Friday, May 29, 2015

"Why They Won"

In both hockey and basketball, they are currently winding up the playoffs.  Sometime in June – long after their seasons should naturally have been over but the leagues’ insatiable hunger for money requires them to play forever – there will be a winner, after which the players will be interviewed, the questions to them primarily related to how they did it.

I believe I am a moderately knowledgeable sports fan.  But, though I have watched my fair share of championship encounters, I can rarely ascertain what exactly it was that led to one team’s prevailing over the other.  Unless it’s a blowout, in which case I just assume that the winning team was better.  It is noteworthy, however, that even under those circumstances, that explanation is never offered by the winning team’s players.

“Why did we win?  Weren’t you watching the game?  They sucked!

You never hear that.  More likely, it’s…

“They’re a good team.  We just peaked at the right moment.”

I imagine they say that stuff out of respect for the other team, though their responses show minimal respect for the viewership, who had just witnessed the shellacking with their own eyes and knew that “peaking at the right moment” was hardly the determinative factor. 

I am thinking more about a confrontation between two evenly matched adversaries, where the winning team pulls it out by the slightest of margins.  In an effort to comprehend what exactly that takes, let us examine the responses most frequently articulated by the players on the winning team, rationalizing why they won (accompanied by the parenthetical rebuttals of a player, utterly bewildered by the reasons that his team lost.)

“We stuck to the ‘Game Plan.’  And it led us to victory.”

(“We stuck to the ‘Game Plan.’  And it led us to defeat!”)

“We left it out on the field.”

(“Where do you think we left it – at Burger King?)

“We have a lot of great guys on this team.”

(“Our team full of great guys.  Except for one guy.  But he happens to be our best player.”)
“We busted our butts out there.”)

"We busted our butts out there."

(“We busted our butts and our humps.   We actually busted more stuff than they did!”)

“We play the game ‘The Right Way.’”

(“Like we play it ‘The Wrong Way’?  Okay, once I dribbled the basketball with my nose.  But I was just kidding around.”)

“I give credit to my Dad.  He always pushed me to excel.”

(“My Dad pushed me to excel.  Until my mother called the police.”)

“We committed ourselves from the first day of Training Camp.”

(“We did too.  Except for that day when it was really hot.  Could that one day have really made all the difference?”) 

“I always dreamed about winning the championship.”

(“I did too.  All right, not always.  Sometimes, I dreamed about girls.  But I'll bet they did too.")

“We gave it a hundred-and-ten percent.”

(“Okay, there you got me.  We only gave it a hundred-and-seven percent.  We kicked it up near the end – We gave it a hundred-and-twelve percent.  I don’t know, I guess a steady hundred-and-ten beats an intermittent hundred-and-twelve.”) 

Okay, that’s enough meaningless quotes, although I am certain there are more of them.  Including, “The Good Lord was on our side”, which I don’t want to get into, because, “Believer” or not, it is disturbing to imagine a Supreme Being who would choose to take time off from ruling over the Universe to root for a specific sports team.  I’m just…staying out of that whole thing.

Listening to the un-illuminating, post-game commentary, I cannot help thinking that, deep down, the winning players may not actually know why they won.  So they say the things that make sense because they won, things that the losing players could just as easily have said but they would not have made sense because they lost.

“We left it out on the field.”

“And you still lost?

“Yeah.  Go figure.”

The winners won.  Though it seems possible they are not entirely sure why.  So they say stuff that would have been equally appropriate for the losers to say, but they don’t, owing to its inconsistency with the outcome.

Who knows? 

Maybe the winning players do know why they won. 

They just don’t want to tell me.

Too paranoid?


But that does not mean it’s wrong.


Pidge said...

Remember that wonderful scene in "Bull Durham" when Kevin Costner teaches Tim Robbins the way to "field" media interview questions?

JED said...

You said, "Maybe the winning players do know why they won. They just don’t want to tell me."

I think you on the right track. Why would they tell anyone why they really won? If they let the secret out, then next year, the other team could win it all.

Also, at the start of your post, you mentioned how players on teams that win in a blow out will often say nice things about the losers. I think part of the reason for that is that they never know if they might get traded to that team next year.

Junior Tunis said...

Additionally, I think, the pro teams play one another so many times, respect and restraint are a necessity. Especially in baseball. Teams play one another within their division 19 or 20 times per season. Can't be doing a whole lot of trash talking when you've got to see those same opponents about 80 times a year. Dodgers-Giants may be the exception to that rule!

I had a colleague who coached varsity basketball (boys) at a large high school in a Chicago suburb. During a rebuilding season, his team lost a lot and one particularly good Chicago team scored over 100 on his youngsters. I recall asking him about teams that run up the score and he just calmly said what goes up must come down. 2 or 3 years later, his team won the IL state title. I'm sure that 100 point night played a part in inspiring his charges.