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Not Strictly Soccer Related: Perceptions of Quality

People like to rate things. Putting things in order by preference is human nature; what the preference is, and what the list is comprised of, is the genesis of a billion stupid, pointless arguments, particularly in sports. You see this more in baseball - especially when Top 50 Prospect Lists come out (HOW DARE YOU PUT JABARI BLASH AT #47 HE'S AT LEAST #44 oh lord please kill me now for reading this whole list) - but you definitely see it in soccer as well.

You also see it everywhere else, though - movies, music, food, beer, wine, everything gets listed, discussed, rated, and debated ad nauseum. In the wine world, there are many studies that have shown that point systems and blind comparisons are fairly useless. An article about a recent study shows this very well - a noted wine expert convinced the California State Fair wine competition to pour the same wine from the same bottle three times in a tasting session, to see if there was consistency in the ratings given. Guess what? There wasn't.

According to this study, there are many things that can color one's perception of a wine - the music playing at the time, the color of the room, the mood of the taster, etc - and all of them lead to wildly different assessments of the same beverage by the same person. In short, we can easily perceive a change in quality, but we can't assess the quality successfully to start with.

Does this mean that ratings and discussions are useless? Of course it doesn't. But what it does mean is that they're not gospel - just because someone gives your favorite (whatever) an inferior grade doesn't mean that (whatever) isn't worth (having, doing, eating, drinking, etc). It just means you have to bring your own judgment to the thing, and don't depend on others for anything except maaaaaaaybe as an initial filter.

I tend to be fairly skeptical of "experts" in any field, particularly beer/wine tasting - anybody that says, with a straight face, that they can perceive "orange, caramel, toast, toffee, vanilla, malt, and white bread" or "cobwebs and damp wood" (all actual reviews from ratebeer.com, by the way) when they taste a beverage needs to be punched in the face. When was the last time you drank damp wood? How do you know what it tastes like?

What about you? What do you take with a grain of salt? Are there any reviewers of anything you like that you trust unequivocally, or are you always skeptical?

Anything else going on this week?

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