Wednesday, May 29, 2024
Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Finding Joy in the Margins

Current Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjær is well-known for using the phrase “fine margins” in regards to describing football, to the point where it’s a near cliche. In a game that more often than not ends in 1-1 draws, the margins are indeed fine. Every shot that hits the post, every late equalizer, each decision and action seemingly needing just as much luck as diligent preparation.

While footballers probably wouldn’t compare themselves to surgeons, even the most well-practiced scalpel jockeys require specific circumstances they feel will help them perform at their best. They have specific music, lighting levels, instrument layout, assisting staff. The entire environment is curated to create an atmosphere that’s as conducive to positive outcomes, confidence, and creativity.

For those of you who know me, you know my dad has been in and out of the hospital over the past 3 months and I’ve been making every effort to visit him, and as such, I’ve recently been around a fair amount of health care professionals. Recently I had a chance to ask one of the cardiac surgeons on his case about what they might consider a success in his situation, and generally their definition of a successful operation/surgery. The answer surprised me a little; there’s no general objective benchmark for success for surgeons, but many base the subjective “success” of a procedure on pain alleviation, improving health, and avoiding complications. So even if they felt their performance was as good as possible on any given day/time, success from the performance of an extremely skilled, well-trained professional isn’t as simple as say, a scoreline. And often times they also settle for a mix; a measure of good while avoiding as much bad as possible. Fine margins indeed.

Side note: Using the word "clinical" to describe a footballer's skill certainly takes on a new meaning in this context.

Fine Margins Indeed

As fans it can be hard to understand the fine margins of the game but we all experience it. FiveThirtyEight crunched the numbers in 2014 and the data showed the most common final score in the top 4 tiers of English football since 1888 is a 1-1 draw. I’d bet if you asked the average Forward Madison fan what they thought about the number of draws this season, they’d likely not mention that we’ve arrived as a club because we’re keeping with the status quo of the history of the game, in fact they’d probably sigh heavily.

I still maintain that being a fan of sport, and especially football, is mostly about losing. Only one team can win it all each season, and factually that means everyone else loses. But what do we make of what’s found along the way? There are certainly moments of brilliance; near perfection put to motion in a rocket from outside the 18 yard box finding the upper 90 stretch of the goal netting, clever footwork breaking the ankles of opposition defenders, or the diving save of a penalty kick to turn the tide of a match. We have to find the joy in the margins, even if it’s balanced by the frustration of dropping points.

Greenville Mini-Preview

As we wade into the final stretch of games this season, despite my aforementioned logical convictions, I obviously want us to win. I’d rather have 4-0 blowouts in every remaining fixture, and if there ever was a time for the squad to get hot and find their shooting boots, it’s now, when playoffs are on the line. Greenville will not be easy. They never are, despite their current form. Knowing both our clubs’ track records this season and even in past matchups, history tells us a 1-0 or 0-0 scoreline is likely on the cards. With that being said, the Triumph are coming off claiming only 7 points of a possible 21 from their past 7 games, while FMFC claimed 9 of a possible 21. If we can pull one over and nick 3 off the current champs, it could be the boost the boys need going into the final 8 games (a very busy 7 weeks) of the regular season.

And maybe we have a part to play in the circumstances. While surgeons might not be moved to success by thousands of fans singing and banging drums for 90 minutes, footballers certainly are. I’ll be there tonight, doing my part.


  • Andrew Schmidt

    Eclecticist, FMFC supporter, Flock co-founder, designer of things, and taker of photos. Writer, wrench, motorcyclist. Pro-intellectualist, anti-pedant. Drinker of coffee and greeter of dogs.


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