The worst captain in the World

I was on Danny Baker’s Radio Five show earlier, which was great. I’ve always been a big fan of his and consider him to be one of the few genuinely innovative and brilliant broadcasters.

I’d texted in in response to a question about being a terrible sporting captain, and it was a good opportunity to tell about when I was captain of Dogpool Rovers in South Birmingham Sunday League Division Three:

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Sentiment Analysis of a Football Match

(click through for big)

Last night I turned my sentiment analysis tool on two hashtags: #bcfc and #avfc, the most widely used tags to refer to Birmingham City and Aston Villa during their League Cup quarter final game. It was a chance to see if visualising to ‘competing’ tags around the same event would be a useful exercise.

Caveats that would apply to this:

  • Some people use the tags instead of team names, meaning that they might be used by people supporting the other team (or no team at all)—most fans, though seem to tag with just the hashtag representing their team.
  • Some tweeters use both—these tweets could be removed technically, but make no difference to the comparative scores.
  • If there’s a subject that uses more slang or metaphor than football, it’s not often discussed on Twitter.

There was a generally a downward trend throughout the match, tension? Bad football? It could have been both. The first two goals seemed to have a much bigger impact than the third—this I don’t quite understand, but it seems to be more about the tweets themselves than the tool.

I could see how a special subject-set of emotion words could be created for football, which could cope with more nuanced or unusual words. It’s something to consider.

The sentiment scores in a Google spreadsheet, csv files: #avfc tweets (657 of which were during the game), #bcfc tweets (370 during).

The obligatory Wordle:

World Cup Willies

I had a little bit of a paddy on Twitter yesterday after a slew of people were moaning about “the football”. “The football” in this instance being a fairly easily avoidable pre-World Cup friendly (the pubs would not have been packed, it was isolated on ITV). I just didn’t see how it was worthy of the disapprobation poured on it.

You wouldn’t dismiss all of ‘art’ or ‘science’ (or at least not easily or seriously), but the cultural, historical and social elements of the most popular sport in the World (and its global celebration) are okay to be sniffy about it seems. It’s disrupting your television viewing, or making your surrogate living room a little too busy for your liking, and that’s reason enough.

But, dismisser of “the football” is that the root cause? Because you seem to associate the sport with the event, the event with the supporting, and the supporters with a conflation people you don’t much care for.

Because not all football supporters are racist, boorish, loud, suntanned, drunk or even English.

And not everyone will be “supporting”.

Some will be watching, sharing, discussing and enjoying the best players in the World — playing for once without too much financial imperative and on a fairly level playing field (no transfers, no buying success). It can be beautiful.

Football exists not only as a sport, but as a metaphor and conduit for society. Ignore if you will, but don’t dismiss. It’s not clever.

Football and cats

I always think that you can explain almost anything in terms of football or cats, and those of you who have seen me talk with probably of heard about one or the other — what I’m really doing is using smaller examples to explain big concepts. Football has given me another great example over the last few weeks, this time of really innovative, interesting and fun (hyper)local media.

It’s the Billesley United FC twitter feed. Billesly are in the third division of the Birmingham AFA League (I think, it really doesn’t matter), and have had an un-named fan covering their matches this season:

Billesley United (billesleyunited) on Twitter

It’s fun, partisan, a bit rude, cliquey and at times incomprehensible (cold fingers and the mobile web aren’t the best combinations for reports) but it’s great.

With only nine followers (including me who doesn’t know any of the team, or anyone connected with the club) it’s not reaching a big audience — but I suspect that they aren’t bothered. It’s everything that’s great about social media: they’ve just gone and done it, and not been drawn into any conventions that mainstream media have used before.

A real point that’s missed by some people in the hyperlocal land-rush is that since no-one’s paying you can do pretty much whatever you want. Sometimes that will find a wide audience, sometimes it won’t — there may not be an audience there — but if you do what you enjoy then that’s enough of a point.

Putting up goal nets as a metaphor for life

“Some clubs are fearsomely well organised. They have pegs and a mallet to anchor the net down at the back. They have a chair or a ladder to attach it in the corners, and they have velcro strips to attach it to the crossbar where inevitably the hooks had been torn away by years of having them ripped hastily and occasionally angrily down after matches, as impatient players and officials rush to get to the pub. … Other clubs struggle with the concept of it all. It’s not uncommon to see one player, in full kit, on the shoulders of another, wrapping roll after roll of sellotape around the crossbar to attach the netting to it in a scene that looks like an out-take from “It’s A Knockout”.”
Twohundredpercent on goal nets

Famous Scenes from Spectrum Football Manager History

After Through the Wall, and a dodgy (by which I mean rubbish) text adventure called Planet of Death (of which no record exists), one of the first games I played on my ZX Spectrum was Football Manager. It was slow, written in BASIC, and the amount of control you had over the success or otherwise of your team was minimal. You could pick the best team you had, but there were no formations or tactics or anything complex like that.

FootballManager_2.jpg (JPEG Image, 840�16 pixels)
Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

Despite all that, Football Manager was a great game — the highlights left you in a nervous clinch with the speccy. If you looked away, would your goalie boot the ball to safety (no graphic characters left for diving or any animation like that)?

To celebrate the coming of the new football season, I present famous footballing scenes — as depicted through the eyes of Football Manger on the 48k Spectrum. God bless Kevin Toms.

Maradonna's Second Goal V England, World Cup 1986
Maradonna's Second Goal V England, World Cup 1986

That’s this goal, the greatest off all time? Hmm…
You can see a little pixel Peter Reid trailing in his wake.

Gordon Banks's Save from Pele, Mexico 1970
Gordon Banks's Save from Pele, Mexico 1970

That’s this save. The greatest of all time, I think.

And to finish, the second most famous goal of all time:

Geoff Hurst's Third against West Germany in '66
Geoff Hurst's Third against West Germany in '66

Want to play Football Manager now? You can via the gift of java emulation.