Monthly Archives: September 2013

The Uncle Jeff Formula: A Retrospective

86-7My Uncle Jeff has been a West Ham season ticket holder since the 1950s. In the 1986, he started documenting West Ham’s results on sheets of paper in his garage, where he fixes TVs and video recorders. He’s been doing it ever since.

Recently, I found the full archive in one of his kitchen drawers. Above is the the list that kicked it all off, from the 86/87 season, when West Ham finished 15th in the old Division One.

Notable players: Tony Cottee, Paul Ince, Frank McAvennie, Alan Devonshire

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91-2

Here’s the 91/92 list, when West Ham finished 22nd and were relegated. Notably, it’s the first – somewhat impromptu – appearance of Uncle Jeff’s game comments. The scores and scorers are written in neat fountain pen, until the scorers section rather dries up as West Ham drooped towards the end of the season.

At the bottom, capitalised and in biro: “CRAP TEAM DON’T DESERVE OUR LOYAL SUPPORT”.

Notable players: Mike Small, Julian Dicks, Trevor Morley

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95-6

The 95/96 season, when West Ham finished a respectable 10th. The list now has a dedicated comments section, where Uncle Jeff lamented the team’s early season form.

After a 0-0 draw away at Southampton: “What a load of rubbish”.

After a 1-0 win away at Wimbledon: “This is an improvement”.

After a 4-1 home defeat to Aston Villa: “Back to normal (“Rubbish”)”.

Notable players: Danny Williamson, Iain Dowie, Ian Bishop

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2000-1

Into the 00s. This is from West Ham’s 01/02 season, when the team were relegated on the last day of the season. A bad year. Six games in, after a 3-2 home defeat to Tottenham Hotspur in September, Uncle Jeff vowed to give up the comments (“No more comments the writing is on the wall”), but returned two weeks later after a 3-2 defeat to Chelsea (“Oh what a surprise”).

After a 2-2 draw at home to Newcastle: “I could do serious injury to Brown [the then West Ham chairman] and his motley crew”.

After a 3-1 defeat to Arsenal the next week: “Roeder [then West Ham’s manager] can stick this result up his arse(nal)”.

The comments dry up at the tail end of the campaign, as West Ham slumped towards the bottom of the league.

At the end of the season, the capitalised biro has returned: “RELEGATED AS PREDICTED WILL HAPPEN AGAIN IF THEY STICK WITH RODENT”.

Notable players: Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Jermain DeFoe

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04-05

04/05: Our second year in the Championship. During a mid-season wobble, Uncle Jeff is on top form.

A 1-0 home defeat to Brighton: “The Pain continues it will be worse next week”.

The next week, after a 1-0 loss to Millwall: “It’s worse and will continue until Pardew goes”.

After a 1-1 draw with Leeds: “We’re crap and we know we are”.

A week later, after losing to Preston 2-1 “The pain goes on and Pardew is a prat”.

After a few good results, a 2-0 loss at home to Sheffield United: “Back to SQ1 or SQ0 or SQ-1”.

A week later, a 4-2 defeat at home to Wolves: “No comment don’t want to swear”

The next week, a 2-1 defeat to Derby: “Can’t comment *****”.

West Ham were eventually promoted.

Notable players: Marlon Harewood, Bobby Zamora, Matthew Etherington

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12-13

The latest list: 2012/13. At some point in the late 00s, Uncle Jeff ditched the comments and injected a lorryload of stats into his yearly lists. The formula is simple – Uncle Jeff compares each result with the equivalent result the previous year (replacing relegated teams with promoted teams) and keeps a running total of the difference.

This has given birth to the Uncle Jeff Coefficient: +5 means West Ham are doing better than the previous year, -5 means worse. Last year was a good one – West Ham finished on +13.

Every few months I guest on the Stop Hammertime! (a popular, unofficial West Ham Podcast), listened to by thousands of fans around the world. The Uncle Jeff Formula is regularly discussed as an excellent barometer for how we’re doing. People on the podcast’s Facebook group often request a coefficient update. Uncle Jeff has gone global.

Last year, for the first time, I started my own Uncle Jeff list, and have a copy of the one above on the inside of my boiler cupboard. I plan to do so every year from now on. I’m thinking of re-instating the comments.

Notable players: Andy Carroll, Mohamed Diame, Winston Reid

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uncle jeff

Despite threatening not to renew his season ticket every year for the last decade, Uncle Jeff has renewed for the 2013/14 season. Here he is in the car on the was to a game at West Brom last year. This year, he thinks we will be relegated.

Uncle Jeff Bonus: Hear the story of how he nearly got Stanley Matthews’ autograph once in the 1950s

Pixar, technology, and the arts

artsscienceImage: Khairul Sabirin / Adrian Grosu at Picfair.com

I just finished listening to the audiobook of Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs biography. Predictably, I’ve emerged from it with a renewed awe of both Jobs and Apple. But perhaps the parts I most enjoyed were the chapters on Pixar.

The intersection of science and the arts was a constant touchstone in Jobs’s life, perhaps never more so than during his years guiding Pixar from a niche, outlying division of Lucasfilm to an entertainment goliath that eventually sold to Disney for $7.2 billion.

After he invested $10 million of his own money to buy a controlling share of the company in 1986, Isaacson explains why Jobs and Pixar were such a philosophically perfect match:

Jobs had always appreciated the virtue of integrating hardware and software, which is what Pixar did with its Image Computer and rendering software. It also produced creative content, such as animated films and graphics. All three elements benefitted from Jobs’s combination of artistic creativity and technological geekiness. “Silicon Valley folks don’t really respect Hollywood creative types, and the Hollywood folks think that tech folks are the people you hire and never have to meet,” Jobs later said. “Pixar was the one place where both cultures were respected.”

The quote really struck me. Jobs and Pixar understood the crucial, almost imperative, symbiosis of technology and the arts … in 1986. 27 years later, there are plenty of artistic industries that, it’s easy to argue, still don’t totally get it.

While technology may have radically transformed visible face of the arts, it rarely appears at its creative geneses. Across the board – in the media, in publishing, in the art world, in fashion, in design – ‘the techies’ are still too frequently found in the the downstairs world of ‘production’, as ‘the artists’, upstairs, create. This, as Jobs would have noted, is shit.