Sergio Ramos: The Duck or The Rabbit?

I am the first to admit, I am not Sergio Ramos’ greatest fan, football talent aside. I've never met him and I am sure when speaking and getting to know him he isn't the awful character he has portrayed himself to be in countless matches. However, it's difficult to shake off a perception of such a negative personality. 

In last night’s UEFA Champions League Final played between Real Madrid and Liverpool, Sergio Ramos seemed to be up to his usual antics. At the 25 minute mark, he and Liverpool’s new hero, Mo Salah, battled for a loose ball in what seemed to be a routine shoulder to shoulder challenge. Unfortunately for the Egyptian star, he suffered a dislocated shoulder and was forced out of the rest of the match.

Have you ever seen that optical illusion what looks like a rabbit to some and a duck to others?  Watching Sergio Ramos pulling Mo Salah to the ground causes a similar reaction in people. Many would argue the Madrid centre back did nothing wrong and it was a simple case of bad luck for the Liverpool striker. Others would adamantly state that Sergio Ramos deliberately held on Salah’s arm with the intention of injuring him. 


I’ve watched the clip many times to try to decide for myself whether I believe it was the Ramos I’ve grown to dislike attempting to injure an opponent or the serial, European champion, centre back doing his best to win the ball. Like the duck or rabbit optical illusion, you can almost trick yourself into seeing either one or the other. 

I just can’t decide which Ramos it is. When I begin to tell myself no self-respecting world class athlete would deliberately try to injure a fellow peer of the sport, I say “Maybe Ramos would.” And just when I convince myself Ramos is the scum of the sport, I think “That’s not fair, he’s family man and a sportsman who deserves a fair judgement.”

I’ve always been one to be driven by logical and reason. I try to leave emotion and sentiment out of my decision making, football, and as my wife has pointed out on several occasions, life. So I’ve decided to take logical approach to this Ramos conundrum. Hanlon’s Razor is a useful mental model which can be best explained as such:

“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by neglect.”

Over the years, neglect has been replaced by words like stupidity or incompetence. In the case of Sergio Ramos perhaps neglect does indeed fit best. Using this mental model to analyse the Ramos-Salah challenge allows us to assume Ramos did not mean his adversary any harm but simply failed to care for the outcome of the situation. The way I see it, when approaching such emotionally charged scenarios, like the one lived yesterday, a mental model like Hanlon’s Razor allows us to see everything with clear eyes, and in doing so gives us a better chance to come to logical explanations and fact-based beliefs.

Read: Play the Game, Not the Rules

Later in the evening and into today, Twitter was full of UEFA conspiracies theories about Real Madrid always receiving the right calls which lead to their eventual conquest of the coveted trophy. This isn’t new either. These types of conspiracies theories have been around for years. I am particularly fond of the ‘UEFAlona’ statements made by the media which caught on as a popular term referring to FC Barcelona in 2009. This made reference to supposed referee favouritism towards the Catalan club in European matches. Replace neglect with incompetence.

“Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence.”

Perhaps the referee is not part of a federation wide conspiracy against your team but simply incompetent. And Sergio Ramos isn’t a bad guy but neglectful. And the guy who cut you off in traffic isn’t on mission to make you late to work but just a bad driver. 

Hanlon’s Razor is everywhere and when you start assuming people aren’t out to get you and everything you adore, you might start to see things differently. So what do you see now, a duck or a rabbit?

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ArticleDavid Garcia