Continuing our series wherein primo footballologist Prof. Frank Lazarus gets a giant telescope on a mountain in a desert just like in one of those BBC Four documentaries and trains it on the past before joining together the gleanings of history fished therefrom so as the better to illuminate our own bleak age
Statistics was invented in the 1990s by American baseballing legend Barry "Billy" Bonds (not to be confused with West Hammer legend Trevor Brooking). When Bonds was a child, everyone told him what a great baseballer he would be when he grew up. But when he grew up, it turned out he was awful. This crushing blow set Bonds off on his true course in life. Firstly off, he became a manager, his awfulness as a player making him ideally suited. Then, he embarked on a quest to prove with mathematics (or, as the Americans call it, "mathematic") that when you really look into the real reality of things, every baseballer is awful. Thus did he hope to demoralise every player in baseball and allow the team he bought, the Hartford Strepthroats, to win everything. This failed miserably. However, his efforts attracted a shadowy army of acolytes who founded a movement called "cybermetrics" owing to their desire to turn baseballers into robots with a slot on their back that computer paper with loads of stats on it would come out of to save the poor geeks the bother of having to actually watch any baseball. The cybermetricians infiltrated the media and ensured that Bonds's' method-detailing book, How To Win Ball Games Except The Ones That Actually Matter And Influence People Who Secretly Hate Sports And/Or Are Willing To Pay $20,000 For A Presentation On How Everything Is Actually Awful And Here's How You Can Make Loads Of Money Off It, literally became gospel.
Having conquered the world of baseball (basically America and that bit of Canada that looks like it's straining at the membrane of the American border like a spermatozoon politely trying to fertilise an ovum), Bonds looked around to see what other sport he could destroy. He settled on soccer, very much the polo of America. He and some cybermetricians founded statistic company OPTEM (named after the Latin for "eight" which is infinity on its end thus proving the universality of stats). OPTEM came up with a formula that gave every footballer a score out of 1,024, which proved scientifically that the best player in the English Premiership League was actually Julian Dicks. This was called "being counterintuitive". The great soccering public rejected OPTEM's work, mainly because people were still scared of Americans in those days.
The cybermetricians needed a new weapon in their War on Sport(s). For a time, they tried shoving scrunched-up computer paper with stats on it down people's throats, but success was limited. Then someone discovered that you could tell who the better team in a game was because they had more possession of the ball. This worked for a while, but then someone pointed out that there was a game that happened where a team had more possession ... but LOST THE MATCH. Instantly, years of hard cybermetricianalist work was smashed to bits, bytes and so forth. The movement was in disarray until the Whistle Test's Richard "I Don't Believe It, Jeff" Wilson, an expert in tactics (a branch of statistics), wrote in the Guardian those three fateful words:
Cybermetrics was suddenly given fresh impotence. After seeing a doctor, it then got some impetus. Its theories now proven to constitute the only accurate way of looking at football, it spread through the game like Japanese not-weed (which ironically actually is a weed). Three-points-for-a-win was done away with in favour of Expected Goals. Crowds began to admonish and shame spectators who got excited at a bit of skill. Supporters were ejected for celebrating goals. A PA announcement announcing that the outcome of the game had been predicted with 96.7746% accuracy would be warmly applauded. Match magazine replaced their league ladders with regression analysis kits.
Thoroughly widdled off with this spoiling of the purity of the Beautiful, Beautiful Game, comedy terrorist pranksters Jimothy, Hobart & Kedge from E4 satiric banter show Wotcha Shitheads decided to do something about it. They broke into the basement of the home shared by Bonds, Wilson and Zonal Marking, wherein lay the beating heart of the cybermetrics movement: an enormous supercomputer that churned out reams of stats and tactics intended to explain and thus ruin football. JH&K had intended merely to throw stacks of computer paper around, do some swearing, and maybe have a bit of an ol' defecation on a hard drive if they timed it right. However, what they discovered was shocking. The computer vomited out a strip of ticker tape that contained a formula that, if implemented, would finally solve football. Grasping the horrific implications, Jimothy said that this must immediately be destroyed. But Kedge, the silly sausage, had already tweeted out a picture of it along with a meaningless string of emojis. Football was instantly rendered pointless and everyone realised that snooker was in fact the one true sport, which was confirmed in a handover ceremony at the Maracanã (later renamed the Estádio Matthew Stevens).