Life, as they say, is full of surprises. I’ve been thinking about this more and more over the past week. Maybe it’s because we are approaching the anniversary of going into lockdown, or maybe, and you can call me shallow if you like, maybe it’s the strange outcomes we have had in a number of recent sporting events.
The world is full of experts and pundits who through their inside knowledge, discernment, or their use of analytics and data can predict the future. Financial Wizz kids tell you they can see the way a market is going when others are blindly following the herd. They can then bet against the system to create massive profits when the shares they have spotted suddenly rise or fall as they have predicted.
Maybe they are brilliant, maybe they manipulated the system to their advantage or maybe they just got lucky. One thing’s for certain it’s only a matter of time before their future predictions don’t come true and someone loses their shirt.
The latest edition of the Mal and Johnny Show- Gavin and Stacey special
This ability to predict the future seems to be especially true in the world of sport. The pre match TV shows are full of ‘ex pros’ and ‘never pros’ who can tell with such certainty what they think the outcome of a game will be. In fact, sometimes they are so confident that it always seems like a waste of time to play the game at all.
Let’s start with the rugby. Last Saturday I took my place on the sofa, as I always do, for the 6 Nations match between Wales and England. I wasn’t terribly hopeful. Last autumn the team looked a little lost. We entered the tournament with no expectations, which is probably the Welsh way anyway. He who expects little is rarely disappointed.
I had seen the first 2 Welsh games in the tournament and whilst incredibly exciting, especially as we had won both matches, there was always the caveat that both Ireland and Scotland had had a player sent off. We had won, but as the pundits kept telling us, it was only against 14 men.
Then there was the English team. Yet to really fire on all cylinders there was a confidence that this was the game to finally get the Eddie Jones machine to purr to a massive victory as they marched their way inevitably to the Triple Crown, Grand Slam and the Championship.
Well, that’s not quite how it turned out in the end. Wales scored what some said were a couple of dubious tries. Although, of course, in my opinion and more importantly in the eyes of the referee and TMO they looked absolutely fine and dandy. Then came the penalty kicks and wonderfully taken bonus point winning try and it was all over…bar the gloating.
Fair play to the pundits, on the whole they tried their best to be more even handed after the game than before. Sam Warburton looked as pleasantly surprised as anyone sat at home on a sofa in Wales. Martin Johnson and Jeremy Guscott looked quietly devastated.
Strange this, although Wales won we did seem to spend a lot of time talking about the losing side. I suppose having spent so much time building them up they needed some time to explain the English collapse.
Now to football. Last Saturday I watched as a Swansea City side dominated the first half against Bristol City. The pundits I’m sure were glowing in their reaction to the performance that people had cried out for a couple of weeks. Of course, being a true football fan, I carry with me that expectation of imminent disaster and true to form Swansea lost a game they were predicted to win easily by 3 goals to one.
I wasn’t any more positive as we moved to our next midweek fixture in the Potteries. Being totally objective as I always am, for me the only certainty was that Joe Allen was bound to score against us. The only reason I was hopeful that the other ex-Swansea Player in the Stoke squad, Sam Clucas, wouldn’t score was that he was in hospital recovering from a hernia operation, but I didn’t rule it out completely.
They always say you might be a great player, but can you do it midweek away to Stoke. If you looked at the form book you would say that Swansea probably couldn’t. The record books recorded Swansea wins against Stoke in 1961, 1981 and 2001. I think we have a fantastic team but with my usual fan fatalism taking over the only reason I found for optimism before kick-off was that the game was being played in 2021!
Inevitably we went one down early doors. Conor Roberts scored a brilliant equaliser, but you just knew Stoke were going to nick a last minute winner…but they didn’t.
With seconds left on the clock Kyle Naughton stormed into the box. The young Stoke winger Jack Clarke, who had it seemed had fallen over at the merest breath of wind to win yet free kick after free kick, found himself chasing back. In the game’s final moments Clarke cruelly hacked down Kyle for a penalty. Various replay angles questioned whether Clarke had actually made any sort of contact with our Kyle at all but once again, in my opinion and that of the referee there was absolutely no doubt.
Of course, I knew Andre Ayew was bound to put the ball over the bar or the goalkeeper was sure to make a world class save. As the ball hit the back of the net I stood, cheered and shouted, ‘Never in doubt’.
The longer I walk this earth the more I realise that nobody really knows what’s going to happen. Some will tell you they do, but believe me, they don’t!
So, what does that mean for us on a day to day basis? It is easy to be fatalistic about life and feel the outcomes before us are inevitable, but they are not.
It means we should never give up. The battle isn’t already lost, the game isn’t already won. Everyday the roulette wheel of life spins again. Yes, the probability of certain events happening are strong, but it’s not a guarantee that the house will always win.
As we slowly but surely come out of lockdown all of us will face a very different world to the one we left 12 months ago. We are sure to face challenges professionally and personally but now is the time to start thinking that we will have a chance to follow our dreams.
Who knows, maybe this time you’ll get a last minute penalty decision go your way!