It’s just a bit of fun. The Guardian recently asked psychic Inbaal to predict which three of five possible clubs will be relegated from the Premier League. (Association Football, since you ask.) The piece ran in the sports section with two games of the season remaining and West Brom and Middlesbrough in desperate trouble, with Newcastle, Hull and Sunderland also in danger of relegation. What happened next?
This: Inbaal read the tarot cards and astrology charts of the managers of the five relegation-threatened teams. Ricky Sbragia was considered “too unfocused to be a leader” and his team Sunderland had “the worst credentials” due to his Sagittarius moon making him feel oppressed and Mars in Aquarius making him confused. Verdict: Relegated. What actually happened to Sunderland? Well, they finished two places above the relegation zone and survived to fight another season in English football’s top tier. Incorrect. Scoreline: 0-1.
Alan Shearer had “fire and earth in his chart”, signifying fight and steadfastness. Despite this fire and steadfastness, it seemed the fates had it in for Big Al and Inbaal correctly predicted that Newcastle would be relegated. Verdict: Relegated. Correct. 1-1.
Phil Brown, manager of Hull City, was apparently focused on two things at once due to being Gemini and Hull were “doomed to lose everything and start afresh” Inbaal said she “would be astounded if they stay up”. Verdict: Relegated. Actual position? Hull finish a point and a place above Newcastle. Incorrect. 1-2.
Middlesbrough’s Gareth Southgate “has a perfect chart for management”. Blah, blah, earth signs, Chinese year of the dog, blah blah. Verdict: Staying up. What happened? They lost and finished three points from safety with a worse goal difference than Hull. Incorrect. 1-3.
And finally, Tony Mowbray of West Bromwich Albion: “He has three major planets in Sagittarius and he wants success now.” Verdict: Staying up. What happened? They drew and finished slightly further from safety than Middlesbrough. Incorrect. 1-4.
Now, given that three of five teams had to be relegated the worst possible score that Inbaal could have managed would be 1-4 (one correct prediction out of five), which is exactly the final outcome. I’m not exactly an expert on football but I managed to correctly predict that Sunderland would stay up and that Boro and West Brom would go down. My score was 3-2*.
Inbaal, as you will know if you have clicked on the link at the beginning of this post, runs a website that offers a mini-reading by email. Three short questions for £10. If you have confidence in Inbaal’s powers of prediction having read about her use of tarot and astrology in divining the final Premier League table, then fair enough – you go right ahead and buy three predictions for a tenner. It’s only a bit of fun in my view and if you want to spend your money on psychics it is entirely your business. What bothers me slightly is that the Guardian linked to Inbaal’s website and included a reference to her TV show Psychic & Soul on Sky channel 885 as if she provided a reliable service. Not that they are alone. These predictions based on bogus methods are promoted by a whole host of media outlets: if you don’t believe me, check Inbaal’s Media CV. What kind of world do we live in when the Guardian’s sports pages pimp a psychic’s business one week (and then follow it the next with namechecks to Rio Ferdinand’s agent the next – if this was a precondition to gaining an interview with Rio the Guardian should have refused, if it was the Guardian’s choice to namecheck an agency then I find their decision to advertise this commercial entity baffling and inappropriate), but is unable to find the space in an article on Karol Sikora to credit the person who did all the ground work and broke the story four days previously – Dr Crippen, the NHS blog Doctor.
*The main reasoning was that Boro and West Brom were already lagging behind the other teams and were fairly certain to go down, while Sunderland had the advantage over the other four teams in terms of points already in the bag – my predictions were almost completely informed by the number of points each team already had. The only thing I got wrong was in predicting that Hull would swap places with Newcastle and this was based on my views that (a) Hull were in a worse run of form than Newcastle and were less likely to turn things round and (b) subjectively, I considered Newcastle’s players to be better than Hull’s. If I had used only the rule of thumb that the teams with fewest points in the bag with two games remaining would likely be relegated, I would have scored 5/5. This simple heuristic was ignored because I thought I knew better – I believed that the information I had regarding Hull’s poor form and Newcastle’s superior quality in the form of players like Mark Viduka would help me to pick the three losers. It didn’t help. If anything it distracted me from the more relevant information that was available to me from a simple glance at the league table. The heuristic never figured in Inbaal’s mind, however, as she had the power of tarot and astrology on her side and therefore could not fail. If Inbaal had cheated and made her predictions fit the likely outcome then she’d have done much better. This makes her bogus prediction, in my opinion, genuinely bogus – she really seemed to believe that tarot and astrology could enable her to predict the correct outcome to the Premier League season and as such felt no need to cheat. Bogus methods can be happily applied by a person acting genuinely. Contrary to what Justice Eady believes.