Archive for February, 2012|Monthly archive page

Assessing the value of a sport – example: Penrith Panthers.

In General Mish-Mash on February 29, 2012 at 2:47 pm

How do you measure the value of the game, the team, the club … what do they really bring to their community? Once you measure it, how do you illustrate it, what words describe it, how do you get others to believe in it?

These are questions we asked ourselves regularly.

The first response to such an inquiry is often to look towards the bean-counters for answers, sometimes it is suggested that it is a question of brand value and it’s discoverable through market (or marketing) research. Once an answer is found (if it is), it is handed to communicators and marketers to get others to buy into the equation.

Overwhelmingly those asking this question about value seek answers that are numeric, easily understood, and easily sold.

But I remember watching Ryan Girdler signing autographs one day.

An hour after all the players had left he still had a queue in front of him. He stayed until the last person. Every single person on that queue was given the attention they needed to feel special. The very last person was a little boy … and when his poster was signed, Ryan took off his cap, patted him on the shoulder and said, “Would you like my cap? It’s yours!” . 

The look on that boy’s face was priceless … and so was the look of satisfaction that Ryan had. It was simple thing, a brief, shared moment – paying homage and respect to the effort they had each put in. A timeless moment, expressing something far too complex and precious to be assessed using the methodology of accountants or auditors. (Ryan may have forgotten that moment as he had many of these moments, I doubt the boy has, and it is indelibly stamped in my memory.)

In 2008, we decided to take a different approach to this perplexing question of assessing and expressing the value of our game, club.

We handed the question over to an artist! About as distant from econometrics as you can get.

Why? Well, artists historically have been about expressing value and values in unique and often confronting ways, ways that either engage or challenge or both. We wanted both – engagement and to have our paradigms challenged. (Well, I wanted that challenge for us … )

Craig Walsh was the artist selected for this project. The following notes on value were written for the exhibition of Craig’s work. The work was called Heads Up. To take a look at some of the images, view the promotional video, and hear the artist talk about the work – click here – or click on the image below  new window will open).

This photo gives you an idea of the scale of the images created … and further below is the article on the Panthers written for the exhibition:

An idea of scale - there were 17 images of this size in the exhibition.


The general practice, when questions of value arise, is to hand over to some sort of assessor whose fundamental metric is symbolised by the dollar sign.

Measuring the value of the Penrith Panthers Rugby League team in our community is the launching point for this work.

We have handed over to an artist!

The financial impact of our game, our club, and our team on our community is an important measure. Its importance sometimes masks a lack of depth and dimension. It is desperately inadequate for assessing the real value of anything.

Even modern accountancy’s “triple bottom line” cannot give a rounded and complete picture. This is true even for the most discrete and simple activity, let alone the game of Rugby League … or a Rugby League game!

To truly measure value we need to extend out palette beyond the red and black inks of the ledger. The assessment tools and indicators we use need to exist beyond the shadows cast by financial symbols.

What if, during a game, we monitored fans and measured the changes in heart rate, the drip rate of beads of sweat, the rate of flow of tears, the glances of unspoken camaraderie, the grieving time (this is being written after a big loss) or emotional altitude reached in celebration of an important win?

Can we measure the depth of admiration in the eyes of the young autograph-hunting fan … or the extent to which that look increases the sense of self-esteem and responsibility in the young, rookie player. Indeed, even in the “old” hard-heads on the verge of retirement and those already confined to play their game through legendary tales.

At Penrith Panthers what sort of emotional thermometer is applied to our players, administrators and educators alike when they witness the graduation ceremony of students in the Panthers on the Prowl program? We can count the number of young children who earn their membership of The Prowling Panthers fraternity. We should be able to collect and weigh the tears of joy from proud parents and the decibels emitted by the sighs from grateful teachers. These are far more valuable than the result on the screen of any imaginable calculator.

This work by Craig Walsh measures the value of our game in ways that have not been attempted before. There is certainly evidence of that stoic Aussie mask, filtering the raw emotion, camouflaging the vulnerable and uncut treasure.

Craig has found a transparency, allowing us all to enter and count for ourselves the jewels in each of these images and each of these individuals.

The scars, the pores, the imperfections, the eyes, the discolouration, the emotion, the entire collection of minutiae evident in Heads Up are all measures of the impact of the players on each other, and they allow us to project as to the impact of both the players and the game on the community.

(By the way, by “players” I mean those players who take the field and those players who take their places in grandstands and on the hills of the stadium.)

These images have an infinite number of dimensions and potential interpretations. They cannot be reduced to caricatures, they are not images of super-heroes nor are they stereotypes representing a particular class or region.

They are human. Exceptionally high in value and warranting attention.


Infinity, Typewriters, Monkeys, Ricky Gervais, Karl Pilkington and …

In General Mish-Mash on February 17, 2012 at 12:21 am

Recently I found myself laughing – well ROTFLMAO, really – at a conversation between Ricky Gervais and Karl Pilkington. I guess it wasn’t really a conversation. Ricky was bombarding Karl with some philosophicl concepts about randomness and infinity and Karl was looking non-plussed then responding with complete denial and disbelief.

Take a look, have a laugh:

Now, central to the exchange was that old metaphor for randomness – monkey (or monkeys) typing.

The nature of infinity suggests that, allowed at it forever the Works of Shakespeare will be included in the output of the monkeys’ efforts.

Aside from laughing this conversation got me wondering about a couple of things.

Firstly, does the monkey metaphor confuse the issue. As Karl says, quite simply: “It wouldn’t happen”. Is the randomness disguised by our “monkey paradigm” – that a monkey could learn or could be perceived to be learning how to type better.

I wonder whether Karl would concede the possibility if, instead of monkeys, he was told that infinitely powerful, infinitely fast computers randomly pumping out characters for an infinite period of time would produce the Works of Shakespeare.

Maybe … if so, then it is the monkeys in the metaphor that is at the core of Karl’s disbelief.

But, somehow I think it is infinity that really causes Karl the biggest problem.

Infinity is a bloody odd thing and impossible events happen under that title. Things happen under the good name of infinity that are simply unbelievable in our very finite and very practical work-a-day life.


We all know that there is an infinite number of  counting numbers: 1,2,3,4, … whatever number you say I can add 1 to it and get a bigger number and go on and on forever at it. Yeah?

But what if I told you that there are as many even numbers (ie numbers divisible by 2) as there are counting numbers.

I think Karl would say:

“Bollocks, if you have a bag with all numbers – 1,2,3,4, right – and take out all the odd numbers. Right. Your bag would be half full. You’ve ditched half the numbers and the half left is even numbers. So you can’t have as many numbers as you started with.”

But it is true.

Every number in the counting numbers can be paired with every number in the set of even numbers – they are matched 1 to 1 – so the sets are equal in size. (Just take each counting number and multiply it by two – that is the 1 to 1 relationship.)

There are many weirder things but lets not get bogged down. My assumption of Karl’s response to this is that he would make the flaw of not being able to escape from the finite world.

Unbelievable things happen with infinity.

Back to the monkeys typing. Here is a bloke trying to prove that the monkeys would not produce Shakespeare’s Works. He takes about 8 minutes – it’s pretty dull bt at least watch a bit of it.

Now, Ricky laughed – and many have joined him – at Karl’s pragmatic and practical response to this infinty/random thing. Many might think this Karl’s response was not the brightest but …

It was a darn sight brighter – infinitely brighter – than the bloke doing all the numbers trying to disprove it. And it was also infinitely more entertaining.

Karl was spot on when he said it “just wouldn’t happen.” It would not happen in our finite world and certainly not in the very practical world of Karl.

The bloke with the numbers deftly deploys multiplication, indices, logarithms in the effort to say it wouldn’t happen.

But he starts off with the premise that the exercise is conducted in a finite space – big, sure! But still finite. And all his prattling is based on exactly the same assumption that Karl made – our world is finite and it just would not happen.

He would have been more honest and more entertaining if he just said:

“You know what … it just wouldn’t happen. So don’t bother thinking about it. Get on with something useful”

But in the conceptual world – it must happen, it is a certainty – why?

Because that is the nature of infinity.