Thoughts from the train, like

25 02 2014

When I was at school we weren’t allowed to use the words nice or good in essays or conversation. They are lazy words, apparently. To say that something, or someone, was nice or good saved having to think of a more appropriate adjectives, and lazy thinking was to be discouraged.

The same is true of like. You were discouraged from saying that you liked something, and were encouraged to think of a more substantial description. You could get away with using like as a comparator, as in “my love is like a red, red rose”, but my English teacher would have urged him instead to write, “just as a rose is fragrant and fragile, so is my love for you”. So I’m struggling to find reason for the current prevalence of the word like in most conversations.

When I say prevalence and most I should clarify that just at this moment, for me, current means the 9.31 train from Bridge of Allan to Edinburgh Waverley and the conversations in question are between the gaggle of young women sharing this carriage. For example, “Like, so he was like, shall we go the pub and I was like naw, like, no way”

Starting a sentence with like, makes no sense to me. The next phrase could be translated as ” So he said, shall we go to the pub and I said no”. Quite what the final like of the sentence is there for escapes me. The word like used for emphasis? Perhaps, then, “I said no, definitely no way”.

I’m from Liverpool so I’m no stranger to stray phrases tagging themselves to the end of sentences. The addition of “you know” to the end of most sentences is a good example but there is at least some semblance of reason here, the addition of a question to a statement to assure that the listener has understood and has to reply in the affirmative. But the word like dropped as confetti at seemingly random intervals is something I don’t understand.

Some random thoughts;
Will these young women still pepper their sentences with like when they are middle-aged? The image of women in twin sets and pearls, or fashioned like Les Dawson gossiping over the garden wall, using like as verb, adverb, adjective and noun is now stuck in my mind. And will they still have the Australian up-note at the end of each phrase?

What would Shakespeare write? Like, you know like, my love is like, well like a red, red rose, like”

For my part, what I would like, that is to say what I would really appreciate, is a quiet coach on the morning train!

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Fantasy Team Building

3 02 2014

This is what I know about teams.

Each year, the footballing year that is, August to May, me and other members of my family compete in a fantasy football league. We each choose 11 players from the hundreds that play for real teams in the English Premiership and create our fantasy team. We choose the best players. Those who will, based on a system that reflects their performance when playing for their real team, score the most points each week. Individual points are totted up to give a weekly team score and, over the course of the season, the team with the most points wins the league. In our family, because we are like that, we even have a little cup which goes to the person who has the winning team.

Hear is what I’ve learned.

In my team I can have Robin van Persie playing alongside Louis Suarez and Sergio Aguero. These players will score lots of goals, and goals are well rewarded in the fantasy football points system. I don’t have to worry about whether or not these three players could actually play well together. For the benefit of the non-football supporters, and I’m told that there are still one or two of them about, the three players in my team all, in real life, play in the same position. In my fantasy team I have three centre-forwards. In real life it is extremely unlikely that these three players could play together. They would, probably, be trying to take up similar positions on the football field and, in doing so, get in each others way. In doing so, they would blunt each others talent and the whole would become less than the sum of the individual parts. So. what looks good on paper may not work well in practice.

In real life, the star players benefit from the hard work, often less visible and less applauded, of the support team. In footballing terms, players like Gareth Barry and Jordan Henderson. Not spectacular, not creative, not even very good, but who run about a lot. In current football commentator speak, they “put in a shift for you”. These players usually form the midfield, providing a base from which the strikers, the stars, can shine. In my fantasy team I can ignore these solid, reliable workhorses and go, once again, for the flashy goalscorer.

Next, I have learned that defenders don’t matter. It is not that these players don’t have individual skills but that it is much more important which real team they play for. To explain, scoring points as a defender in fantasy football terms is less about winning and more about not getting beaten. So, if I have a defender in my team I am not concerned about his individual talents, I’m much more concerned that the real team he plays for do not get beaten, which mainly translates into not conceding many goals. Defenders lose points for each goal conceded. To hedge my bets, my defenders are chosen from different real teams. In that way, if a real team concedes lots of goals I will not be punished multiple times. Also, since each defender in my fantasy team gets punished equally for the collective failings of their real team, it doesn’t really matter who I pick. Generally speaking, each Man City defender will score (or lose) the same number of points for my fantasy team. Since I have a limited budget, it makes sense that I chose the cheapest.

What does my experience in fantasy football tell me about business?

Firstly, what looks good in theory may not work in practice. I real life we have to make sure that the skills of the team compliment each other and do not overlap to such an extent that overall performance is diminished.

Secondly, we need the unremarkable as well as the stars. We shouldn’t underestimate the value of those who simply turn up and do their job. Like Liverpool without Lucas Leiva: we all critisise him when he plays but the team suffers when he doesn’t.

Finally, even poor players can look good when the team does well. It isn’t all about the stars. If you build up a good team then the weaker links can be protected. By being alonside more accomplished team members it is even possible that they will be nutured and develop into more effective players in their own right.