Well, we can all claim to be in a rush nowadays. In spite of the numerous technological advances that have taken countless tedious tasks out of our hands, there's somehow still never quite enough time to do everything we promised both to others and ourselves. Nonetheless, I would argue that we should take more time to both make and digest player evaluations, and that the use of numbers to assess performances on the soccer field should be abolished.
There are two very good reasons. The first is that numbers in this context are as unscientific as many of the other statistics that now blight our game for reasons unknown. For example, ball possession, 'goal probability,' corners, crosses, headers won, tackles won. As though all challenges were the same, or as though winning a corner kick in any way reflects a team's ability. As if it matters that you kept the ball for 62% of the game but lost 2-0 anyway. A pseudo-science has been fabricated out of soccer stats on the (commercially driven) basis that what works in baseball and cricket must work in other sports too. Soccer stats are largely distracting, misleading and inane.
So, attaching a number to a player's performance is an utterly subjective evaluation, reached only for the consumer's entertainment. Even if you count a given player's accurate passes, shots on goals, challenges won, and then set them against errors made, there are too many other factors at play to settle on a meaningful digit. How strong was the opposition? How difficult were the passes to control or to effect? How did the weather influence the field and aerial conditions? Do we take into consideration that the player had a fight with their partner the night before the game, or that they were carrying a slight knee injury, or that our mark last week of 3/10 had already shaken their confidence before a ball was even kicked?
The second reason is the possible affect on the players themselves. Now, most pros know when they've had a bad game. They appreciate that criticism is part of the sport, and they can use negative feedback to pinpoint their own deficits and motivate themselves to do better next time. Still, they can easily take all that from a concise paragraph stating how they fell short over 90 minutes. Is there really any need to add a 2 or a 3 out of 10 at the end of it?
In 2011, German Bundesliga referee Babak Rafati tried to kill himself just hours before a game he was due to officiate between Cologne and Mainz. His colleagues saved his life when they broke into his hotel room and discovered him bleeding in the bath tub. Rafati was suffering from a crippling depression that he'd bottled up inside. He had also consistently finished bottom in the performance table of referees printed by the bi-weekly soccer magazine kicker. The magazine has since stopped publishing such a table, but it still marks refs on a game-by-game basis, and some of their reviews can be extremely harsh -- a single error, sometimes made by the video referee, can land a center ref with a lowest rating of '6' (a '1' being the best). Why is this necessary? Why not leave out the number and simply recap that the refereeing team erred in a particular situation, but otherwise was in complete control?
A specific grade tends to stick, and can also stigmatize referees and players. It cheapens any discussion around quality, so that instead of weighing up good or bad moments, we're tempted to focus on the fact that the press gave a player or an official a damning mark that may invite ridicule. You can not quantify the effect such grades might have on confidence and mental health, in particular where young players and referees are concerned. However, it's more likely to be a negative than a positive effect, especially in the infectious, bilious and sometimes eviscerating social media.
I'm all for naming MVPs, and love to scan the 'Eleven of the Week.' Celebrate the weekend's success stories, by all means. Some of the highlight reels, though, will inevitably feature the mistakes that allowed the best moments to happen at all. I'm calling for a softer scrutiny of those mistakes, which are an intrinsic, unavoidable part of the game, just as they are a part of life. Leave it to the coaches to sit down with the players to dwell on their defects and talk about a path to improvement. They don't need us to pile on with a muddy judgment in the form of a number that often feels less like a fair assessment, and more like a stamp on the victim's forehead.