Los Alamos | With nuclear arsenal squared away, researchers turn to soccer

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Los Alamos, New Mexico | Soccer has been classified as the world’s most competitive sport, at least in statistical analysis covering English football’s top division, Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, National Football League and National Basketball Association. Analysts representing Los Alamos National Laboratory and Boston University studied results of more than 300,000 games, concluding that soccer offers the best opportunity for a lower-placed team to defeat a higher-placed team. The authors considered the likelihood of upsets as the measure for competitiveness.

Perhaps as a result of a comment to New Scientist—in which lead author Eli Ben-Naim said a dearth of upsets makes games “boring“—media have pitched the study as a judgment on which sport is most exciting. Respondents in a New Scientist forum rise to the bait to offer rugby, Irish hurling and Australian Rules football as the better game, but Peter Gillies in Afghanistan offers interesting perspective: “Here in Kabul we get to see the horsemen bat the dead goat around—bushkashi—from time to time. One adapts to the local definition of what is sport.”

About the Author

John Turnbull founded The Global Game in 2003. He was lead editor for The Global Game: Writers on Soccer (University of Nebraska Press, 2008) and has also written on soccer for Afriche e Orienti (Bologna, Italy), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the New York Times Goal blog, Soccer and Society, So Foot (Paris) and When Saturday Comes. His essay "Alone in the Woods: The Literary Landscape of Soccer's 'Last Defender' " in World Literature Today was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Also for World Literature Today he edited a special section on women's soccer, "World Cup/World Lit 2011," before the Women's World Cup in Germany. The section appeared in the May-June issue. His next project is a book on soccer and faith.

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