MatterOfStats History : Shadow's Origin Story

Today, not a post about football, but one about the history of one of MoS’ Margin Predictors, Shadow. This same story, in much the same form, is also available elsewhere on the site in a downloadable Newsletter from the History and Archives section - it’s in the Round 1 Newsletter of 2008.

I came across it last night while I was looking for something else and thought that some of the more-recent visitors to the website might enjoy it.


“There’s a story behind Shadow.

My wife and I acquired the two tipping dogs with whom you’re already acquainted, Chi and Quila, a couple of years ago from a remarkable lady in Kurri Kurri who spends much of her time saving the lives of impounded stray dogs from across Sydney and surrounds. Each week she contacts a number of council pounds from which she carefully selects another group of dogs to receive her remarkable Lazarian gift. At any one time she’ll have as many as fourteen or fifteen dogs on her property - five of her own and nine or ten more of the recently rescued - which she sets about repairing, rehabilitating and rehousing. Our two furballs came to her after they were found wandering the streets of Fairfield and were then subsequently co-caged at the pound.

After an hour long on-site interview with her, we were, evidently, assessed as suitable owners and thus permitted to take C & Q home with us on a 14-day, money-back trial; it was a condition of purchase that we take both dogs as they’d formed such an obvious bond. In the first few days Quila disobeyed, escaped and generally misbehaved with sufficient frequency and intent to have us seriously contemplating a return to a dog-free life. At that point, of course, I had no idea that Quila couldn’t tip football to save herself, otherwise I’m sure that would have been the clincher.

Registering C & Q required a transfer of ownership from the rescue lady to us. This, we expected, would be a simple process. For whatever reason, councils being what they are, notification of the transfer prompted our council to demand - erroneously, since registration is now for life - that we re-register both dogs. So, my wife took a day off work, trekked to council chambers, and legitimised our ownership.

Regrettably, the council-worker who took and receipted our payment incorrectly transcribed Quila’s microchip number, recording just one of the 15 digits incorrectly. (Whenever I see the 15 digit microchip number I imagine the guy who was given the weighty responsibility for drawing up the initial Microchip Standard Document asking his young son how many pets he thought would ever exist. Being at that stage where the enunciation of extremely large numbers is inordinately enjoyable, his son, after pondering a moment, said “Um … a million billion, Dad!”. At which point his father said, “Right then, 15 digits it is.”). Rarely does goodness ensue when a bureaucrat errs.

To council it now appeared that we had registered a dog that they didn’t know we had, and that we had also failed to register one that they ‘knew’ we did. So, a couple of weeks ago, they issued me with a Penalty Notice for $165 for the offence “Fail to Comply with Notice to Register Animal”. 

I penned an immediate note to council, as politely as I could muster, pointing out the (to me) obvious administrative slip-up, and requesting that they rescind the Penalty Notice, forthwith and in writing. The response from council was near instantaneous. I doubt that the saliva had long dried on the stamp. Clearly, right now is something of a quiet period in the Animal Enforcement department of our Council. 

With my letter almost certainly burning in his hand, D1 (not his real name) phoned my wife to inform her that he and a colleague, D2 (also not his real name), would be coming over in an hour or two to inspect the premises. On arrival, D1 and D2 played good cop/bad cop, convinced that we were hiding another dog somewhere on the premises.

Quite why council felt it necessary to assign two burly dog-handlers to our ‘case’ is a matter of considerable household conjecture. At first I surmised that D1 and D2’s thinking might have been that, should an incident arise, there’d be one man for each chihuahua, which seems to me a decidedly generous ratio, but I soon detected the flaw in this line of thinking when I recalled that they were expecting a third dog, which would leave them, it would seem, a council-worker short of safety. Perhaps they had a backup on standby. 

Post arrival, and at some length, the realisation semi-dawned on at least one of them that the likelihood of our being assigned two microchip numbers differing only in their 4th digits was sufficiently implausible as to make the alternative explanation – administrative error – at least conceivable. Better still, such an explanation meant that the blame could be sheeted home to whomsoever had wrongly recorded the microchip number on the receipt and not to D1 who, it turned out, had written the Penalty Notice in the first place and who had therefore taken it personally when I’d suggested in my letter that the Penalty Notice had been raised “in error”.

To briefly summarise then, our council had: firstly, wrongly insisted that we re-register our dogs; secondly, wrongly recorded the details of our subsequent compliance with their directive; thirdly, wrongly issued a Penalty Notice; fourthly, assigned two men to what surely was a one person exercise; and then, fifthly, only grudgingly accepted the Council’s – but of course not their own – responsibility for the error.

So, that would be it then, you’d think. Ah, but no. We were required to complete, have duly witnessed by a JP, and then fax to council a Statutory Declaration that we have only two dogs whose microchip numbers are X and Y, and that these are the only two dogs that we are aware of owning. Just how we can lawfully attest to the non-existence of something when this same logical conundrum has vexed philosophers for centuries is an issue perhaps best left for another day.

Anyway, after mulling it over, my wife and I have decided that The Dog That Council Secretly Thinks We Have shall be named Shadow, and his tipping algorithm shall comprise the following rules, consistent, we think, with the general ethos of the canine fraternity:

  • Rule 1: The Extended Loyalty Rule: In each game, tip the team that has won most often when tipped during the current season (for the purposes of this rule, draws will count for one-half of a correct tip). If both teams have identical records, refer to Rule 2.
  • Rule 2: The Recent Loyalty Rule: Tip the team that has most recently won when tipped (for the purposes of this rule all games in the same numbered round will be deemed to have been played contemporaneously). If the teams’ most recent wins when tipped occurred in the same round then consider the next most recent win when tipped. Continue using this rule until all games of the current season are exhausted. If neither team has yet been tipped, refer to Rule 3.
  • Rule 3: The Extended Performance Rule: Tip the team that is currently higher up on the competition ladder. If the round under consideration is the first round of the season, tip the team that finished higher at the end of the previous regular season. (In effect this makes Shadow’s tips for the 1st round of the season identical to Consult The Ladder’s).”