There has been much discussion in the philosophy of sport about what makes a ‘good game’ and the conclusion seems to be best expressed by Sigmund Loland who uses the phrase ‘the sweet tension of uncertainty of outcome’ (p149, Fair Play in Sport).
Essentially, this means that ‘good games’ are those in which the result is always in doubt; the higher the level of doubt, the greater the anticipation of a ‘good game’. It perhaps is also a psychological reason why we (as non-partisan observers) root for the ‘underdog’; we want to convince ourselves that we will see a game where we simply don’t know what will happen. At the very least, it makes life more interesting.
And so on day 2 of the Women’s Rugby World Cup, I’m once again hoping that there really is the ‘sweet tension of uncertainty of outcome’; I don’t want New Zealand to walk over Australia, and I’d like to see Kazakhstan shake England up a bit. It’ll take just one match going against the odds to put the question of doubt in everyone’s minds about all the other matches; the whole tournament will take on a different perspective.
And when nothing is certain, the tension will taste all the sweeter.