Saturday, 13 December 2014

Football's Court of Public Opinion: A Brief Case Study

Typecasts and Perception

Reputation is a powerful thing. Once a person becomes associated with certain character traits or attributes in a public platform, it becomes an innate factor in how they are judged by the world.

This is a way of saying that Ronaldo and diving will be forever linked in the domain of football media regardless of reality. Confirmation bias develops – as a result of what was (perhaps) at a time a true characterization of the player – and influences the way we interpret certain moments.

In law, this would be similar to the use of character evidence to build a case for or against the accused. The evidence is not in any way a legitimate objective detail of the contested act in question but rather perceptions of behavior patterns being used to validate assumptions (essentially).

Jumping the Gun

It happens all the time. A big play triggers immediate reactions. In the midst of the commotion, we acquire firm ideas about exactly what occurred. We develop opinions based on these first impressions which are often not completely founded on a profound understanding of all the evidence available. And many times, these first impressions (already limited in scope) are confused by the adrenaline of the occasion.

This is a way of saying that different camera angles matter. Looking at the same action from different perspectives can lead to new insights. “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” A conscious awareness of the differing possibilities (however unlikely they might appear) is necessary to ensure that “what seems” is not accepted as “what is.”

Alternative View

The transcript of the BeIN Sports commentators, Ray Hudson and Phil Schoen, provided a good example of how we perceive things and how this changes over time.
PS: Here he gets taken down running on the heels…

RH: Got it! 
PS: …and they will give the penalty! 
RH: It’s a wonderful intended ball to find him from Marcelo again. Heckle and Jeckle they are in the locker room (?) and they bring it on to the footballing pitch. And they (in reference to Celta de Vigo players) are going absolutely crazy spinning the verbals at Undiano Mallenco like… really, it won’t feel as if there was any contact made.

We’ll see in replay it was definitely contact on him, he’s lost his defender, peels away from his defender like tissue on a toilet roll. 
(Replays being shown) 
He goes down very easily. There’s hands on Cristiano though, take a look. There’s no contact on him downstairs but the hands come up… there’s nothing there… and then he’s going down. It seems to me, take a look from this angle, if his ankle gets clipped. 
PS: Hard to tell if it was just the hand on the back but again, that’s why you tell them not to use their hands.

Mentioned the fact Undiano Mallenco had not called a penalty till this point this… 
RH: Yeah 
PS: …season and 10 minutes from the half, a chance for Real Madrid, it’s Ronaldo for his 21st and he’s got it! 
RH: Well they played some pretty football and they’ve been really rattling away at the back but you can see why Celta Vigo are up in arms. You can understand that they’ve got an axe to grind. We’ve seen it 6 different times in replay and for my money, he goes down very easily.

There’s a touch, there’s a brush on him. Take a look at the feet, that’s where Cristiano… he goes down a step later. There’s the pull, he’s going through, the ball gets away from him and he goes down. 
PS: I don’t see it. Not saying it wasn’t there but from these angles we’ve seen, might have been fishing for one and caught it.

Nine minutes left to go in the half- 
RH: I don’t think that the free-, that the penalty kick has been given for the pull on him. I really don’t. It’s the clip downstairs in the referee’s opinion and from all of the angles that we’ve seen, it’s very difficult to tell if there was any contact on him at all but then… last(?) stumble….
The commentators propose several theories to explain what happened prior to the penalty call. However, news and social media commentary on this matter did not touch on as many scenarios and almost unanimously adjudged the situation a dive.

The Trailing Left Leg

There is no all-knowing arbitrator of truth. We must rely wholly on our interpretations. It is possible (perhaps even reasonable) to reach the conclusion that it was a dive. It is also possible (and also perhaps even reasonable) to reach the conclusion that it wasn't. To deny or fail to consider why the other point of view exists is however perhaps unreasonable.

And so we arrive at the trailing left leg. Ronaldo's to be specific. If watched closely, the video of the TV broadcast reveals apparent contact with the Portuguese as he ran clear of the defender. The movement of his foot after the collision is "unnatural" and clearly suggestive of an impediment. While a lot of the focus on any potential illegal play by Jonathon Castro Otto remained on the the pull back on Ronaldo's shoulder, the seeming intentional or inadvertent trip was the most likely foul play.