Wednesday, November 24, 2010

More Sports Mythology

A sports radio guy uttered that great cliche today: "Great teams win close games."

No, great teams win blowouts. The closer a game is, the more luck is a factor. Character attributes are a factor at the margins - all that confident, never-say-die spirit and grim determination does have some influence. But fans imbue those close wins with virtue because we want it to be true. Yes, there is choking and panic that loses games, and not doing that is a virtue, but mostly, we see it because we want it to be true. No sport has an intrinsic value. It exists as an arbitrary vehicle for the playing out of our values. As so many of us "live lives of quiet desperation," we like to see virtues of endurance, grace under pressure, and savvy triumph over adversity. And if it's not there, we put it there anyway.

The closer a game is, the more luck is a factor. Fairly obvious when you think of it. Earlier in games, we recognise that this is true. When we complain about a superior team letting another team "hang around" so that they have a chance to pull an upset at the end, we are acknowledging that those ends can turn on bad calls, tricky hops, lucky shots, and tipped balls. Yet when we actually get to the last two minutes, it suddenly is all about Character.


1 comment:

Ymar said...

A superior team has to demonstrate 1 or 2 orders of difference in results otherwise they aren't on a different level or plane of existence with regards the other team.

Thus 1-10 or 1-100 is the mark of a superior team.

With regards to baseball, even if the star pitcher is completely above all the rest of the players in both pitching and batting, the score is still going to be about zip going through if the rest of the batters can't hit off the opponent pitcher.

Striking out the line will still result in a tie without a concurrent advantage in offense.

A great team concurrently has superior offense and defense attributes.

This is similar to issue of great countries, a debate you often don't see dealt with quality in public education.