Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Leapfrogging The Answer"

This is about basketball.  Though you will find paralleling analogies all over the place, including places you care more about than basketball.  To maximize your appreciation today, when I say “basketball” think, “Wait.  This applies equally to…” (INSERT A SUBSTITUTE ARENA THAT DOES NOT BORE THE PANTS OFF YOU.)  Consider it an “interactive” experience  I offer a tedious example.  You find a superior alternative.  Isn’t that fun?   

Okay, now that we’re working together on this…

Over the past few seasons, the Los Angeles Lakers have been a terrible basketball team.  Last season for example, the Lakers won 17 games and lost 65.  You do not need to understand basketball to know that’s atrocious.  You just need to know how to count.  

Though inordinately youthful, the 2017 Lakers are a talented assemblage.  (In a league effort to promote “parity”, the worst teams of the previous season get to pick earlier in the pre-seasonal “draft.”  As a result of this arrangement and their continued atrociousness, the Lakers have lately accumulated some of the most promising newcomers on the horizon.)  

The Lakers also installed a new head coach, who served recently as an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors, a team that, while the Lakers were winning 17 games last season, amassed a league record-setting 73. 

There was the genuine hope of a fresh start.

To everyone’s surprise, possibly even their own, the 2017 squad began winning.  After twenty games, the reinvigorated Lakers were a promising 10-10 (ten wins and ten losses), which was pretty impressive, considering the season before, they had lost almost four times as many games and they’d won.  (The Lakers were so bad, even I, who have nothing to do, had stopped watching.)

After that encouraging beginning, three key Lakers players were injured.  The team then lost 12 or their next thirteen games.

Viewing this precipitous skid, the hordes of professional prognosticators – touted sports talk show hosts, post-game analysts – immediately swooped in.  Salaried vultures, picking at the bones, each offering their considered opinions concerning this worrisome downturn:

The players were too inexperienced.

The head coach was too inexperienced.

The team’s preliminary success had gone to their heads.

The early-season “soft” schedule had exaggerated their record.

The Lakers played without sufficient “intensity and hunger.”

The team had no certifiable superstars.  (That from retired certifiable superstar Charles Barkley, whose “code-speak” suggests they need him.)

The Lakers were incapable of holding a lead.

The Lakers were incapable of coming from behind.  (What then?  They only did well when they were tied?)

The Lakers were not conscientious enough in practice.

The Lakers had no team cohesion.

When players go down, someone’s supposed to “take up the slack”, and nobody did.

The “professional game” was currently beyond their abilities.

There’s more, but okay.  Now.  I’m not saying I am a basketball expert.  I simply stand back and assess the situation.  That’s all I do.  Ever.  I look.  And I notice. 

And what do I see? 

I already said it.  The team was winning.  Three key players were injured.  They lost eleven in a row.  Primary reason for the downturn: 


How do I know that?

Because when the injured players came back, the Lakers – Can you believe it? –began winning again.  Most recently, three games out of four.

There is no inscrutable mystery here.  It’s the quintessential “Science Experiment.”  Healthy team – wins.  Injured team – loses.  Team returning to full strength – wins again.

“I’d like to thank the Nobel Prize nominating committee…”

No.  It’s just “counting on your fingers.”

So why don’t the esteemed pundits just say what is staring them so obviously in the face?  I’m sure they do say it.  But then they, incredulously. move on. 

There are two problems with the correct answer.  One, it’s too simple.  Paid to be “knowledgeable commentators”, the paid experts are dutifully obligated to “go deeper.”  That seems ridiculous to me.  Like finding precisely what you were looking for and you continue to keep looking.  (Secondary Observation:  When the Lakers resumed winning, what happened to those “definitive explanations” for their losing.  Did the Lakers suddenly learn how to play?)

Second, and more important in a practical sense, having once pinpointed the explanation for the team’s slump, these pundits are aware of being forbidden to  repeat the same thing – “The Lakers are losing because of their injuries” – any more than they can come on wearing the same sports jacket – because if they do, the producer will begin wondering, “Didn’t he say that already?” (or “Didn’t he wear that already?)  and before they know it, the esteemed analyst will be watching at home instead of commentating on the air and “watching at home” doesn’t pay anything.

“How come you’re home, Daddy?”

“I said the same thing every time.”

“You needed to say more things.”

“Guess so.”

No “guess so” about it.  “Injuries” is the answer.  But it’s not insightful.  It’s not provocative.  It does not adequately fill the time.  And if you’re a “broken record” about it, you’ll be off the show, enjoying some version of the above conversation with your bewildered offspring. 

Welcome to life.

Where reality takes an inferior position…

To the show.

I know why they do it.  What I don’t understand is, are they wasting my time?

Or am I doing that myself?

(Note:  Let me know if you found a superior example.)

1 comment:

Stephen Marks said...

Leapfrogging Occam's Razor 1: Earl nailed it, too much over analyzing to fill air when the simple answer is injuries.

Leapfrogging Occam's Razor 2: Yesterday's post. Earl already solved the problem 24 hours earlier. The "antidote to apathy" experienced by Laker's fans is to sign an 8 foot tall giraffe and have Kareem teach him the skyhook and the triangle offense for a bag of carrots.

It would bring a much needed facelift to the Laker's franchise, and a better one than Billy Crystal received.