October 02, 2008

Did they deserve to win?

Have you ever watched a sporting contest where the winning team didn't deserve to win? Maybe they won because of a fluke, maybe they won because of a bad call by the officiating staff. Maybe they just played badly the whole game and were redeemed at the end by a score that flattered them?

Did that team deserve to win?

- When looking at things like this you have to worry about things such as bias: Did the team that win beat YOUR team? Whether it's football, rugby, cricket, basketball, baseball, or any one of the dozens of team sports that you can follow, there is always the thinking that YOUR team deserved to win more than the other team. That's what sporting rivalries are all about after all.

- Is your impression of the game clouded by a couple of bad plays? Maybe the winning team actually played really well but a couple of bad plays soured your impression of how they played. How many times have you caught yourself saying "With a second half like that they didn't deserve to win. They couldn't hit a damn thing"? Do you conveniently forget that the first half was actually quite a stellar performance?

- Maybe the team didn't deserve to win, but what about the opposition? If they played badly enough to let the other team win, then surely the winning team deserved it? I mean if your team played so badly that an underperforming opposition team won, then maybe your team didn't deserve to win and the opposition did!

Let's take a look at a couple of recent examples:

-The Ryder Cup. Did the American's deserve to win? Some say yes', some say 'no'. I know that maybe the Europeans had a couple of putts that went the wrong way and that made a difference. Was the partizan crowd to blame? Lee Westwood said he thought the crowd behaviour was disgusting and shameful. Boo Weekly certainly got the crowd involved in games he played. But at the end of the day both teams played excellent golf and Europe came up short.

- The NFL : Colts vs Jacksonville. As I've mentioned before on this blog, I watch the NFL and follow the Indianapolis Colts. In their recent match-up against the Jacksonville Jaguars they had the game sewn up when they came from behind and scored with a minute and a half left to go. They then, successfully, stopped Jacksonville from capitalising on this by forcing a 'turnover on downs'. Except Freddy Keiaho on the Colts was penalised for a  pass interference call. Replays showed it was unintentional but it still it gave the ball back to Jacksonville and they made another couple of small pays before handing the ball to their kicker who scored the winning field goal. On that basis many feel that the Jauars didn't deserve to win. But it has to be said that Indianapolis played badly most of the game. They were kept off the field by a much stronger team for most of the match and managed to get back with one or two 'good' plays that turned the game. Did they deserve to win?

- Formula One: Fillipe Massa drives out of his pit box with his fuelling rig still attached! Replays showed that it looked like the problem was related to the light system controlling the exit. It clearly indicated 'green for go' while the fuelling rig was still attached. He floored the accelerator, pulled out in front of an incoming car - narrowly avoiding an accident - and trailed the fuel hose down the full length of the pit lane before stopping and letting his pit crew race up on foot and detach it. He went from first (and well ahead) to 13th and out of it. Without that incident it was an almost sure bet that he would have won the race. He was faster than anyone else on the track and he had been better across the whole weekend. Fernando Alonso went on to win the race. But did he deserve to win? It's worth remembering that Ferrari (Massa's team) chose to use the light system in their pits rather than the old fashioned human-controlled paddle. As a result they Ferrari team lost, not just Massa....

It's never an easy thing to consider "Did they deserve to win", but sometimes in life you have to take a pragmatic view and say "The team that won deserved to win because the team that lost didn't beat them".

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