No Guarantee


Guarantees can be good. When John F. Kennedy promised that the United States would reach the moon within ten years, it was a perfect display of good old American confidence and ambition. When Armstrong finally took those giant leaps, I’m sure it seemed that without the bold predictions of the catholic president, it wouldn’t have happened.

 But guarantees can be bad too. Many have forgotten that Bush , eager to establish some kind of legacy,  guaranteed that a man would reach Mars in ten years. It could still happen I guess, if we discover that something top secret has been going on, but right now it’s as sure a thing as “mission accomplished” . It’s a testament to his imcompetance in so many areas that more isn’t made of this, literally, astronomical error of judgement.

Sports is no different. After Pat Riley coached Magic Johnson and the Lakers to a championship, he promised the people of L.A the same result the next year. Ballsy. But he looked like a genius when his confidence was justified. In fact, he’s pretty much ridden off that ever since. But it went bad for Charles Barkely, who guaranteed a win against Jordan and the Bulls, only to fall the way of so many others of his era, broken by Jordan’s unflinching brilliance.


I wonder whether these guarantees are all made in the harsh light of rationalism, or whether some are merely crimes of passion. Pat Riley must have been damn sure he could win again, given that he promised extremely publicly he would do so. He said it at the victory parade, for goodness sake.  Whereas it seems Barkely was merely hoping that saying the words “win” would be enough to shape reality. He used the word “destiny” as though winning was some type of mysitcal chance rather than anything he could control.  

So as we get closer to the Rugby World Cup, it will be interesting to see if bold predictions are made by any nation, and in particular by Graham Henry. Much focus was put on winning last campaign, to the point that other games were sacrificed (through resting of players) for the tournament. But I never remember an actual guarantee.  Although it seems almost a guarantee when you field the side Henry did against France – benching Jack and Howlett etc, etc…

 But he should avoid the non-committal line of John Mitchell, who emphasised the journey rather than the result. As though we were watching a game of kiwisport or something.

All I know is, if you make a guarantee, make sure it happens.  I’d kind of like to see Henry make one, just for the hell of it, and for the fact he knows he’s screwed if he loses anyway. Why even bother managing expectations? You don’t think the players already know they have to win? Might as well put the guarantee out there… like betting it all, hoping you might cash in big time later.

– David


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