Penalties is no way to decide a match like that

Full disclosure, I care very little for football. In fact, one of the earliest posts on this blog details the tricks you can employ in TweetDeck to remove all mention of the game from your feed in times of national obsession. What do you know, they still work!

However, as The IT Crowd demonstrated, there are times when it is important to be able to hold your own in a conversation over a subject about which you have spent a long time cultivating ignorance. So, to aid my fellow geeks who have difficulty telling team sports apart (not helped by the fact that we’re being simultaneously bombarded by football, tennis, cycling, and the impending Olympics), I give you my phrase of the day and a nugget of insight that becoming a teacher has taught me.

Penalties is no way to decide a match like that.

Even I know that 1:1 is a draw. Either that or a certainty if you’re looking at probabilities. Or actual size, if it’s a measurement of scale. But in today’s conversations, more likely a draw. So that’s a close-fought match. According to the rules of the tournament as explained to me by my wife who had them explained to her by someone who understands these things, if it’s a draw after 90 minutes (which is a long time to be running around after a ball even if that is all you’re paid to do, and even though you do get a sit down and an orange at half time) it goes to extra time. Another half an hour. That’s 2 hours running around after a ball. In my heyday I could do a half-marathon in 2 hours, so these guys are doing more than that, I suspect. That wiped me out for days! If it’s still a draw after that it goes to 1d6 penalties. Unclear whether it’s 5 or 3 and, strangely, the rules as written don’t make it any clearer! (Top tip! If you’re going to search up stuff you wouldn’t want to influence your next search, use DuckDuckGo or Qwant). And finally, after that if it’s still a draw, then you get some form of sudden death thingy where they add Total Wipeout obstacles to the field, or throw in a muiltiball bonus, or something like that.

So, in a nutshell, if you’re tied after 120 minutes, it ceases to be a team game and becomes 1v1. And that, in my Star Trek is better than Star Wars opinion, is why penalties is no way to decide a match like this.

We should be proud of our national team, win or lose

Again, I know little of these things but a team made up of the best players eligible to represent England (not Great Britain, not the UK, just England) reached the final of a major competition. That’s a pretty decent performance. And the man in charge looks professional and, according to TES articles, is a decent bloke with good ideas we can adopt in the classroom. Anyone using sport as a reason to be racist, destructive, or generally an unpleasant human being is consuming oxygen they really don’t need to. Someone put a call in for the Inquisitor to have them replaced. Actually, anyone using anything as a reason for the above needs to be replaced.

It’s a great learning opportunity – it shows you can try your absolute hardest and still not win. It’s a valuable lesson for many in accepting defeat graciously, acknowledging a battle well fought, and as Kipling put it, meeting Triumph and Disaster and treating those two impostors just the same (I paraphrase. If is really rather wonderful).

I am an outlier

In teaching, we strive to teach to the top of the class and differentiate to make sure the rest can rise to the challenge. A rising tide lifts all boats and all that. Often, though, you find yourself teaching for the majority of the class and adding additional stretch and challenge for the outliers. The majority of the country appear to have some fondness for this game, it brings them (mostly) pleasure as long as their side wins. It’s people like me who spent the first part of yesterday’s match time watching Good Omens again and the rest of it in bed reading, only finding out the score this morning, who are the outliers.

We’re the unusual ones! The ones who get nothing from “the beautiful game”. Hell, there are going to be jokes in Unseen Academicals that I’ll never get, and that makes me somewhat sad. I mean, I get most of the musical references in Soul Music, the movie references in Moving Pictures, but there are going to be football references in Unseen Academicals going straight over my head, no matter how good my reflexes are.

Now I suspect I will never understand fully why teams playing sports brings so much to so many people, but that’s alright. It’s knowing that it does that’s important. It’s recognising that this is their Doctor Who, their Star Trek, their Ministerio del Tiempo, and joining in their happiness. They’re geeks! Just like me. Only their chosen geek topic is different to mine. And that, at the end of the day, when all is said and done, and when all 120 minutes have been played in a game of two halves and a few other bits, is okay.

Penalties is still a rubbish way to settle the competition, though.

By John Clayton

Father of 5, husband to a wonderful wife, cook, geek. Software gardener in the wilds of Lincolnshire. Coder, Ninja Poet (apparently).

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