A Pretty Lame Curse

Confirmation and regression to the mean strike again.

Of the 13 real soccer players featured in the commercial, just three– the Spaniards, even if Cesc got more play in the video than he has in South Africa– remain in contention to lift the World Cup in Johannesburg on July 11.

Read about it here. Basically:

1. Soccer players whose overall performance on the field wildly exceeded the global average failed to be systematically awesome, every single day, always.

2. Except Spain, apparently.

3. Also, in the case of Kobe Bryant, slightly injuring one finger is comparable to the end of Roger Federer’s time as the world’s greatest tennis player.


So Nike did a commercial where various international soccer gods fantasize about what would happen if they won the World Cup as they battle each other in what would be the most awesome soccer match ever. Obviously, these soccer gods were chosen to be paid millions of dollars for the ad by virtue of their sanctity, conferred unto them by the series of winning streaks that in aggregate define their sporting careers. And if there’s one thing we know about winning streaks, it’s that they end, if they ever existed at all.

So this ad gets done, and one by one, teams do that thing they do in the World Cup where they don’t win. Of course, this happened basically as expected – especially given the low relationship FIFA status one year has with FIFA status another year. After all only one team can win, et cetera.

Unfortunately, some intern at a mainstream news outlet noticed that these soccer stars were all in an ad at once at some point. Of course, not all the soccer stars, not even some of the guys who outrank some of the the ad’s stars, but that’s beside the point. The point is, some of these guys (except the Spaniards) all recently appeared in front of a green screen together, and it’s not like anybody was watching news about Elana Kagan that day. Go Spain.

Just to be clear: it is basically probability one that all but one of the teams featured in this ad will not go home with a World Cup (barring one hell of a final overtime). And here we are. A fabricated, inconsistent “curse” borne of the statistical obviousness of competitions, the banal inevitabilities of soccer, and the blithe condescension of journalists.


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