A blog by Patrick Crozier

June 25, 2002

The news from Japan
Patrick Crozier

Recently, I have started listening to NHK's broadcasts in English. They follow something of a standard format:

Item 1 - the World Cup - who can blame them

Item 2 - the latest corruption scandal

Item 3 - those beastly Chinese

Item 4 - the latest news on the economy. If it comes from the government it is all about how the economy has bottomed out, how they've turned the corner and everything is going to be just fine. If it comes from anyone else it's all gloom and doom.

For 300 years until the Meiji Restoration Japan was closed to the outside world. The Japanese held on to this policy until it was absolutely no longer tenable. During the Second World War Japan kept on fighting until, once again, it was absolutely no longer tenable. If history repeats itself we will see absolutely no change to the government's Keynsian pump priming policies until it defaults on its debts. Oh boy.

June 21, 2002

Football's Aristocracy
Patrick Crozier

International football has an aristocracy. These are the teams that tend to win tournaments. They are: Brazil, Argentina, Germany, France, England and Holland. So how do they shape up in games in the World Cup since 1966? This table summarises matches between the Big Seven since (and including) 1966.

Big Seven League table since 1966

Notes: 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw. Penalty competitions count as a draw. 3rd and 4th place play-offs don't count. Only includes games played at the World Cup finals. Not including 2002 results.

Do any other teams qualify? Not really. Spain would seem to be an obvious candidate but in all the years since 1966 they have only notched up 3 draws against Brazil, England and Germany. Romania have done better beating both England and Argentina and drawing against Argentina. Denmark have beaten both Germany and France but nobody else.

For me the interesting point is how well England has done. Surprising considering we haven't got to a final since 1966. Of course, if the table began in 1970 England would be down to seven points (10 if you include the recent victory over Argentina) but that would still be good enough to qualify them for the aristocracy.

So how come Italy do so well? Basically, because they racked up a huge amount of points (and games) in the 1978 and 1982 tournaments. Winning in 1982 certainly didn't do them any harm. What is odd is that since then their form has been very poor: 4 draws and a defeat. Mind you their form before 1970 was also pretty ropey.

It is one of the great sadnesses of modern World Cups that the aristocracy so rarely play each other. In 1978 (in a tournament featuring only 16 teams) the Big Seven notched up 8 encounters. 2002 could be a particular disappointment. Only two Big Seven matches (Eng v Arg and Eng v Bra) have taken place and there is only one more on the cards: a Brazil Germany final. Strangely enough Brazil and Germany have never met in the World Cup which is odd because one or other of them has appeared in every final but one since 1950.

The newspaper is dead
Patrick Crozier

It's been coming for a while. We knew it would. Now we can hear the sound of distant drums.

Yes, the Times (that's the London Times) has started charging non-UK residents for the privilege of reading the on-line version. I found out when one of my regular US readers pointed out that she couldn't access an article I had linked to.

We on the internet and especially those of us in the Blogosphere have got used to papers being free on-line. Lord knows I try to do a review each and every day. It is a wonderful facility - for us, but I have always wondered whether it makes sense for the newspapers.

Even without the costs of printing and distribution, newspapers still cost money. The money for all those dodgy journalistic expense claims has to come from somewhere and since people like me abandoned real newspapers for their virtual equivalents there is rather less of it about Many moons ago - ooh must have been 2000 - people thought that on-line advertising would do the trick. Wrong. So now the newspapers are looking to their readers to make up the difference. For some time now large sections of the Economist have been subscriber only. And now the Times is following suit.

I have no principled objection to paying for content. What I would object to is having to subscribe to masses of different publications. It might work for some of the bigger publications but if it comes to a choice of fumbling for my credit card for that one article in Peruvian Railways Monthly then it's a non-starter.

What I would like to be able to do is to make ONE payment of, say, 20 a month and then be able to access everything. The payment would go to some sort of clearing house who would apportion the proceeds by hit rate. (I presume there would be some way of preventing fraudulent hits)

All this begs a question. Are traditional publications necessary in the on-line world? Newspapers exist (I presume) because it is not actually possible for one person to write the article, print it and distribute it to the millions of possible customers. There has to be some kind of division of labour. But the internet changes that. Now, publication and distribution are to all intents and purposes free. So, a large part of the raison d'etre of newspapers disappears. In the world I am describing it is perfectly possible to see a far more direct relationship between writer and reader, unmediated by newspapers.

Brazil 2 England 1
Patrick Crozier

So we're out. Drat. Drat, drat, drat, drat, drat.

But why am I getting so upset? I wasn't on the pitch. It says nothing about me. Don't wise men say "control what you can and learn to accept what you can't"? Empires won't fall. The sun will still shine. It's only a game.

Would I be any happier had we gone out on a Golden Goal, or on penalties or played better? Maybe, but I would still have been upset. There's a lot to be proud of. Considering that prior to the tournament I was urging a national effort to come up with some really good excuses for failure, I think we did really well. We did get out of the Group of Death after all - no mean achievement.

Who's this "we"? Why am I still upset? Why should I let my emotions be dictated by what happens on a football pitch thousands of miles away? Why did I go bananas when Owen scored? Is there anything on earth that would make me react that way? Actually, there are a couple of things: you should have seen me when I found out that I was going to Japan on a railway study tour.

Why is that my upstairs neighbour couldn't give a toss? Am I at fault or is he?

Who cares?