23 September 2005

The Unfortunate Geometry of Chance

CD Universidad Catolica 3 : 2 DC United
Catolica Advances on Aggregate Goals 4-3

The classic demonstration of the rules of probability involves dropping marbles into a grid of pegs. At each peg, the ball can fall either to the left or right, and then it repeats the process at the next level of pegs until it finally completes its clattering descent to final rest. Drop enough balls, and the normal/bell curve shape arises. Historians, Statisticians, Economists, Sports Writers that love reading box scores, some Coaches... they love the bell curve -- the point at where a vast possibility has condensed into popular vote of truth.

But on a night like last night, a fan rejects the tyranny of the majority that has created the cruel mean. Instead, they project their conciuosness into one marble as it makes its descent. Each peg a moment of action (Left: Erpen misses a header in the final seconds of the first leg. Right: United leads 2-1 heading to Santiago. Left: Moreno hits a penalty into the corner that the keeper is leaning. Right: Moreno remains perfect on PKs. Left: Adu commits a crucial foul giving up a free kick. Right...) And the marble finally makes its descent and reaches the end of its journey. At the beginning, from high above, it could see the majesty of the accumulated decisions of the past. Now, it is on one side of the curve, wishing desperately it could see the view from the other side, but a mountain of condensed probability prevents us from knowing...

MLS is free to take a moral victory away from this. I want none of it. This was a loss, a hurting loss that no words like "effort," "strong showing," or "guts" can remove the sting from. A moral victory is one like Chelsea, where you step up against the best in the world, knowing that everyone thinks you will lose, and you punch the other side in the mouth, smile, and say "Now what do you have?" In this game, there was a real possibility of something more, it wasn't a one-off friendly. And DCU was four minutes from being there. This team has now suffered through the Champions Cup elimination and Copa Sudamerica eliminations, and lost on penalties in the US Open Cup. Only once chance for silverware remains. Do you think they're motivated to grab it?

Washington Post summary of the game here, based on wire service reports. MLS summary here. If you want to read me as I dissolve into a disassociated bundle of nerve endings, you can read my liveblogging of the game here.


At 23 September, 2005 09:55, Anonymous Joe said...

Absolute heartbreaker. The game was no one's. Then it was completely ours. Then we lost it... to some suddenly sloppy defense at the end, I think.

I wanted them to stay aggressive, even after being up 2 goals, because that's what was working for them. Another goal (like that PK) would have buried them. Instead, I think, they did the textbook thing and sat back.


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