Monday, December 29, 2008

Another stirring moment in Sportsthink history.*

"The Eagles just seem like they have more firemore 'want to'than the Cowboys. And they seemed that way from the beginning."
FOX commentator (and former Cowboys QB) Troy Aikman, very late in the third quarter of Sunday's Eagles-Cowboys game, which would determine the final NFL wild card spot. Aikman says this with the Eagles already winning, 44-3.

(First of all, we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming
which was supposed to be Part 2 of my post on reality TVfor this urgent dispatch from the land of positive thinking. We'll get back to what Megan Albertus tells us about life tomorrow or Wednesday. And so:)

But Troy (near right, with broadcast booth partner Joe Buck).... If you saw or sensed the Eagles' "fire" all along
"from the beginning," as you put itwhy didn't you share this insight way back then? It would've been nice to try to get a last-minute bet down, especially knowing that it was a sure thing/easy money.

Someday I want to hear one of those pre-game analysts down on the field, a Suzy Kolber or Andrea Kremer, say something like, "I just got back from the two locker rooms, and people, let me tell youaside from the fact that what they say about black guys is truethe Eagles are way more up for this game than the Cowboys. Dallas has no chance. They're toast. There's really no point in even playing the game." Never happen. The mention of attitude in a predictive sense is about as likely as the comment about black guys. Sports mavens wait to see something tangiblesay, a lopsided score like 44-3—and then they go back and look for the supposed intangibles that explain it. And I'm just cynical enough to think that the reason sportscasters don't say anything at the outset is that they don't notice anything at the outset. Guys like Troy Aikman either go back later and infuse significance into little moments that meant nothing to them at the time, or they simply follow a script that they know is expected to be followed at a certain point in the action. Last night's game could've just as easily gone the other way, in which case Aikman would've given forth with the same basic quote, except he'd reverse the roles of the two teams, touting the mental preparation of the Cowboys. You can bet on it.

================================

P.S., 9:03 a.m. I guess it wasn't positive mental attitude that won the game for Philadelphia after all. Here is Eagles running back Correll Buckhalter's take on the bizarre confluence of circumstances that gave the league's final playoff spot to his team: "You can't explain what the power of prayer can do for you." I see. So I guess nobody prays for the Cowboys, or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, or the Chicago Bears (or maybe God doesn't listen to such prayers), all of whom had to lose in order for the Eagles to make the playoffs. For that matter, I guess no one was praying for the Eagles (or God had the sound turned off) prior to this weekend, because Philly lost an awful lot of games they should've won along the way. And yet you have to be careful saying things like this around most folks. You really do.

Take a stand for reason and common sense nowadays, and you become a pariah.

* Regulars know that Sportsthink is my phrase for the assumption in sports (and increasingly elsewhere) that winning and losing are determined principally by mental attitude, not physical skills, random events, and plain dumb luck.

21 comments:

Steven Sashen said...

You know that the only place positive-hindsight-think is more visible than sports is in business, where everyone wants to know the secret to success.

This month's Entrepreneur magazine featured the top advertisements of all time, and the principles that made them so great (e.g. "be outrageous").

Needless to say, if success was simply applying the principles that the reporter could infer, professional advertisers would have figured them out and been using them on every campaign.

But the real joke was the sidebar which detailed the biggest marketing MISTAKES ever... and, of course, each one of them was an demonstration of one of the same success principles just mentioned.

Dimension Skipper said...

I wonder how sportsthink will be molded to fit the Curious Case of the Detroit Lions this season...

And I'm sure "ST" will be expertly wielded to explain the Miami Dolphins going from one win last season to division champs this go-round.

People must have really been praying hard AGAINST the Detroit Lions this year. Who's gonna bail THEM out?

WV: "manism" (...Very appopriate for a sports-oriented post and comments! Or is that merely a stereotypical manism?)

;-)

Steve Salerno said...

Steven, that's an excellent point. Of course--and I know this wasn't the major thrust of your comment, but--overlap between sports and business is not surprising, given the degree to which Sportsthink has been embraced in corporate boardrooms.

As for the "power of hindsight," I'm reminded of Tommy Lasorda's immortal line about how the two most important qualities in a superior athlete (and/or business standout) are "leadership" and "teamwork." Tommy doesn't bother to mention that in study after study of interpersonal dynamics (as well as what one might infer from simple common sense), you almost NEVER find those two qualities in the same individual; indeed, they're often mutually exclusive. And yet, of course, examples abound where people were able to prevail against long odds through either leadership or teamwork, respectively.

I also remember a classic example from college football. I played guard, and many of our running plays called for me to "pull" out of my place on the line and run somewhere else in order to execute my specific assigned block. So this one key play during a very important game, I stumble as I'm pulling out of my stance and I never quite get myself righted, so I end up falling into the shins of the guy I'm supposed to block. This causes him to literally somersault over me and take out another defender approaching from the far side of the play. The running back runs right on my tail and goes for a touchdown. So what do we conclude from this? That the best thing you can do, as an offensive lineman, is to trip and fall getting out of your stance? Somehow I don't expect to see that in a book on football technique. Then again, given the universal application of 20/20 hindsight, you never know.

Dimension Skipper said...

I think human beings are somehow wired to organize, categorize, simplify, and generalize. And It's all part of that inexorable competitive march toward Progress. As a species we're always striving to be better, faster, stronger, more efficient (folks usually love a good shortcut or easy formula to follow), etc. And with more and more people on the planet all the time there's simply more and more brains being put to the task and more and more situations to apply these principles/thought patterns. It's a spiralling phenomena.

The result is that many (most?) folks get an illusory, but comforting sense of control or manageability about their own lives (even if examining OTHER peoples' lives) and the world in general by wallowing in such principles as ST.

I could be wrong, but I doubt it since my wv is "tright." (That must be a cosmic sign from the universe of my rightness, I figure. Or am I reading too much into that?)

;-)

God said...

Hi, Steve, this is God. I've been googling myself this morn and came upon your blog. Nice job. I especially appreciate your continuing faith in me in spite of your doubts. But that's not why I'm writing. Your comments on ST today caught my attention.

You say,

(or maybe God doesn't listen to such prayers), all of whom had to lose in order for the Eagles to make the playoffs. For that matter, I guess no one was praying for the Eagles (or God had the sound turned off)

You're damn right, my son, about the sound being turned off. What did you expect?

Tell you what, people (and consider it a public service announcement): don't waste your time praying for the Eagles -- I am God, not a miracle worker. Besides, they have sold their souls to the other guy a long time ago, so why should I care. Maybe he can fix it, but I give up.

Anyway, I am somewhat embarrassed to confess, but I don't listen to most prayers, 'cuz they are just plain silly. Like, c'mon, stop Johnny from being gay? Or send the sinners to hell? Don't you people think I have better things to do?

Well, I do, in case you didn't know. Like figuring out the whole matter of dark matter, for example -- it's much more complicated than I thought when I came up with it an eternity ago. (When was it, anyway? And why did I even bother...? Eh.)

And your beliefs in my power are greatly exaggerated, I must say. I could do some things, true, like starting this sorry shebang, but now that you people have taken it to new levels of mayhem and disaster, even I cannot do much.

You know, I'm old and tired nowadays, and I wish you could take care of your own messes already. Enough is enough. Call me again when something really important comes up, but as far as your sport games go, you are on your own. No hard feelings.

Yours truly,
God.

(a.k.a. Eliz)

Steve Salerno said...

Very clever, Eliz. But...you can't be God...can you?...cuz...you're female... ;)

God said...

I implore you, have faith, my son. Why do you think I called it SHEbang?

P.S. Besides, are you questioning God? Sheesh... Thank god I'm so merciful, otherwise you'd be really sorry by now. Still, God has feelings too, you know, so it'd be nice if you repented on your own. If not, I may think of some suitable punishment for your insolence, like, say, having you watch "Momma's Boys" for the rest of the season.

(G aka E)

Steve Salerno said...

Eliz/God... Isn't this a manifestation of what they call--in your chosen field--"narcissistic personality disorder"?

God said...

You got me, my child. (The cleverness of my creations amazes even me from time to time.) But let's keep it our secret, OK?

Now I gotta run and google myself some more, this being a slow Monday in heaven. See ya!

P.S. That Eliz woman... Sigh. A lost cause, if I may say so myself.

RevRon's Rants said...

"Isn't this a manifestation of what they call--in your chosen field--"narcissistic personality disorder"?"

If one is an omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient Diety, wouldn't such a description - of pathology in reference to mere humans - be normal?

I suspect that God finds our need to assign gender to our Creator and grand pooh-bah somewhat quaint. :-)

roger o'keefe said...

I think that when you stick to topics like this is when you're at your best and most inimitable, Steve. It's when you branch off into other themes (like politics) and just assume your loyal readers will follow you, that you sometimes run into problems. But not to take the spotlight off this post, and the last one about reality shows, too. This is good stuff that gets in under the radar for most of us, and I commend you.

RevRon's Rants said...

That's right, Steve. We'll have no more of that "branching off," thank you... might start sounding too much like a real conversation. :-)

God said...

Rev, son, you're right about almost everything in your comment -- as far as it is humanely possible, that is -- except one thing: I know I have put on some weight throughout the millennia (and who hasn't?), but reports about my omnipresent dieting are simply not true.

Now if you excuse me, I have a universe to run. Talk to ya later.

;)

roger o'keefe said...

Ron, I picture you sitting there waiting for me to say something so you can pounce on it. Rather than respond with animus, however, I'm going to offer an olive branch in understanding. What did I say that was so improper? Steve didn't appear to take umbrage, he hasn't responded angrily, so why should you?

I simply said, Steve had an idea when he started, and it was a tightly focused idea that enticed a lot of us to come to the site. Now he sometimes appears to be doing exactly what he accuses some of the gurus of doing in SHAM, which is that he's straying from his core competency to become an all-purpose "expert on life," if you will. So tell me where I went off the rails in pointing that out?

Steve Salerno said...

(For the record, there are things I could say here, but I think I'm going to do what I've done a fair amount of time of late, which is: let the blog speak for itself. Regulars know that I've always reserved the right to comment on "this and that." Moreover, Roger's question is addressed to Ron; if Ron chooses to reply, I'd be eager to hear what he has to say.)

roger o'keefe said...

By the way, though I know she means it all in good fun, Elizabeth took the liberty of posting as "God" throughout this entire thread, and nobody called her on the hubris of that. Somehow I think if I set myself up as "God" even in jest, I'd never hear the end of it!

RevRon's Rants said...

"Ron, I picture you sitting there waiting for me to say something so you can pounce on it."

You need to get out more, Roger. I tend to react to comments I find absurd, no matter the source. I pay no more attention to you than to anyone else who says something I find amusing or absurd. Your admonition fell within the bounds of both categories, IMO.

"Steve didn't appear to take umbrage, he hasn't responded angrily, so why should you?"

Angrily? Not in the least. I save my umbrage for special occasions. I was actually chuckling at your apparent attempt to direct the conversation to your preferred topics, Roger.

"So tell me where I went off the rails in pointing that out?"

I see Steve - and his blog - as something besides a one-trick pony. He discusses what is on his mind, and invites others to participate. Like I said... a conversation. And as anyone who has participated in extended dialog knows, conversations take on a life of their own, and are usually most enjoyable for their unpredictability. I know that I prefer a more organic flow of ideas, as opposed to one that is highly-structured and constrained. So long as it stays civil, I have a lot of fun with the exchange, and feel no compulsion to control others' input. If I wanted that level of control, I'd simply talk to myself. Of course, I'd never learn anything that way, and it would be a lonely enterprise, at best.

As to Elizabeth's alleged hubris at portraying God... have you looked at her new profile pic?! :-)

Elizabeth said...

Elizabeth took the liberty of posting as "God" throughout this entire thread

What? What is it I hear...? God has been impersonating me throughout this entire thread?? Not again...

Yikes. As flattering as it is to such an incorrigible narcissist like myself, I tell ya, fer godsakes, sometimes it's just too much.

Somehow I think if I set myself up as "God" even in jest, I'd never hear the end of it!

Roger, do I detect a note of pouty resentment in your complaint above? ;)

You're right, you would never hear the end of it -- it's just not your style, you know. You are far too serious and principled to stoop to such vanity and silliness. :) No, really.

Dimension Skipper said...

I just want to followup Re that blogger.com comments feed issue I mentioned a little while ago...

Blogger.com has finally posted it as a known issue for some blogs and obviously yours is one of those affected, Steve. They're not sure what's going on, but they say they're looking into it. I'm just glad to have it finally confirmed as "not just me."

Elizabeth said...

Now he sometimes appears to be doing exactly what he accuses some of the gurus of doing in SHAM, which is that he's straying from his core competency to become an all-purpose "expert on life," if you will.

Roger, I see no evidence of that. On the contrary, I think Steve goes to great lengths (too great sometimes, IMO) to stress that he offers only his own opinions* on assorted issues and allows (grudgingly at times, yes:) that others' opinions will differ -- and that this is not the end of the world as we know it.

Furthermore, SHAMblog is dedicated to "Exposing the scams, shams, and shames of modern life" -- a pretty broad category, clearly not limited to "a tightly focused idea," wouldn't you agree? And when you talk "scams, shams and shames," politics is a natural subject.

*Opinions with which I disagree a lot of times. :)

P.S. Steve did not pay me to write this comment.

Cal said...

Hey Roger,

You mean if you played God in this forum, you would never "read" the end of it...LOL