“Any goal’s a goal”

23 Aug

Do good things come to those who wait?  Or should I strike while the iron is hot?  Should I be wary of Greeks bearing gifts?  Or would it be foolish to look a gift horse in the mouth?  It’s funny how these titbits of advice so often come in polarising pairs.  Hindsight can be a virtue, but ex post rationale is unhelpful at best and actively misleading at its worst.  If I attempt a delicate chip shot and end up duffing it into the keeper’s arms, history may remember it as more prudent if I had just whacked it low and hard.  But this presumes my execution would have been any better with a low blast.  Believe you me, there is every chance I’d have shanked it wide.

I mention this because there seems to be an increasing trend in analyses that some goals are more important than others.  Specifically, the goals that prove decisive to the result.  These are the goals we should value above all others, prevailing wisdom suggests.  These are the golden nuggets of truth in an otherwise opaque world.  

The case in point is Gareth Bale.  In the 21 league games that Spurs won last season, Bale scored in 14 of them (nine of them proving to be the winner). Gareth Bale’s goals win football games.  Gareth Bale’s goals must be important, then.

This is all very well.  But did that make Bale’s goals any harder to score?  Does anyone know at the time which goal in a game will be the most important?  When Borussia Dortmund went 4-1 up against Real Madrid in last season’s Champions League semi-final, which was the most important goal?  The first?  Or the ultimately decisive fourth?  History would have little remembered Gerrard’s “consolation” goal in the 2005 Champions League final were it not for the two more that followed it up.  Now it forms part of one of the greatest comebacks ever.  

Any goal’s a goal.  Making sense of their importance after the event forgets the context that they were all scored in the instance of being.  Nobody knew ahead of time which egg would prove to be golden.  For every team that ran away with a game 5 or 6 nil, there were many other games where a team went 3 goals down then battled back. 

Orator and former goal-hanger of considerable esteem, Gary Winston Lineker, noted that, while the glory often lay with strikers, it could also be most dispiriting position on the pitch.  Even a great striker, averaging a goal every other game, essentially spends 179 minutes not doing what he is supposed to be on the pitch to achieve.  And anyone who’s ever tried to chat up a staunchly Christian girl in a bar will know exactly what three solid hours of failure looks like.

There’s a reason why people go utterly loopy after scoring a goal[1].  It’s because they’re all bloody hard to score.  They’re all, in the words of a famous shampoo peddler, worth it.  Don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

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That goal you scored in 5-aside last night? Jennifer’s very proud of you.

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