Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Soccer thoughts

As I'm watching the conclusion of round robin play in Euro 2008, I got to thinking: Is there less trash talking in sports where the native languages differ? You could construct a fractionalization index for each sport if you really wanted; don't you think this might have to do with the level of jawing between the players? Wouldn't you say trash talking in NBA basketball has gone down over the last 5 years? Haven't more international players entered into the mix? Yes, I know they can speak English, but if I were in Spain I wouldn't feel comfortable yakking in my broken Spanish.

Also-- my soccer knowledge is slowly increasing, but what's with this "2-0 is the worst lead you want to have; most people would prefer 1-0." Huh? The idea is that your team plays a bit more relaxed; in any case, it's ludicrous. It's along the lines of "a damp sponge holds more water than a dry one." That always frustrates me. Whatever amount of water makes the dry sponge a damp sponge, so long as its nonzero, necessitates a dry sponge hold more than a damp sponge. What usually isn't said is that they are probably referring to the ability of a damp sponge to take in a fixed amount of water quicker than a dry sponge. At least I hope so; that could be argued. Saying it simply holds more is just ignorant. Similarly, whatever marginal advantage you gain from having a 2 goal lead-- even if nothing more than it takes a minute off of the clock-- gets added to the 1-0 lead advantage and you're strictly better off. Don't buy momentum arguments; if that holds any value, you could slippery slope yourself to a 10-0 lead bring inferior to a 1-0 lead.

For what it's worth, Spain and the Netherlands have looked strongest, and Switzerland and Austria both failed to capitalize on the usually-substantial home country advantage and will be watching the knockout phase from home. (Well, they'd be at home anyway, but they won't be playing.)

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