The Garrulous Jay – It’s A Knockout

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Readers of a certain age will recall the bonkers TV game show It’s A Knockout. The programme aired on the BBC from 1966 to 1982. It involved teams from different towns competing to win a series of games that featured the likes of custard pies, greasy poles, inflatable sharks and giant characters made of foam rubber. It was literally ridiculous.

Today sees the start of another knock-out competition when Scotland play the hosts Germany in the first match of the Euro 2024 football tournament. For England supporters the event comes with the added burden of their team being favourites to win following their Final defeat to Italy at Wembley three years ago.

General Election campaigns are also a more nuanced form of knock-out contest, as political parties compete to win enough seats to be able to form a government.

What all knock-out competitions have in common is the element of jeopardy that accompanies the eventual winner-takes-it-all outcome. They can also turn up surprises.

I cannot recall whether Gloucester’s victory over Chippenham and Ross-on-Wye was a surprise in 1982, but I do remember the buttock-clenching PR disaster for the Royal Family of It’s a Royal Knockout five years later. To be fair to Prince Edward (as he was then) the show did raise a substantial sum for charity, but I wonder if his mother ever forgave him.

England fans will be worried by the history of teams defying the odds in the Euros to win the tournament. This happened most famously in 1992 when eventual winners Denmark were brought into the competition at the last minute due to Yugoslavia’s disqualification following the outbreak of the Balkan War.

When it comes to elections there is no doubt the pollsters have smartened up their act since Cameron’s unexpected win in 2015, but in the last few weeks we have seen the surprise failure of Narendra Modi’s BJP party to win a majority in India, and the far right fell short of the widely anticipated gains in the European Parliament elections.

In a world that has been transformed by the immediacy of smartphones and social media it has become ever more tempting for investors to look for the knock-out investment.

One can carry around in one’s pocket the dream of winning big by being the guy who spotted the next Nvidia trading at less than $6 (in January 2020) compared to $129 today.

Investing is not, however, a knockout sport. Looking for Big Wins is akin to placing bets with long odds, and the rewards for most people are commensurately disappointing.

To extend the sports analogy, investing comes closer to a league campaign where winning consistency will smooth out the occasional upset for the best teams. The chances of success may also be further increased through diversification: effectively by betting on multiple teams across different leagues, a range of sports and a number of seasons.

And, finally, unless you’re a sports aficionado choosing which teams to back is probably best left to the experts.