Monday, 8 October 2007

Tragic Vindication

Sadly, I was right; the All Blacks lost to France. The details of my prediction were a little off, but the irrational reactions I expected are appearing now.

The core irrationality is the belief that if you lose a close rugby game, there must be some fundamental reason, some fundamental failure that could have and should have been prevented. This ignores role of chance and circumstances beyond the team's control, which is clearly huge. Refereeing decisions alone can account for a large margin in almost every game. If success requires eliminating the possibility of losing, then a truly successful team would have to win almost every game by 20 points. No team in rugby has ever been that good.

I hope that NZ rugby fans put this in perspective and satisfy themselves with crushing all and sundry between World Cups. Some people also need to get it into perspective with life in general.

A more general lesson: sometimes you can do everything right and you still don't win. Corollary: if you don't win, that doesn't mean you did something wrong ... and you shouldn't panic and make changes unnecessarily. I hear that this is a lesson that poker players need to learn early.


  1. I think it was a great match from the All Blacks, and be assured that we were hardly breathing for the last 3 minutes: we were muttering "hold on, hold on, no fault, no penalty, hold on"... Both teams were frantically trying to win, and had the ball been a bit more or a bit less slippery, everything would have changed.
    What is good for NZ is that everybody said they had some great individualities and a poor defence; in fact they were really good at preventing any move by the french, with a really good air play.
    Each time (be it the NZ tries or the french ones) it wasn't really a defence error but rather a great achievement by the ones that succeeded in slipping through the defence.
    All in all, a great match, even as we thought we would loose till the end... fearing to be crushed by a try, or even a drop.
    Now we will have to beat England, which was also unexpected, to say the least...

  2. The old saw is that true sportsmen, or sportswomen, show character by accepting loss even when they did their best, especially if the officials ruled questionably. I miss that approach to character-revealing sports -- or I would, if we had good character to reveal (no need to list all the disgraced and dubious yet overpaid U.S. stars here).