Monday, July 09, 2012

Better than average?

It was Garrison Keillor who described his wonderful Lake Wobegon creation as a place where all the children were above average. It was the American dream and American arrogance in one beautiful comedy package.

This morning there was a discussion on Radio 4's Today programme about tennis. No great surprise there; a lot of people have been talking about tennis recently. But the question was posed, 'Why has Britain only one player in the top 100 men?'

Statistics are a bit counter-intuitive so something that sounds wrong can be right and vice-versa. There are about 7 billion people in the world. That is using the US billion so it means seven thousand million - 7,000,000,000.

The population of Great Britain is roughly 60 million - less than 1% of the world's population - so we should expect to have 0.86 of a player in the top 100. We are above average if we have one. Scotland is punching well above its weight if it has one.

Now, of course, things are not divided up equally. Where there are no tennis courts there are no tennis players. So we might expect to do better than a poor, over populated nation with no facilities. We do. But I feel Britain still has this colonial feel that we ought to be better than others. We should get over ourselves. We are good at some things and not so good at others. In the words of the famous Goon-Show character Eccles, 'Everybody's got to be somewhere.'

Apparently, according to the radio discussion, we have 14 golfers in the world's top 100. That is remarkable.

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