Life Math Podcast

#6 Is Football Really the Greatest Game?

July 13, 2021 Iskren Vankov and Iliya Valchanov Season 1 Episode 6
Life Math Podcast
#6 Is Football Really the Greatest Game?
Show Notes Transcript

Two guys who don't watch football discuss football.

They say football is the greatest game ever. So our hosts decided to investigate this claim.

Is there anything about the nature of football that makes it so popular? 

Is it about the physics of the game?  Or is it about the lack of tech? How about the economics of football? 

How do people get interested in football? Is it the nature of it or the nurture by some relative?

Or maybe there is some intrinsic structural appeal that no other sport can match.

Lots of frameworks, lots of structure, unnecessary complications. 

This is Life Math’s take on football. 

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Iliya:

This episode in this epi--, uh bleh-bleh-bleh.

Iskren:

Blooper. It took us less time. They took England to score against Italy. Ahhhh! Oh man.

Iliya:

Life math. Life Math. A podcast indescribably tangled,

Iskren:

unnecessarily complex. So bad, that it's good.

Iliya:

life math.

Iskren:

I just want to say this feels very weird. We haven't done an episode in, a while and I'm just back in the game, you know? Oooooh, back in

Iliya:

the game. okay. So this is the football episode and by football, I mean the greatest game in the world. Not American football, but football. It is the game where people hit the ball with their feet.

Iskren:

Yeah. Or because I was doing some research before the episode and as Wikipedia calls it as all football. It is either soccer. Okay. Or association football, which I had never heard this as a phrase before. So apparently the correct term is association football.

Iliya:

Awful. Awful. This is an awful start to what well be talking about both of us know absolutely nothing about football. Well, we both played football. We've played much more FIFA, the PC game or PlayStation game. than we have played actual football. To exemplify this, I actually prepared a small quiz for my cohost now I'm going to ask you five questions, five questions about football, which you need to answer to the best of your knowledge. It depends, it depends. Please go ahead. Go ahead. But, um, the first one is, it's an easy one. We're starting, I'm starting easy. So you know whats a penalty, right? Okay. Can you please give some background for our listeners

Iskren:

Yeah, a penaltys when there's a, fall in, the, box. So like right before the goalkeeper and the attacker was faulted. the defenders kicked him back or fell. And then it's just like a static situation where the ball is placed. 11 meters. Is it? I don't know, 11 meters away from the goal. It's just one-to-one. one attacker versus the goalie. Great start. It's a bit in-depth knowledge right here.

Iliya:

Great start. Sometimes there are other situations in which you can give a penalty, but doesn't matter. The first question was from how far away does the person hit the ball. When you have a penalty kick and your answer was 11 meters. Congratulations. Most football fans will say, this is the correct answer. However, technically it is 10.9, seven meters or 36 feet. Wow. I

Iskren:

can't believe Sorry, sorry. football is defined in Imperial units. This is

Iliya:

actually very ironic. It is. It's a British game. They say, well,

Iskren:

according to the final yesterday, not really. It's an Italian game or as we call it here, culture.

Iliya:

Oh, indeed, indeed. Now how about the football pitch size? How big is the pitch where they play?

Iskren:

Well, I have no idea. Um, okay. Okay. So 42 meters by 120 meters, let's call it that. I have no

Iliya:

idea. This answer was quite all right. Actually, I had to Google this, however, apparently, football pitch sizes vary, but most of the times they try to make it a hundred meters by 60 meters while on average, 105 meters by 68 meters. are you having fun? How are you finding the questions?

Iskren:

Ask me anything football and I'll tell you anything. Cause obviously the answers dont matter like, he decides its fine. Itll still do as a pitch.

Iliya:

Now the next question, who won the FIFA world cup in 2018. This is the last world cup.

Iskren:

Oh my God, This is embarrassing. I have no idea. Uh, wait, wait. I'll tell you France,

Iliya:

France. Good job.

Iskren:

Amazing. I just remember, I just remembered the Wiz Kid M-boppy carrying them forward.

Iliya:

Wow. Incredible.

Iskren:

I'm a football man. You know, I just, don't even when I go to bed. I'm like, oh, should I read a book or no? I'm going to, I'm going to catch up on my football.

Iliya:

So the next question

Iskren:

so far, I'm crashing it. By the way I'm getting this job is my job football. I'll be

Iliya:

doing football. All right, let's do it. I'm going to give you five football players and you have to guess their country, their current football club and their age. Are you ready? Well,

Iskren:

yeah. Okay. Lionelle Macy. Okay. Argentina Barcelona.

Iliya:

33. .Wow. You were so close, but you got only one, correct? He's from Argentina indeed. technically he used to be from Barcelona right now. he apparently is a free agent and he hasn't signed with Barcelona and, uh, you can basically, you can employ Macy for free. basically. You have to pay for it, but you don't have to buy, him. Its for free. Yeah. It's, he's a free agent. Probably. He's going to sign with Barcelona again, but for the time being, he's not a part of Barcelona. So, sorry. I, can't

Iskren:

believe you started with a trick question where like my absolute zero prior knowledge and just started with a trick

Iliya:

question. Oh, No, man, it's not a trick question. It just shows, um, that you havent checked the news and his age. You were almost correct. 34 years old. Now, next one. country club and age Go!

Iskren:

Portugal. Juventus, 32.

Iliya:

Wow. Two out of three, correct ones game. He's from Portugal. Indeed. He's playing for your Juventus and, uh, he's actually 36 years old now. Onto the more complicated to us. These were the easy ones, uh, Kevin, De Bruyne. country club

Iskren:

and age Wow! to, all of the non-football listeners. Like what you, you know, exactly as much as me right now. Kevin, De Bruyne? De Bruyne, De Broine, De Bruyn. Okay. I'm going to say hes Dutch just sounds Dutch.

Iliya:

Half a point. He's from Belgium.

Iskren:

Thats myactually, that was literally my other choice. Okay. Okay, cool. So he's Belgian. I don't know who he plays for naturally. Okay. I want to toss a coin and just say like, uh, Arsenal. Yeah,

Iliya:

Arsenal. A third of a point Manchester city. Okay.

Iskren:

Not so bad actually. like 28.

Iliya:

Good guess. He's 30 years old. Next one. Are you Ready for the next question? Never be been

Iskren:

readier. Paul Pogba. Paul Pogba? wait. I knew stuff about, Paul Pogba, okay. So Paul Pogba plays for Manchester United

Iliya:

whoa. Amazing. Does he? Yes he does. He was one of the most expensive players

Iskren:

he's from

Iliya:

Cte d'Ivoire. Wow. That was Didier Drogba, not Paul Pogba. It's okay. I'll give you a quarter of a point for this one. He's actually from France. Okay. he is

Iskren:

French. And finally, how old is he? Oh my God. He's totally 37.

Iliya:

He's totally 28 monthsthe average age You should just have guessed this. Okay, man. One last one. I know that you're struggling. So I'm going to give you Jrgen Klopp. He's a

Iskren:

coach. This is not a trick question. Yes. He's a coach.

Iliya:

Good job! amazing. He's a coach.

Iskren:

so, I can, I can start on Monday the football show.

Iliya:

Yeah, but you still havent answered: country club and age

Iskren:

Jrgen Klopp. Okay. Wait, Jrgen Klopp, Dutch,

Iliya:

super Dutch. Now-- Hes So Dutch that he's actually from Germany, Not in Germany, but west Germany.

Iskren:

See, hes kind of Dutch, you know that's got to be like a third of a point.

Iliya:

Nooooooo, thats minus point.

Iskren:

Okay. So he's German. He was a club. Oh man. Club, club. Wait, wait.

Iliya:

Jrgen Klopp, Jrgen club. I

Iskren:

have no idea. Lester city.

Iliya:

He's the coach of Liverpool. Liverpool, man.

Iskren:

Oh, booh. Booh. If I've learned anything about football is to booh! Liverpool,

Iliya:

finally his age,

Iskren:

like 45. Good median.

Iliya:

54 half a point. Half a point. Yeah. Digits

Iskren:

commute.

Iliya:

Okay. man. Oh, I see. This is draining for you. So I'm going to ask you the final question before we start the actual podcast. Who is your favorite football player?

Iskren:

Ah! That's actually amazing because like you told me some names before, so I have a collection to pick from, because if you just asked me what was my favorite, I don't know how many I can actually list realistically like a couple. Okay. Who's my favorite. Well, after, the final now, cause that's probably half of the games I've ever watched. This one game I really cheered for this guy in the Italian team Chiesa, who apparently is the son of another famous footballer also called Chiesa.

Iliya:

He inherited the name. Thats quite special. It's an inspirational story of two Chiese. Right. Right. All right. So this is quite good. This is quite good. I actually expected you to bump all the questions, but you did quite well. And I congratulate you on this,

Iskren:

which by the way what it shows is that it's kind of a point on footballs popularity, at least I don't know, across Europe that, I haven't tried to go out of my way in any way to learn anything about football yet. I knew people, teams, coaches, like these names are just, you know, in the air around. So it's a plus for a footballs popularity.

Iliya:

Indeed. Now that we've established that we know something about something, but not really, we can start talking about football. Football is arguably the best game ever. Many people think that I don't know if that's true or not. I do know that it's quite popular. And actually just before the podcast, we were discussing different criteria that we can use to evaluate. Whether football is the greatest game or some other game is the greatest game, but it was you that pointed out some data on the topic. So what do you think some preliminary

Iskren:

research showed that in terms of estimated number of fans worldwide football is the number one sport. Um, and then also the other metric that I used was the revenue, the global revenue of all the individual leagues for sport. And it seems that football again is crushing all other sports, but it could be just because it's very widespread across many countries. Unlike for example, American football is very localized. Basketball is quite localized, professional basketball, whereas football is just everywhere. So it helps to kind of. Increase the revenue, but still even then there were statistics like revenue per team. And they're very high, which means that, there's a lot of money because there's a lot of viewers, which was backed by the other statistic that they just have the most viewers, 3 billion estimated people watch football, which is a lot of people. The next, was about 2 billion, I think. And it was cricket, which came as a pretty big surprise for me. But

Iliya:

cricket is very popular. Well, cricket is quite popular in India and it's a very big country. So I guess that drives the numbers up. Well now, that weve both established that football is a great game, I really want to get into the. Actual topic, right? So why is this? There are many sports, there are sports that are more beautiful. There are sports that are, more affordable. There are sports that are more fun to watch, but for some reason, football has established itself as the greatest game. You know, they call it like this all the time. Now I, myself don't watch football that much. So I try to think about it from an economics perspective, much more. However, once again, there's a framework that I've prepared for you and it is nature VS. nurture of sports. What do I mean by this nature in sports is things like physics. Now let's start from physics. If you have the game of football, there is some physics involved in the game. So there's gravity for instance, So the ball is always on the ground. Unlike basketball, volleyball, baseball, where the ball is all always flying. There's no physics there, right I mean, from a physics perspective, the nature of football is quite appealing because you don't have to make much effort. You have to make less effort. Actually than they did in basketball and volleyball because there you have to keep the ball bouncing or keep the ball high up, which makes it much easier. Secondly, what

Iskren:

I think is So like in those flying sports, like basketball, volleyball, uh, the bowl is mostly moving at 3d space. So it's very hard to do stuff with it. Whereas in football it's for the most part, moving in a two-dimensional field, just the actual field you're playing on. Right? So it's one dimension less Imagine You couldn't do shots that are not on the grass. That will be fully two-dimensional

Iliya:

game. Wow. Well, this is, this is quite true. And actually that's why all the, when you cross the ball and you escape, the second dimension and you enter, the third dimension, these balls are much harder to estimate and to play with. It's a whole new dimension, which means if you pass the ball on the ground as much as possible, and you play the tiki-taka of Barcelona its going to be much easier for you because you're removing the third dimension from your game. Nice, nice, good observation. Now, this thing led me to the whole barriers to entry issue with basketball. I'm a bit less than 180 meters tall, and I will never be a basketball player. You know, I was born to not be a basketball player and almost the same goes for volleyball. But I could be a relatively average-to-tall football player. Right. And that wouldn't be an issue for me. So I think that's another one from a physics perspective, let's say the nature of football is such that the players do not need to be very tall or very short to be good at the game or

Iskren:

so you don't need physically to be in any way, very tall, very short or anything. Or, you know, very large like Sumo, you need to be a large person, right? So there's no such requirement, but also in the same topic, there's almost no requirements for like, uh, like objects that you need, like tennis, you need this whole thing with the field needs to be perfect. And, the rackets and streaming the rackets and balls, and you open like a canister, et cetera. Whereas with football, even if you don't have a pitch, you just need like

Iliya:

two rocks.

Iskren:

Yeah. I mean, we've played football in, the neighborhood when we were kids with like, uh, I dunno, virtually anything an Apple fell from a tree. Oh, let's kick it around.

Iliya:

Indeed. Actually, I call this the tech of the game. You don't need any tick to, start playing the game. So it's much easier to develop the game for starters, very easy to build the pitch. As you say, you just need to two backpacks after school, you just place them and you can play football. Almost any other sport requires such complicated tech man. It's like a basketball. you need this whole hoop and who's gonna place the hoop. When, you're like a child or volleyball. you need a net, tennis same, cricket. You need. the thingy, The

Iskren:

bat. I don't know if it's called a bat actually.

Iliya:

so yeah, so tick is quite good, quite affordable, quite easy to build, I guess also

Iskren:

what makes it great actually I was just thinking about it is the, um, how do I say that you can simplify the game, like an onion peels shells and it still makes sense. It's what I mean is at the very core is just, you know, like two kids and a ball and they can kick it around and its still called a football It's nothing to do with the actual game. There's no strategy. There's no team, there's no goal. but you can call it football. Right. So it's just at its very core just two kids kicking an apple around Or or rock, around, and then you can start adding rules, like, okay, well now we can, add like, Between those two trees, it's a, goal and you have to score through it and the game makes sense. And then, oh, we're going to ask a couple of friends to play with us. So then it's 3v3 still make says. oh, we're going to make the field a little bit bigger. Um, and make it 11 versus 11, still makes sense. Oh, we're also going to add all of those rules, like, a throw in and like penalties and offside and it still make sense. So what that means that in the end, it's a game with like some set of rules, but removing them doesn't make it any less valid to have fun with which is important, because I don't know. I'll have to think about this for a second, but I'm sure that if in, for example, tennis take tennis. If you remove the requirement That you need in this very level field, like some very flat pitch to play on it's impossible. because you have to pass the ball and toss the ball wherever it wants. Or if you remove the rule that like when you hit the ball and goes over the net, that it has to be within the boundaries, everybody would just be hitting it very strong and very far. So any rule, you move, it just breaks the game entirely. Whereas with football, you can go all the way down to just kick your rock and it's still a fun,

Iliya:

game. nice. It's good observation. I completely agree. Football basketball is similar in this regard, of the rules that you add and remove, but still like, if you grab the ball and you walk with the ball, everybody's going to be very pissed because you're not allowed to do that. So itll break the game. Interesting. Interesting.

Iskren:

Right. It's just the layer-ness of it. I was thinking about this in, you know, if football, as a concept was some product that the company created, and it wants to establish in the market, how will they do it? And they'll have to think about acquisition and then about retention. And so what we're talking about, which are the take of it like that, you just need a ball and nothing else. And then also the lack of particular physical requirements, all of this is kind of good acquisition, right? Like to acquire new people, to play the game. It's easy to acquire them because it's very simple to have the prerequisites. Although I was thinking about this in terms of acquisition of viewers of football, rather than players, right. I guess one way to Make somebody, fond of watching football is for them to have played football as a kid, probably that's the usual way it happens. But I just want to mention this acquisition versus retention model when we compare sports, right? Because acquisition for playing football is very simple acquisition for playing. horse riding is exceptionally hard. You need a horse come on. Now I have those negative points. I want to say about the acquisition and about the retention.

Iliya:

They are not negative points

Iskren:

now, a big downside of football. And so it's 90 minutes, for example. Yes. They got extended to even 120, two straight hours, without breaks without time. and It's a more. for the most part, If you're not a really keen observer, like if you're not some super hardcore fan, you're just kind of casually watching. Not that much is happening. Right. That's what, for the most part, usually it's not a constant scoring of points like basketball or even American football. Like there's a pretty big chance for a game to finish zero-zero, or nil-nil I think it's called. Right. And that is the least exciting thing I've ever heard. And again, with the acquisition, but yeah, actually this acquisition of fans. I was talking to a friend of mine a while back about this precise thing and like why European football is that popular in America, especially back then now it's kind of making a, comeback. Let's say. And the point he made is that American sports are kind of American culture. You know, its all about this quick satisfaction generally, but also there's this whole culture of, oh, I'm going to take my family to a sports event this Saturday or Sunday. And I will go to a baseball game, and its this many hour activity and we're going to drink and eat there and observe, and it's going to be exciting and great. And I'm going to pay like $500 more for, this activity probably more. Now imagine this whole thing you planned this whole weekend. you take the kids go to the stadium. theres the excitement. And then the game finishes, nil-nil. I would never watch football again, you know, what I mean? So that's a big issue that it's quite possible that nothing happens in the end, which if you're an actual fan, if you really care about the game, you understand how it's still pretty interesting and a valid thing, but for less rigorous fans, that seems like a, terrible deal. watching 90 minutes for a nil-nil.

Iliya:

No, man. well, I beg to differ. Nil-nil can be amazing. No I'm joking. So I really like that football runs for 90 minutes to the point exactly. With the 15 minute break. So you can prolong it quite well. So same goes for basketball, but with tennis man you, can't watch a tennis game. You cant allot time for tennis, because it could be one hour. It could be four hours come on. Who has four hours during the day to watch a tennis game. Its the posh sport, right. Posh people can do it. I'm not even joking. Well with football, I know exactly when it starts. And I know exactly when it ends. it's a bit different with international tournaments because you have these, extra time penalties and so on. But in general, it's a very fixed amount of time now regarding the nil-nil, I have actually read some research back in the day, maybe five, ten years ago about this. And it goes like this goals in football are quite rare. It's a rare event. So this makes it very rewarding. It makes it much, much more rewarding than with basketball. So if I could be a bit naughty and, say like, if you're having some sexual interaction, same goals for it, right? The longer you wait for the reward, the better it is. I can imagine that fans have this feeling about football, this orgasmic feeling when somebody scores or just negative orgasm when the other parts scores. Uh, so this makes it much more exciting for them because they had to wait for the moment. But on top of this, You're the best man of venue. So I've been watching some games with Vinny. And actually he comes to my place. We drink some beers. We talk a bit, we're not even watching the game, right? So it's in the background. Nobody's paying attention. Whenever the commentary is like, Woah! Woah! Woah! oh, something's happening. But football is not breaking our interaction at all. If we were to watch basketball or volleyball, every point matters, man. And we're just there. and We're simply watching the game. We're not talking, we're not doing anything. We're just passionate about the game. So maybe this new newness of football is not a bad thing, per se. You can do other stuff you can eat. You can converse, do work even, I guess, while watching football while you cant do the same with other sports.

Iskren:

Yeah. That's a good point. It's kind of a paradise here. Like you can easily socialize. while we watch football. Well, okay. yeah. But then that's like, it's a downside for going to the stadium upside for watching it from home. Let's say, Or from the pub or somewhere, even the pubs amazing. Cause you know, the pub is livelier, everybody's chatting and stuff and they're not just fixated on not missing this

Iliya:

one point, but you can also be angry about it. You're in the pub or on the stadium. And somebody does something, stupid and everybody's like, oh, you're so stupid. You can't play football for sure. Stuff like that. And I guess this social-ness of it makes it makes it fun even when it's a boring thing, Mmm, and

Iskren:

then actually what you were saying about, Ah, okay. We circle back to the point of the, feeling passion for the game. So those quick gratification games like basketball or a tennis as well, like there's a point being scored every so often, like very often. and so it's not such a big deal. Right. Whereas with football. You wait a lot, which is, you said increases the value of a goal or nearly-missed goal when it actually happens. So maybe that's why people get so worked up and thrush, some stuff break some stuff. Cause imagine a buildup of 75 minutes, just for some guy to miss a penalty and you get super angry. If there was points every one minute on average and somebody misses something, whatever, I mean, you could feel bad about that stuff, but you're not going to be enraged, but if you've been building it up for an hour, that's actually okay. Now I appreciate the point much more that, you build up This emotional outpour. I don't know if it's going to be a negative or positive one. I

Iliya:

just remembered the scientific paper I started quoting. So it was this thing, this idea that the more time you wait for the special event, the special goal or point or whatever, the higher the gratification. And now there could be another thing, another layer on top of this. if you score early in the game, it counts for less. than if you score later during the game, there are these questionnaires and stuff with different rounds. So first round is for one point second round is for two points. Third round is for three points. So taking this idea and placing it into the sport. This scientific paper was arguing that this would have the. Biggest grip-ness of the fans over the game. So somebody is winning in the beginning, but like, if you have been leading all the game, uh, all game long with one nil, if you go to one-one, the second team to score wins the game, right? So this, has this increased tension in the whole game. You will never have a tie unless it's nil-nil, right? Once you break the tie, you can never have a tie in this game, making it much more interesting.

Iskren:

I mean, you could, still have a tie.

Iliya:

No, no, no, no. So what they were saying is if you have one-one, the team that scored later wins the game because their goal. weighs

Iskren:

more. Oh. But like, you know, if this was made into a rule, if this was actually the way

Iliya:

it were. Yeah. So the paper was looking for ways to make sports more interesting. And this was one of the points, so this would make a game much more interesting, but then another thing they said is the event should be much harder than to score a goal in football. It's kinda

Iskren:

like the, the whole thing with catching the snitch in Harry

Iliya:

Potter, you know, kind of, yeah, yeah. Kind of like that catching the snitch.

Iskren:

JK Rowling. Must've read this paper, building the support. Couldn't believe they caught the snitch, So this is one of the things I had written down before starting the podcast to ask, Because how did we two get or not get into football? And when I asked myself, this question, I realized that I have a particular story. So, you know, as a kid, just the neighborhood. we Play football and stuff. and I would enjoy it seriously like any kid probably. And then I must've been quite young. I don't remember exactly how much, how, old. And, there was this match on TV, and tours with my grandpa who watched a little football.

So it was this amazing match:

Milan VS. Liverpool 2005, I believe. And like it was two nil from Milan and then Liverpool came back from two nil to equalize and then they won with penalties or something. And it was amazing and like the best, it's everything that the match could give you. There were a lot of plot twists. I like comebacks and, a unified the squad against the, like the kind of the Goliath versus, um, oh God, I forgot the name. Um, David that's it David versus Goliath. It was the best match anybody can ever hope for. I think, it was even a final or something, all the stars aligned.

Iliya:

it was three nil for Milan, then three-three in the regular time, they went to extra time. Then Liverpool won with penalties champions league 2005 final. Literally

Iskren:

all the stars aligned. It was the final of the champions league three nil, a comeback happens. It it's amazing. And I was watching this match. I'm a kid I'm like 10 years old or something I'm watching with my grandpa. We're spending time together. It's amazing. The whole thing is the best it can ever be. And it didn't make me really want to go on watching football. So at this point I knew, okay. Football is like a closed door for me, because of this amazing experience it make me want to go and watch football on my own and research players or do whatever. I'll never be into football. So this was the make or break point for me. I watched the best match that has ever happened in my lifetime. And it doesn't make me want to go out of my way to, watch football. So thats the story of how I did not get into football. Which is weird because it's by watching the best match ever. What

Iliya:

about you? It was the best match ever. And this is the first game I actually remember in my life. And I've spoken about this with several different people, our age, and most of them seem to remember this game because it was so, so cool that day. I became a fan of Liverpool forever. I don't dislike Milan, but I dont know, Liverpool won So for me, it was the better team. I don't know I was watching it for some time. In some occasions I was watching football, but I never thought about what you said that this was the make it or break it moment for me, it was always like, I know there are these games that are much better than others because of one reason or another usually international games were collapsed from different countries, go against each other. And I've always thought I'm all right with watching a game every now and then I don't really do it, but this makes the reckoning moment for you was the moment I became a fan of Liverpool, and I know many people that got so excited about the game at this very game that they became football fans forever. I don't know. You're just different, just different. You're just a tennis guy. There was this tiny detail that I noticed in your story, that you are actually watching this game with your grandfather. And actually, this was one of my points about, acquisition of fan base. And usually it's always your father or your grandfather or your uncle that showed you this game and said, Hey, come with me. We're going to watch this football game together. And you become a fan that day with your relative, quite often, you inherit the team that your relative likes. So your father is a fan of Liverpool. You become a fan of Liverpool, or your grandfather is a fan of Man United, and you become one too. And this is quite interesting for me because there is this inheritance of allegiance to a team. Many people get very excited about this and theyre following steps of their fathers and grandfathers. No, but

Iskren:

it's very true because yeah, like the only times I forced any kind of sport and really gotten into it kind of emotionally is when I pick a team and that I really kind of know stuff about them and I follow them as people. So not just as a team. And, you know, the history of it has changed that that's what really gets you into it. So for me, maybe that's it, yeah, I just never had a team to really root for. But while speaking about this, that, me being 10 years old and my grandpa being old at the time could watch the same thing and enjoy it. I may not know anything about football, him being very good at football. Having played semi-professionally is the simplicity of watching football, So we dont know about how simple it is to get into playing football Its the same with watching it because it's sort of clear enough what's going on. Even if you don't know anything, right? Like it's just a ball and they're kicking it around and They have to get into the big rectangle. That's it? You don't need to know more to enjoy the game. And then yeah, you started learning about whatever's happening. Like at some point I realized, oh, I shouldn't just be like a, cat chasing a laser, just look and watching the ball and not understanding the bigger picture. I started zooming out. and watching like the whole page and all the players and how, the lines move, like say the defense line of four defenders, how they move together. It's like a wave and oh, their strategy. That's amazing. And all of those realizations. So there's this depth, this richness in the game. But the important point is just like playing it that if you strip all of this complexity away, the bear balls to their knees is, just a bunch of guys kicking a ball into a rectangle. And it still is fun to watch. That's the amazing part. You don't need to understand the complexity to enjoy it. Because for example, think about this. You're watching out of my most recent example, is formula one, F1 watching it with somebody. And it's not that easy to understand whats going on because for example, pit stops and then this one driver appears to be, second, but in reality they're like 15th, but they haven't pit stopped yet. This whole confusion with it. It's not very easy to observe what is going on. and this whole strategy with when to change the tires. Oh. But soft or hard tires and it's very complex to just keep track of who's actually winning eve. whereas in football. Oh, they're winning it's two-zero. Okay,

Iliya:

cool. It's different with formula one. I guess the beauty they see in the sport is that the rules are ever changing and you have to learn the new rules and how the new things mesh with the game. So it's actually like. made-up rules to make it more complex. So the opposite, of

Iskren:

football, why F-one is a great retention thing, because once you get a fan you kind of hook them and they start following all the dates it has the depth, but there's a very steep learning curve. Initially, that many people just drop off, whereas football, you can probably go exceptionally deep in understanding it, but I can also enjoy it right away.

Iliya:

Yeah. Makes sense. it's

Iskren:

like a, it's like a product that you open the box and you don't need the manual. You don't need to read the manual to get us started.

Iliya:

I kind of know of a product like that. I'm not going to plug it. I'm not going to plug it. You just check the bio, check the date, check the course loads. I've been thinking about this issue years, years ago. Why do people watch. football? And my simple observation was that people want to be a part of something that wins. They want to root for something they want to be in a group of people that is a winner that is getting trophies that is winning games. And this makes people feel much better overall. Not everybody can be a professional football player or very good at, programming or something, but everybody can have a football team that wins. So this is something

Iskren:

it's like pride and sense of achievement by association.

Iliya:

Exactly. Yeah. It says of achievement by association. It's very easy to become a Liverpool fan after winning against Maryland in 2005. But. What makes you an actual farm, as they say, is that you go through the adversities and then you start losing because no one team wins all the time. Some years they win some years, they lose some games, they win some other games, they lose and there's this adversity. And you start like acquiring not only the pride of achievement, but also the pain of the loss. And you become much more intertwined with this team. And you're like, oh, we've been together through the good times, but we are also being together in the bad times. And I'm a real fan and I have the privilege and I have the right to be happy when they win, because I was sad when they lost on the point of retention that you're bringing up. This is a very good point for retention. If you've suffered and you've won, then you're with this team together. forever, In your

Iskren:

mind, but it feels like this would be true for virtually any sports, right? Like it's not football

Iliya:

Indeed. So that was my point. So this is what I would tell people, like I tell this story and they're like, oh yes, I'm so convinced. And I'm like, yeah, but this is whatever sports ever, right. This is with everything ever. And, and they're like, Hmm. And one point that they gave me is that, so football is very predominantly, uh, football is predominantly a male sport, right? So this is another layer to it. There are women that watch football. There are women that play football. However, most of, the time, most of the people that like football -enjoy football- are male now. Getting these two points together. What are the places where there is camaraderie of men doing stuff together and it's the army, right? So there is something very military about these crowds of people getting together to root for something to, scream, to shout, to, jump together, to hit each other. It's something very primitive that comes out football. And I guess American football included here, gets, these men very riled up about something and they can be super aggressive towards the other team. They can shout and they can swear, and they can throw objects at the other team during the game. And they hate the other team and everything. And then when the game is over, they go and drink beer together and they talk about politics and they're friends again. But during that, these 90 minutes, they're at war with each other. So there's this very primal instinct to be a part of this. War against the others that, I, think helps football a lot with the fan base with the friendship.

Iskren:

Yup. Yup. But then again, that's, just true with any sport man, with the, you know, it's, not with any sport, but like every one-V-one type of thing where it's two entities, two teams or two individuals fighting against each other in any way. It's kind of the same though. Unlike for example, like motor sports are free for all. So it's different. It's not one-to-one, but football, basketball, tennis, cricket, all of those are one entity versus another entity. One-V-one and then you can feel this really? Yeah. It's a battle. And you identify with all the sides. it's kind of like those two armies meet and each army chooses a champion. And then just the two champions. Fight. And, and if you happen to be the winning side, you're happy because a, you won, b-you didn't die. So I guess it's like, there's the primitive connection there, the primal connection, it could be this, what you're saying can be summarized as the longer, you've been a fan, the higher chance that you remain a fan, because you've been through the good times, the bad times, It also exhausts itself if its the opposite. The more you've been involved, the more you'll stay involved, which is amazing. It's for retention. Thats the best thing that can happen to retention. Once you get somebody hooked, they they'll probably never really leave something about retention again, that I wanted to say, which is more about the actual game. Kind of the mechanics of the actual game Its the randomness. And that's something I've thought about in a different aspect about different sports. But now I guess we'll talk about football primarily is the inherent. Randomness of it. for example, imagine two teams or two players are going to play a game against each other. And if the game is, oh, let's just, let's throw a die, let's roll a die. And whoever guesses, the number first wins. That's a stupid game because it's fully of random. You can never be consistently good at it. So one team in some championship can never have a very long winning streak because it's just, random. if it's too deterministic, then the game gets dominated by this one person forever. Again, like in F1. Lewis Hamilton has been absolutely dominating it for seven or whatever years. And this is the first year hes been dethroned so far by Max Verstappen. Max Verstappen, I don't know which one is correct, Max Verstupen.It's just one more step at

Iliya:

a time. Ah, they're Stollen. I can't butcher it anymore. I hope. oh,

Iskren:

you guys butchered my name. I'm just called Michael Perstolen.

Iliya:

Oh,

Iskren:

Fichael. poor old, Luis Figo. so, okay. I was talking about the randomness of the game and how, yeah. If the game is too random, um, it's kind of stupid because exactly you cant identify with one team and I go for the good one because its random. If it's too deterministic like this, you just go and you know, that Hamilton is probably going to win. It is just super deterministic and there needs to be super careful balance that it's not quite that random. So skill maters and you can have a long successful streak if you're really good at what you do, but it's random enough that. David can always kill some Goliaths. And I think football really nails this. It's not that uncommon that the game finishes one-nil, Let's say. Um, and you know, we play for 90 minutes. It's very hard to organize an attack that actually scores a goal because there's the goalkeeper, the goal. It's pretty hard to score a goal. Right. And it happens that sometimes a team that's supposedly much weaker, just randomly gets one in and then the best team has Amazing, consistent attack, but they just can't score. And I think this level of randomness is a really sweet spot for the randomness of the game. Like, you know, that even if it's an amazing team playing some third tier team, there's always a chance a real fighting chance. and nothing. You just don't know. While at the same time, if you take like statistics or long run, you can definitely tell who's better. And, whos not. and this is a very, very strong point, I think for watching football cause you just don't know what's going to happen. I guess, still the same applies to quite a few sports. It's not very unique to football, but I don't watch enough of the other sports

Iliya:

either. They changed the rules recently, due to COVID and, stuff that came with it. Some players got COVID and it has longer lasting effects, these things. So they decided to change the rules. So now, instead of having three substitutes, you can have five substitutes. I was wondering

Iskren:

about that they kept changing people and I thought maybe it's because it's like extended time. There's some extra something, but they kept

Iliya:

changing people. If there is extra time, you get one more sub. So a total of six subs. Now this is very controversial, like the whole football community. is divided. Some people love it. Some people hate it. Some people are like, oh no, you're breaking the beauty of the game by allowing more subs or whatever that means. So I'm very, very strongly in favor of

Iskren:

more subs. Okay. that's probably a bit off topic, but there's just the way I think about it. Something that I've recently discovered about football and other games as their beauty is kind of seeing them as. Evolutionary game theory, which we'll talk about in a different episode. But what I mean is that you have those same entities. lets say the two teams that they themselves don't change and they repeat the same motions over and over again. But with a slight variation, many times, and this holds very much the depth of those games that are maybe on, round-based. What I mean is the following. you, start, you know, imagine your team and you start the game against another team and usually it's like a blank canvas. And then, you know, to just some casual observer, they just kick the ball around. But no, they have strategies they have a plan. And so they tried this strategy that strategy. And in a single game, I don't know how many attacks there, are, but probably one attack per minute to an average one for a couple of minutes. So there's many attacks like between 50 and a hundred, let's say attacks per game. so you start building up, right? Like you start from blank and then you try strategies one through five that you've prepared. You try one attack of each, one long ball one shorter, you kind of try what works, what doesn't work. And then you start to sink cracks the other team's defense. Oh, you know, it seems that on this particular day, on this particular page, you get this particular enemy

Iliya:

enemy.

Iskren:

Enemy, what a phrase. it seems that I don't know, going with strategy, number two seems to work a bit better. So kind of start pushing a bit more towards this strategy, doing variations of the strategy, et cetera. So what I mean is that I really like this concept of games that have many repetitions of a similar motion that within the actual game, the team needs to evolve, right. It needs to learn. It needs to Evolve as requested by the environment and the environment in this case is just the other team. Um, yeah, And so when, a goal happens in the 50th minute, I've only recently started seeing it from this perspective that it's not this random thing that, oh, it finally happened and they kept doing the exact same thing. No, they've been, they started from somewhere and then it's a kind of a random walk exploration of what kind of strategy could work. Where's the crack in the other team's defense it's an exploration kind of blind exploration in some states based of immense complexity. So having said this, which is probably absolutely unnecessarily complex, just like this podcast. but that's how I see it for real. Having said this, having more subs kind of breaks. this. Cause, you know, the two teams play against each other for an hour, this amount of learning, what works and what doesn't today, against this team has learned some, level and you have some really good idea by now of each other, as opponents, and then what they do two subs. And so it's a whole new team and you start from minute zero. So that's why I would probably be kind of in favor of, as few Changes as possible, but obviously there are different considerations. There's the players health. You know, somebody gets injured, somebody is tired, et cetera. So obviously there's a set of different changes, but I would generally try to keep them on the lower side because of this. For me, the beauty of the game is the on-site exploration of each others

Iliya:

opponents. It sounds like you've only been watching the Italian national team playing. Yeah. They have a very attacking style. So if you see the defense of the Italian team, it's almost like, in the other side of the field. So they're constantly trying new stuff, trying to do this, trying that Many teams are not doing this man, maybe the teams are just like, I have this strategy and it's a counter-strategy of the other guys' strategy. Where is the problem in your thing? You are assuming that the same players would be trying the same thing until they find the crack, but the subs in reality killed only one purpose. and It was, I use the sub because I have a very short player in my attack and I need a taller player. so I can explore much, much more variations of this because now I have a tall player and he can play with his kid so I can cross and he's like bigger so he can push people around and so on. So it's actually helping your point. Having more players, having more subs, is increasing the number of strategies that you can try, but there's not

Iskren:

enough time, you know, like, if on average, I don't know, one game like 90 minutes is enough for, two teams to really get to know each other. Um, in this particular day and time, if you change the team entirely couple of times throughout the game, then it becomes too random. Then there's the balance of randomness, right? So you cant build up knowledge. If the subject of your learning keeps changing. So yeah, it increased the complexity, but then for me, it seems to become just too complex, too random. You can't, because it's not just about the team strategy. It's about those individual one-v-one battles, you know, for example, there's this amazing scoring player like Messi, they have against you and then you've assigned your best defense player to tag Messi just dont let him breathe .And this is not like the team strategy now it's between them to have had so many interactions throughout this game that now they know between themselves, how each one approaches the crossing, the other I dont know the terms. You know what I mean, when they encounter. each other. Only once they encounter each but a hundred times in a very short amount of time, they becomes interesting it's mind games between them two. And when this happens between all sorts of pairs of players, between teams, then on the bigger scale of like, the whole midline versus the whole other midline. And then on the scale, of the whole team, that's when it gets really beautiful and, evolved. And if you keep changing them, this, cant happen, you devolve back to just, it's a new match, it's a new match, just do the different

Iliya:

strategies. If you look at football strategies a bit more, you realize that they actually do this on purpose. They change the wings all the time. They changed their places. Sometimes the back the defender on the left for instance goes, in attack so that they can change this pair. And they're actually doing it all the time just to confuse the enemy. And it's a very big part of the game, especially recently, in the final that you watched yesterday, actually both goals by England and by Italy were scored by defender because they were doing the strategy, which is they go in attack to confuse the defense and stuff like that. So maybe, that's, what's true. What you were saying was true some sometime ago, but right now, Everybody is trying to be as surprising as possible to the other team. I don't know. man. Messi can beat anyone. one-V-one. And, uh, that's why they placed two guys on him, but at what cost, well, sometimes cost Barcelona. The game. Ah, no. Well, okay. Anyways, with the substitutes, why I think is better is that you have fresh blood all the time because it makes the game much more dynamic. And you can see that after 60 minutes, 70 minutes of play, they stop running. They're just tired. They can't run so fast. And then if you can change five players or six players as with the new rules for the extra time, you're basically changing more than half of the team. And they have new power, new attacks, new strategies, and the game becomes much more interesting because until now, you know that with these three subs, you can't really give fresh blood to the team who gave me one player, but that's that's kind of

Iskren:

the, philosophical question of, you know, what, makes it the same. And at what point has this team changed and become a new team? Like how much of it can you change before it's new? So I'll give you this theoretical question. Supposition. Imagine boxing, heavyweight boxing, where especially if it goes too many rounds, they get very tired. They can barely move. They can barely keep their arms up if like, 7, 8, 9 rounds of heavyweight professional boxing. So there's a real issue there, right? Like they really get tired and you can tell, but it's a one-V-one. What do you think about the sport, which is team boxing? So at any given moment, there's only one boxer for each team in the ring, but in the team, there's, let's say five boxers. So at any point you can just sub out and sub out and sub out. So you get to see many pairs fight between the two teams, because that sessions the same, right. Its what you're saying. Sounds pretty good. huh?

Iliya:

Well, I think WWE the wrestling Wrestle Mania stuff, I think that's what they're doing exactly. Its just like they beat, the crap out of somebody and he's like he's almost dying, but he reaches the end of the corner of, the place where they fight and then he hits the hand of the other team and then he comes and he just crushes the other guy. And then the same happens again. And again, and again, then like five people change I think That's. what they

Iskren:

do. Yeah, but now imagine it happening for real

Iliya:

well, it does happen for real There are real injuries happening. Don't

Iskren:

do this at home children. So yeah, I don't, I think it makes things more exciting, but less strategic.

Iliya:

Let's put it this way. Oh, I think it's quite strategic but, anyways, let's not spend too much time on it because otherwise we're going to reach the point where we discuss Gareth Southgate and how he substituted a substitute just to next level, the game. And then he lost. Anyways, he did it twice in the tournament and I don't know what he was thinking, but. it was Just ridiculous. Um, maybe like you, he didn't want to use the substitutes and he was like, I want to change this, but I don't want to change too much because otherwise it's going to be so different that nobody's going to know their, place in the game. Maybe, maybe that was it. They dont want to make it too hard for people to understand the game.

Iskren:

So having said all of this is football, the greatest game ever. What do you think?

Iliya:

No.

Iskren:

You know, my impression from the conversation is that it was like many of the very good, strong points that we've discovered are kind of universally sports applicable. But I would still say that football probably is the greatest game ever, just because of the simplest. effect. The fact that at any level of simplifying it, it still makes sense. Even kicking a rock on the street. Wow. Inspiring. Right. Go kick some rocks on the street. kids.