Rhodri Marsden: If your team play like androids, it's not your fault. Probably

Life on Marsden
  • @rhodri

While slumped on the sofa watching England playing cricket in Abu Dhabi the other day, I managed to convince myself that if I stopped watching they'd be less likely to make stupid mistakes.

This conclusion was based on laughably flimsy evidence, but I turned off the telly anyway and went back to bed, pondering how ludicrous it was to pay Rupert Murdoch a monthly fee for the privilege of watching my favourite team, but now being unable to do so because it made them play like malfunctioning androids.

This meant I'd broken a New Year's resolution: to let others make stupid choices with impunity. I'm constantly stressed by the inexplicable behaviour of others, whether they're gormlessly standing still at the top of a moving escalator or dressed all in white and waving a lump of wood in the vague direction of a red ball. But I'd gone further here; I'd joined the ranks of sports fans who believe you can control other people's movements using the power of your mind.

If you announced that you had this capability on The Jeremy Kyle Show, the audience would screech with laughter. But if a sporting contest is under way and you post on Twitter or Facebook saying "well, there's no way we can lose now", you'll be admonished by previously sane people who've now entered a psychotic episode and believe your statement will have an effect on the outcome. You see it on the football terraces between friends: "Don't look at me now, John, we'll f*ck it up." But you don't see politicians screaming at David Dimbleby: "Shut up about the exit polls, Dave, you'll jinx the election!" Or chefs getting furious at sous-chefs for speculating whether the soufflé might have risen yet.

I don't believe in wizards or unicorns or the superior sound quality of gold-plated audio connectors, so now I've decided to spurn the concept of jinx, too. My new attitude was backed up by England captain Andrew Strauss, who blamed his team's defeat in Abu Dhabi on poor batting, not on Rhodri for watching. Then the opposing captain, Pakistan's Misbah-ul-Haq, stepped up for his post-match interview and thanked Allah for granting him victory, which sent me into a theological tailspin. But speculating upon the existence of God is beyond the remit of this column.