We’ve all had one of those days at work where we’ve made a mistake so inexplicable it’s impossible to know how to react.
Sometimes you’re able to deny culpability, passing it off as someone else’s blunder or, better still, a system error which no one could realistically be blamed for. There are other scenarios, though, where this is not the case. The situation demands you step up to the plate and accept the problem was caused by you and you alone, and this won’t always be disastrous – after all, taking responsibility can sometimes reflect well on you. The problem comes when you’re quizzed on what you have done and realise, almost immediately, that there is no explanation which will not end up with you looking worse.
This is the fate that befell Andrea Consigli, Sassuolo’s goalkeeper, during a Serie A game against Fiorentina in 2016.
it was the 83rd minute of the game at Stadio Artemio Franchi, and Sassuolo – back down in seventh place after flirting with the Champions League places – were 2-1 down to their fifth-placed opponents thanks to a Josip Iličić goal just before the hour mark.
Right-back Claud Adjapong rolled the ball back to his goalkeeper, who moved to quickly spread play to his left, knowing time was of the essence if he wanted to see his team get back into the game. If he wasn’t going to punt the ball as far downfield as possible, he needed to at least make himself look busy. He therefore opted to add a flourish onto what we can only assume was intended as a swept pass out to Francesco Acerbi on the left. What happened next was, well, distinctly not that.
When clips of Consigli’s blunder first emerged, unfounded allegations of match-fixing began to follow the Italian around right up until the point he broke his silence on the matter. We’re not sure these allegations were even meant especially vindictively – they were just a case of people trying to make sense of something with no obvious explanation.
If something doesn’t fall within your usual patterns of understanding, you will naturally attempt to ascribe meaning to it – that’s just how our minds work – and Consigli’s immediate reaction will mean whatever you want it to mean.
After some time, though, you come to realise the goalkeeper could not have responded in any other way to what looks to outsiders like a man calmly stroking a football into the back of his own net.
It might look at first glance like the casual amble of a man who realises “my work here is done”, but it’s actually the complete opposite. By the time he makes the mental calculations about the trajectory of the ball, any frenzied run will be both useless and unnatural, looking as if he is trying too hard to overcompensate.
Responding to a moment of pure mindlessness with pure logic simply serves to diminish one of the two in how it appears to those on the outside – those confused by part one will not be won back over by the second phase, while those suspicious of the first touch will need more than a salvage mission for that confusion to disappear.
It’s the same with any work mistake – the person who accidentally deletes an important file won’t be considered smart enough to salvage it purely on the grounds of the original error.
Once you’ve made such a grave error, the rest of the day – and perhaps the rest of the week – is a write-off. At the very best, you’ll have someone make an even bigger screw-up to take some of the heat off. Instead, you’ll need to apologise and come in the next Monday as if you’re starting from a clean slate, proving yourself from a standing start once more.
Consigli did that, initially blaming ‘overconfidence’ for the own goal, and then proceeding to concede just twice in his next five games as Sassuolo finished the season on a high and qualified for the Europa League.
If that doesn’t prove there’s hope for us all, I don’t know what does.
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