This is a piece I’ve purposefully waited to recommend – as the knockout stages of the European Championship are going to be the perfect example of this phenomenon. JLikens has some cool and abstract thoughts and I’m sure I’ll be recommending some of his other posts in the future. For now I’m looking at this one (link).
I think most people will accept that there are occasions where two teams play a game and the result isn’t a fair reflection what transpired. In other words the best team doesn’t always win. And that’s in a single game. As we increase the number of games that are played we also increase the odds of this happening at least once. The World Cup and European Championships both require a team to win three straight games in order to claim the title, meaning there are three chances for an upset to occur. Therefore, whilst the best team are still the favourites to win the competition, nothing is guaranteed.
Whilst the linked post looks at a regular NHL season and the Stanley Cup playoffs as opposed to football it provides a perfect demonstration of randomness.
The methodology is simple but brilliant and I love those:
Identify and build a model to represent the spread of talent within the league
Validate the model using some known values to make sure it works
Simulate a huge number of seasons to give a representative result
Basically I think this is the gold standard we should all be striving for.
This, to me, is one of the most telling quotes from the post:
“The best team does very well in general, but the range in outcomes is considerable. It wins its division a majority of the time yet still manages to finish dead last every now and then (about once every 200 seasons)”
I’m not saying this would happen in the Premiership, I suspect the spread of talent is much wider due to the lack of a salary cap, but it serves as a timely reminder that random happens. I certainly doubt that the best team wins the Premiership title every year though.
As a final aside the comments section for that post is hilarious. Some people just don’t get it.