12 May 2011

Dissecting Bias: Importance of Context

By Dr3

Dazed and Confused: suede Clarks in the rain?

Lately I’ve been swept away with the depth of thought of the highbrow bloggers that I follow. Excellent post, after excellent post, they keep providing thought provoking views making kaleidoscopes out of issues that I thought were black and white. In dissecting Mourinho’s rant though, into an indictment of us all; current football fans, I couldn’t help but have a contrarian view. In as much as it perhaps became clearer as to why Drogba would think it okay to disgrace us all with such tutelage, is it really that impossible for a bias to exist? Is it only through some demented paranoia that any football personality or fan could feel cheated?

Recently I denounced a Scouser claiming to have never felt cheated as a pretentious bastard. In reading these narratives, impressive they may be, the same feeling more or less remained. Don’t get me wrong, some of the points made are absolutely true, and are in my opinion genuine issues with modern-day fans. Derisive, and almost sadistic, fans usually seem to think they honor their team by hating their rivals more than they love their own club. The worrying statuses and tweets that I see sometimes even seeming to wish death on for instance Balotelli for a wink, are now so ubiquitous that my use of worrying is almost overblown. To this day I wonder what the crazed United fans reveled in more; Terry’s slip or the Champions league win?

It is true that the deranged amongst us now have access to substantiating “facts”, and “stats” (Rafa?) due to the internet, serving only to multiply the conspiracy theories and feed farcical paranoia, if not simply vindicate it. Yet, while many madly sort clips, no longer from newspapers but from Youtube, and recite statistics proving Fergie-time “must” exist, do we really conversely say that there can be no credible bias claims? Becoming ‘a fan of’ a club, while nurturing blind faith, and the belief of the infallible nature of our team, certainly doesn’t unanimously make us incapable of any semblance of impartiality, such that we can’t cry foul. In as much as Mourinho’s words were twisted and flavored with the bitterness of a madman, they had a basis; what happened in the game. The unprecedented nature of his attack is such that we can no longer look at his words in the context in which they were said. Instead, there’s a deeper reflection on what it means to us all. A football community. Zealotry clearly rampant.

I once wrote about decadence in football blogging, which while it was more scathing and about a frustration with the direction of quality blogging solely towards the scholarly, also spoke about the new breed of intelligent writers and writing. A consequence of this though it seems, is the over analysis of football issues into something so tangible and logical, that it’s also off base; an over analysis leading to oversimplification. My idol recently wrote about the element of hit and hope in football as it relates to our perhaps overzealous reactions to when it actually goes right. Now while he attempts to explain the thought process and successfully shows some logic, it was simply an oversimplification of something that is so intangible that it was almost pompous. Similarly, but sadly, the same goes for ‘dismissing’ football as solely a source of joy and entertainment. Even in damning it as ‘just’ entertainment, we pretend that entertainment is trite to us. In doing so though, we dismiss just how different the element of competition makes any activity. If we compare sport to other forms of entertainment or other tools of our ‘debauchery’ an anomaly is revealed. Unlike music, television, and other vices, with sport there is always a loser/winner. In that sentiment alone all comparisons between sport and other forms of entertainment are not only invalid but ridiculous. Seeing card games, board games, and even video games become personally hostile is to say the very least, not rare; such that the desire to win seems to regularly supersede any obligation to sanity or mature behavior. This does not dignify crazy fans, but dismisses comparisons between fans of something competitive and other forms of entertainment more geared towards opinions and personal preferences. Perhaps born out of the same new breed of fans; living to deride, living for hate banter, the desire to win is a new beast. In fear of being the target of clever quips, and a laughing stock for years to come, fans simply can’t lose anymore.

What of small teams, and teams not spoiled by their history of winningness? What of the people with the right idea of loving the sport for what it is? The people who have preserved the laughs, celebrating like Manchester City fans do? Context again is needed. In the context of a country that has had several scandals and waited several years for Byron Moreno to finally ‘get his’, conspiracy-talk, and feeling aggrieved is not at all out-of-place from the minnows. Whether it be madman extraordinaire Zamparini, or Della Valle, many, MANY, coaches, presidents and the like always talk of secret plots, dark alleys, and something being wrong with the world, but more so in Italy. Should we consider this a symptom of a new blind rage, or the loss of love for something that should bring joy? Are they all paranoid men unable to point to themselves for their infinite failures?

When the Calciopoli scandal first came to light, while there was an inherent denial amongst the Juventi, the collective whisper in Italy blared like a Vuvuzela; “I Fucking knew it!”. The bias was real. I wasn’t crazy. Paranoid? No, I was, am, vindicated; we were robbed. Yet as time goes on, and Juventus columnists continually provide ‘snippets’ of the court trials still ongoing, it could nonetheless all be a farce. What? There was no bias? I am crazy? I am just an angry cult-fan-person? Yet Jose, and now us, somehow, should feel some sort of remorse for letting something that we love become this beast that we feed niblets of our deluded victim complexes. What happens if in two years a trial erupts with corruption, UNICEF, the middle-east, and Bush all somehow involved with Barcelona’s success? After all Qatar did win a World Cup bid. How deluded would Mourinho be then? Yet we dismiss the thought of a conspiracy as the behavior of a masochist, set on torturing himself with non-existent truths into a fit. We recoil with disgust as if there has never been corruption in sport. We pretend that for a moment, football is just entertainment that would never betray treaties to integrity that exist on some other moral plain. Some of us, looked on in horror as World Cup 2002 was tainted to create a ‘success’ story by a future heroine smuggler. The rest of us clamored that both Italy and Spain were simply sore losers for whom the taste of defeat was simply unpalatable.

It is important to understand just how pivotal the context of events are, before doing these thorough, almost soul-searching, analyses. While many conspiracies can be easily refuted; big teams getting more penalties simply because they have more possession in opponents’ penalty areas, versus some secret society of big-team-favoring, others cannot, as they describe something that is real. And while what seems to be a ‘new’ breed of fans may be explained by a ‘stupid rage’, it could also be a symptom of everyone now owning a soapbox to the world via twitter/facebook/forums. We are judging fans against their former selves forgetting that there was no twitter just five years ago. We are judging sports and its cult mentality against the more individualistic and opinionated or opinion based forms of entertainment forgetting that winning is in itself a completely different beast. We are judging a paranoid mentality against a utopian world forgetting that there has been enough scandal to corroborate any conspiracy, no matter how seemingly ludicrous (Ballon D’or voting, lost votes, bribes, weird SIM cards, South Korea, Jack Warner etc). Most importantly we are judging a coach with generalities and oversimplification about something that is very specific. Again, don’t get me wrong about Mourinho, it was/is a bit shameful that a man would make the suggestions that he offered, in general. But in the context of a man facing the same team with three teams, on three separate occasions, in the same competition, with varying results but the same underlying issues, his paranoia is in the least justifiable. Mourinho is one for the dramatic though, and the poster-boy for sore losing; it’s always the referee, but even for him it was an unprecedented attack; unveiled, and sobering.

It’s strange. Since I’ve been watching the Champions League I only remember two unprecedented events. In one of them, a certain African with a perm decided it fitting to brandish a phrase for the entire world to know his disgust. In the other, a coach known for his disrespectful but tongue-in-cheek remarks was no longer facetious; he instead appeared to be a man bewildered, and sickened, making blatant accusations. They both involved the coach at one point; maybe sowing his so-called siege mentality into the African, but strangely they both involved the same opponent. Now while Jose’s involvement in Drogba’s behavior is qualified by the word maybe, the other team’s involvement is factual. Somehow though, the thought that the events were related to the team is proclaimed as lunacy, yet the one qualified by ‘maybe’ is accepted as plausible. In the context of everything football would I be biased, stupidly angry, love lost or a conspiracy theorist to wonder why?

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