The Secret Pundit Takes on the Commentators Part 3: “It’s a Game of Fine Margins”

The Secret Pundit Takes on the Commentators Part 3: “It’s a Game of Fine Margins”
September 6, 2017 Chris Rowland

By Our Mystery Correspondent P. Dantic.

It’s a phrase that comes up in commentary a lot.

They tell us ‘It’s a game of fine margins’, usually when something almost happened….. but didn’t.

It nearly did….. but no. It was very close to happening….. but something else happened instead. Things could have been different….. but they weren’t.

They can also tell us that the margins are fine in this game when something actually did happen but….. something else nearly might have happened. One thing did happen….. and something else didn’t. No, when you think about it, one thing did happen….. and a whole load of something elses didn’t. Mostly they say it when there’s a goal or not a goal. When they nearly, nearly, nearly scored….. but no. Or when they nearly, nearly, nearly missed….. but yes.

The commentators are telling us that we need to pay attention to the detail, because a difference in the detail can make a big change to the bigger picture. And they’re not talking about a little difference in the detail. Or very small. Or even tiny. They’re talking about a fine difference in the details. They can be the game changer.

It could be the almost imperceptible touch of a fingertip save, an infinitesimal deviation of a deflected cross, perhaps a negligible brush of a head on a cross. Or possibly the wee indecision of a shot that comes back off the post, a teensy-weensy shiver of the ball that walks the goal line tightrope, a blink judgement of a linesman’s offside flag.

Something just happened, but you can imagine something else could have happened. With this phrase commentators are inviting us to fantasise, to imagine an alternative possible reality, to picture for a moment how it would feel to live in that alternative world where what didn’t just happen, did just happen. Or where what did just happen, didn’t just happen.

They’re telling us it’s a game of ‘if only’s, ‘just suppose’s and ‘what might’ve been’s’. Some folks say that this ability to picture a ball hitting the net and not the post is what separates football fans from the creatures of the forest.

But there’s a price we pay for the privilege of visualising parallel realities. The ‘if only’ thoughts trigger feelings of disappointment, dissatisfaction, discontentment and despair.

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