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.