Back in the mid nineties, when he was already well on his way to becoming the UK's tragic sportsman of choice, Paul Gascoigne took a break from his hectic schedule of acts of footballing genius and craven stupidity to appear on one of those early evening TV magazine shows that continue to prove the non-existence of a benevolent and kindly God through their very existence.
I can't remember the show, but I do recall that the presenter was an acolyte of the Michael Parkinson sycophancy as interrogation school of interviewing and asked Gazza something to the effect of why he was so good at football.
In an all to rare moment of lucidity, the man who famously introduced himself to Lazio fans with a belch, explained that he had an ability to anticipate what was going to happen two or three moves down the line and get himself in the right place to take advantage. He felt he knew where the ball was going to end up.
Gazza is not alone in this observation. It is remarkable how often the greatest sportsmen identify this sense of anticipation as their defining quality - the thing that allows them to stand out from their peers.
Obviously, it is not the case in the glorified kindergarten games of the Olympics, where the only variables are the athlete's dedication, genetics and drug intake. But in the organised chaos of team sports an ability to instantly recognise, understand and analyse all the variables at play is what so often differentiates players. At the highest levels, every player has the same command of the basic skills a sport requires and pretty much the same fitness levels - it is the sense of anticipation that really separates the world beaters from the journeymen.
Now it is hardly a new observation, to argue that there is to link between the world of business and sport. Indeed, battalions of inarticulate middle aged men who were once moderately good at kicking various shaped balls are able to keep themselves in Pringle sweaters by fleecing businesses for millions by making this very same point on the after dinner circuit. But that does not mean that the parallels are any less true.
For businesses, a mastery of the technical basics - the day-to-day ability to develop and sell good products while balancing the books - is essential for their survival. But like the difference between David Batty and Gazza what separates the good from the great is the ability to see what's coming and react accordingly. The problem is that when it comes to businesses ability to anticipate three or four moves ahead there are far more Battys out there than Gazzas.
This was made apparent this week with the news that many businesses remain woefully under prepared for the introduction of the UK's new carbon cap-and-trade scheme, despite the fact its introduction is less than two years away.
But while the failure of businesses to begin implementing the processes and systems required to comply with the Carbon Reduction Commitment is a particularly blatant example of many firms' failure to look beyond the end of the next quarter, there are countless other instances of companies missing out on opportunities, or worst still conceding own goals, as a result of their inability to anticipate the changing nature of green legislation and technologies.
The most frustrating thing for spectators is that all it takes is for businesses to get their heads up and look around to see what is happening and where the opportunities will be.
This week alone we've seen the Spanish government unveil one of the most wide reaching packages of green regulations in history, energy prices heading north with promises of further rises on the way, and US legislators facing yet more law suits demanding that they act to curb carbon emissions.
As the Co-op argued this week in its report criticising oil companies plans to exploit carbon heavy tar sands in North America, those companies and investors that fail to anticipate the carbon regulations that all the evidence suggests are coming are taking huge risks and could yet be badly burned.
Of course, just as in football, taking time to analyse all the variables and work out what will happen next is extremely difficult in the heat of competition and as such businesses find it hard to think much further ahead than the next quarter even when times are good, let alone when the economy is struggling.
But it is worth noting that not one of the companies currently prospering as a result of growing demand for green products is an over night success story. Whether it's a global conglomerate such as GE and its Ecomagination initiative or an emerging start up such as Tesla and its electric cars, they all saw the way the market was moving several years ago and began to plan accordingly so that they are only now in a position to begin reaping the rewards.
For those businesses that haven't yet worked out what to do about the changing realities posed by soaring energy costs and environmental legislation the time to decide whether they want to be amongst the journeymen or the global superstars of this world is fast approaching.
Right, I'm off to brush up on my GCSE physics and see if I too can work out a cheap way to make hydrogen.
Have a good weekend,
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