Monday, May 08, 2006

Reuters echoes Chestertonian conceit

A recent story from that venerable news agency fauns over scientism's latest triumph: conclusively proving that kicking the ball towards the top corner of the net on a penalty kick in Soccer (or Football, for you ancient traditionalists) is the best way to score.

[Quantum Physicist Ken] Bray has analyzed memorable games over the past 50 years and applied research in physics, biology, computing and psychology to the beautiful game.

Using biomechanics to calculate the absolute reach of a goalkeeper diving to try to save a penalty, Bray has identified an area near the posts and in the top corners where the goalkeeper cannot reach as the "unsaveable zone."

"If a player were to place the ball in those regions, which are 28-30 percent of the goal area, there is not a sniff that the goalkeeper can do to get across to them," explained Bray, from the University of Bath in England.

He advised goalkeepers to move before the kick is taken because if they wait, the ball will be halfway to the goal before they can react.

He said that where the striker places and points his standing foot is a good clue to where the ball will go.

"It's been shown that in about 85 percent of cases the direction in which that foot points is the direction of the shot," he told a news conference in London.

Which is all very well and good, of course. Marvelous time to be alive, etc.

We are reminded, however, of a truly inspiring selection from Chesterton's "On the Pursuit of Success" (from All Things Considered), which I shall reproduce here:

It is perfectly obvious that in any decent occupation (such as bricklaying or writing books) there are only two ways (in any special sense) of succeeding. One is by doing very good work, the other is by cheating. Both are much too simple to require any literary explanation. If you are in for the high jump, either jump higher than any one else, or manage somehow to pretend that you have done so. If you want to succeed at whist, either be a good whist-player, or play with marked cards. You may want a book about jumping; you may want a book about whist; you may want a book about cheating at whist. But you cannot want a book about Success. Especially you cannot want a book about Success such as those which you can now find scattered by the hundred about the book-market. You may want to jump or to play cards; but you do not want to read wandering statements to the effect that jumping is jumping, or that games are won by winners.

If these writers, for instance, said anything about success in jumping it would be something like this: "The jumper must have a clear aim before him. He must desire definitely to jump higher than the other men who are in for the same competition. He must let no feeble feelings of mercy (sneaked from the sickening Little Englanders and Pro-Boers) prevent him from trying to do his best. He must remember that a competition in jumping is distinctly competitive, and that, as Darwin has gloriously demonstrated, THE WEAKEST GO TO THE WALL." That is the kind of thing the book would say, and very useful it would be, no doubt, if read out in a low and tense voice to a young man just about to take the high jump.

Or suppose that in the course of his intellectual rambles the philosopher of Success dropped upon our other case, that of playing cards, his bracing advice would run—"In playing cards it is very necessary to avoid the mistake (commonly made by maudlin humanitarians and Free Traders) of permitting your opponent to win the game. You must have grit and snap and go in to win. The days of idealism and superstition are over. We live in a time of science and hard common sense, and it has now been definitely proved that in any game where two are playing IF ONE DOES NOT WIN THE OTHER WILL." It is all very stirring, of course; but I confess that if I were playing cards I would rather have some decent little book which told me the rules of the game. Beyond the rules of the game it is all a question either of talent or dishonesty; and I will undertake to provide either one or the other—which, it is not for me to say.

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