Sunday 24 June 2007
Quite a weekend. The highlight was being naughty by heading over to my mate's place at 1am to watch the All Blacks play the Springboks. The game was brilliant, well worth staying up for --- there's nothing like a last-minute come-from-behind victory! More games like this and TV viewers will be wishing for their own rest-and-reconditioning program. The All Blacks looked good but they need to carry on from here and reduce the error rate under pressure.
It's interesting how important luck is in sports --- I think its impact is highly underrated. A lot of games are decided by the bounce of a ball, referee decision or other incidents over which players have little control. But after a game which could have gone either way, you hear a lot of comments which would not have been made if the result had been different --- often focusing on the virtues of the winner and the deficiencies of the loser. This seems illogical, although natural.
Consider luck in the design of sports tournaments. In the America's Cup, there's a round-robin series followed by one-on-one semifinals, challenger final, and the actual Cup match. The latter three rounds are each decided by the best of nine races. In the Rugby World Cup, there's pool play (largely meaningless), followed by quarter-final, semi-final, and final rounds, each of which is just a single match! I think it's safe to conclude that thanks to this design, luck plays a much greater role in the RWC. Consider a rugby team that beats any other team 80% of the time; it would clearly be the world's dominant team, but its chance of winning the RWC is actually just a fraction over 50%. On the other hand an America's Cup team with an 80% chance of winning any given race after the round-robin is almost certain to win the Cup (94% likely, in my very simple model). I think other long-suffering All Blacks supporters will agree that the RWC format is not ideal...
This weekend's weather was typical Auckland: sunshine and rain alternating at high frequency. We visited Mt St John again for a quick walk on Saturday; it's one of the smaller volcanic cones around here, but I like it because it's quiet, has good views, and thanks to its size and geography (the distraction of much larger Mt Eden and Mt Hobson nearby?) is hardly noticeable even though it's nestled in the heart of the city between Newmarket, Epsom and Remuera. I think that I commuted to school between Remuera and Newmarket for five years without actually realizing it was there.
Today we got our fix visiting Mangere Mountain for the first time ever. It's actually really impressive. The crater is enormous, with high steep walls and a cute little lava dome in the middle --- a feature I haven't seen anywhere else in the Auckland volcanic field. There's two separate explosion pits at the bottom. The view looking up and down Manukau Harbour is really great; it's neat seeing Auckland from a southern vantage point. Unfortunately I can't post a photo because our digital camera is stuffed. We'll definitely go back for a closer look.
Shame about Team New Zealand losing their first race. It'll be interesting to see if they can come back.