Friday, August 21, 2009

Faster Higher Longer

Someone once said that the world divides into two sorts of people - those who divide the world into two sorts of people and those who don't. But I wonder if the world divides into two sorts of people - those who care about records and those who don't. And I wonder if a few people have discovered they do care more than they thought after all, following Usain Bolt's 28.76 seconds of work this week.

Notwithstanding that every now and again people with unique physical qualities come along who laugh in the face of existing records - step forward Mr Bolt with your 90% twitch muscles compared with most of us and our 50% - we do seem to like our records.

If I can beat my PB round Tescos I feel that I have achieved something special with the shopping trip. Likewise the various machines at the gym. How fast can I row 1500 metres? 8.26 at the moment but it's coming down.

Or is it simply numbers of which we are fond? Facebook is full of quizzes at the moment. How evil are you? What is your top score at Bejewelled? How many books have you read? CDs do you own?

In trying to pump interest into a flagging formula Match of the Day are searching for 'stat of the day.' It's been ten years since their punditry was interesting. How about that?

Yet we seem capable of ignoring climate change stats. We find it hard to cope with politicians' use of stats - like a drunk uses a lamp-post, more for support than illumination (not original). Unless we are interested experts, numbers such as the FTSE, unemployment rates and A level pass rates are not ones we know what to do with. I have no shares, a job and note the constant improvement in exam pass rates such that some can't get to college with three Grade As. And this means? You can only tell if 9.57 is fast for 100 metres by comparing it with other runners' times. But other things change too. Improved swimming cossies = masses of world records. Did that exam just get easier?

You will have noted my preoccupation with counting the numbers at our church's early prayer meetings. Luke was pretty keen we should know that 3,000 were converted on one day of the early church's work. Jerusalem, Judea and the ends of the earth is a geographical target - we know they got there because I am posting from one of the ends.

Today my life would be improved by 8.25 seconds on the rower and a record-breaking partnership for the ninth wicket at the Oval against Australia.

Numbers. They count.

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