Predictions. Things that are very easy to make, and then rather more difficult to explain when the reality-braggadocio continuum shows itself to be out of sync once again. Predictions are even more tricky when matched with a dismissive “it won’t happen” and a promise to carry out some kind of outlandish forfeit if it actually does happen. How they square that particular circle distinguishes truly great pundits from mundane ones.
Sometimes the pundits making the predictions do so on the spur of the moment and row back both rapidly and sheepishly - I’m thinking BBC General Election exit polls, Iain Dale and Paddy Ashdown here - but others do the deed under no pressure at all, and when (hopefully) in full possession of their faculties. And that brings us to the comparison between Dan Hodges and Gary Lineker.
The Mail On Sunday’s not at all celebrated blues artiste Whinging Dan Hodges claimed before the last General Election that UKIP’s vote share would by that point be below 6% nationally. Should it remain above that level, he asserted, he would run naked down Whitehall. He was wrong. But he did not run naked down Whitehall, although he did run only in shoes and a pair of shorts. His was a cop-out.
He's desperate, Dan
Far more publicity was garnered by former footballer and now Match Of The Day lead host Gary Lineker, who last autumn considered the question of whether Leicester City, the team with which he had first made his name in the 1980s, had any chance of winning the Premier League. He concluded that it wasn’t going to happen and that if it did, he would “do the first MOTD of next season in just my undies”.
And so it came to pass that Claudio Ranieri and his unfancied team of bargain basement buys were not only top of the Premiership table at the end of 2015, they were still there at the end of the season. Old and new media were as one: Lineker had said he’d present the show in his pants, and so in his pants it had to be. Would he do a Hodges and wimp out, or would he do the deed? And where would they put his mic?
The answer was that Lineker was as good as his word, right down to the Leicester City pants. While fellow pundits Alan Shearer and Ian Wright dissolved into helpless laughter in the background - once Wrighty loses it, it tends to stay lost - he did indeed present Match Of The Day in his undies, and for the doubters Tweeted “Had a few complaints saying I should've worn pants not boxers. My tweet said undies. Boxers are undies. That was embarrassing enough thanks”. Fair play that man.
So remember Dan Hodges - when you make your prediction, think first just how embarrassing the forfeit might be, and then be prepared to go through with it. Gary Lineker made a realistic promise and then followed through on it. That’s one reason he’s genuinely popular … and you’re not. Here endeth the lesson.