because he would have just the story to offer, he would be there, he would be live on air, exactly such a thing represents the enticement to take up this career path in the first place. It would be a sensation and you would have the chance to capture it for the viewer, listener. Now, if one has already lost it beforehand through inappropriate oracle and then it happens after all, the sensational turnaround – remember the Turkey-Czech Republic match at the 2008 European Championships, when the Turks turned a 0-2 score into a 3-2 at the 70th minute and this match was voted directly among the top 10 matches at major tournaments ever in retrospect –, then one would have scored a truly classic own goal: “Hey, here’s the sensation to watch and nobody listens to me anymore. What’s the point?” Yes, dear friend, you have ensured precisely by hastily burying a team that no one is now listening to you. Serves you right.
By the way, there is a second side effect: if you place a bet on a very improbable event, you are usually rewarded with extremely princely odds. So if you bet on a chance of about 1:100, you can easily achieve odds of 100.0 on today’s betting market, which would promise you a handsome profit of 1,000 euros for a stake of only 10 euros. And it could be worth doing just that, just at the moment when Mr. Smarty-Pants would like to make you believe that it would be completely nonsensical to bet now, the calculation could be worthwhile: Small bet, big profit. If the good man really has never heard of the betting market, it would be urgent not to spread further nonsense. Or, because it is football, does it not matter what the content of the statements is? Even the truth content doesn’t matter?
It is also not so easy to see what the point is of trying to persuade a spectator after the above-described 2:0 in the 70th minute: “The thing is through.” Because: the advantage of being able to count will hardly set him apart from large parts of the population: 1+1 = 2 for some, zero plus nothing for others, equals 2:0. Yes, you can do it. Experience shows that 20 minutes is not such a long time in a football match. Of course, you don’t necessarily want to hear the opposite, i.e. “anything can happen here”. It’s 2-0, it could get pretty tight. Everyone knows it’s going to be tough. With the fortune-telling at this point, the speech bubble can actually only succeed in one thing: To spoil someone’s fun.
To anticipate another topic: An Englishman would perhaps try to captivate the listener at this point as follows, which, by the way, not only reflects one’s own emotional state well, but probably hits everyone’s: “If they want to get something out of this game, they need something quickly.” It can also be said in the 80th minute: “If they want to get something out of this game, they need a goal soon” or something similar. Appropriate, not patronising, the last bit of tension is tried to be preserved, because it’s just that it’s only simmering on the back burner. The only thing is: this man could in any case immediately jump at a falling gate. He had not yet given a funeral speech, because it would simply be pointless. The listener had never fallen asleep and is now straightening up again in his chair: “Wow, yes, maybe that’s the game, maybe it’s really still happening.”
Whereas ours, after the 15 minutes of the swan song for a team and a permanent “it’s not going to work out like that”, has already lost quite a few spectators, finds the few remaining half asleep, and can’t even change the tone of voice any more, or even doesn’t want to. Because: He would contradict himself. “They are dead as a doornail, nothing is coming, not over the wings, not through the middle, no 1-on-1, no finish and the few crosses are also bad, apart from the fact that no one is moving (properly).” And suddenly switch to: “What tension, what a great game, what drama”? No, you can’t. After the 1:2 in the 85th, they continue to bury it, there’s no other way. “The goal comes much too late.” He sings for the final whistle, prays and downright begs for it, so as not to have to throw over the analysis he made long ago.
When, yes, when the 2:2 is finally scored, then, yes, what do you get to hear? It starts with a “everyone was sleeping”. That’s very important and is said directly after every goal conceded. Then comes a chain-of-error analysis of the replay: “he’s just watching, he doesn’t really go to the man, they didn’t have him in mind, then the catastrophic positional error and the goalkeeper is also partly to blame”. Then comes the swan song for those who conceded the goal, who until recently were — well, not heroes, just the one-eyed among the many blind: “They switched off far too early, they’ve already ticked the thing off. Yes, you can’t let yourself down like that. They lacked the final consistency. The coach will be pretty pissed off at his people.” But that’s exactly the attitude he took before the goal was scored. He should be grateful, but rips both performances and drama in all directions. As if he were still angry that there was (at last) a really exciting game.
Another highly popular reporter’s analysis these days is increasingly done during an attack, in which one is told what all is wrong. “Yes, he has to play faster” or “he overlooked the better-positioned …” or “much too much through the middle”, if it’s not the simple “that’s not going to work”. The background to this, but of course not reflected – if it were, it wouldn’t be a bit better – is that one can assume with a fairly high degree of probability that any given attack will not result in a goal. Possession of the ball changes about 300 times per game (an estimate). Every time a party gains possession of the ball, one could speak of a chance to score a goal. Certainly, there are different positions in which to have the ball and thus different sizes of scoring chances. Nevertheless, the estimated value of about 1/100 – 300 times one of the two teams gains possession of the ball (alternately), just under 3 goals are scored per game – represents a good approximation on which the reporter then intuitively relies: This attack will not be a goal. Of course, he is quite right, because it (almost always) really won’t. In this respect, he exposes himself to the risk of having made a mistake for once.
But he is particularly well protected by the following effect: Throughout the attack, he explains what they are doing wrong, the attackers, who has overlooked whom and when, who is not playing fast enough, who cannot assert themselves, who is playing too stubbornly, whose crosses are too imprecise, which striker cannot be seen at all, who has made how many bad passes and who lacks the sparkling ideas or creativity from midfield and that the final pass never arrives anyway and, in addition, the weakness in finishing is very conspicuous when there is a chance. But when it does come, the goal, he immediately overturns the whole thing with the same fervour. Then the defenders get the blame. The corresponding phrases are mentioned above. In any case, they were all guaranteed to have slept. And thus his analysis of the faultiness of the attack is not in doubt. Now both have done everything wrong. That’s not so bad, is it?
The fact that he is basically just playing a very, very cheap game with a few (small) probabilities and, in addition, badmouthing everyone and everything on the side – which, among other things, drags his own offered product into the mire — seems to be of no concern to the gentleman. What would he be able to say if he didn’t know whether an attack had brought in a goal and what the score was? His mouth would probably remain open and not a word would pass his lips. This risk would clearly be too high. To give an analysis of a game scene or a game without knowing the outcome? No, that would not be possible. You would have to know something about football…