Friday, July 15, 2005


First of all, I need to learn that there is a certain person with whom I cannot argue. Neither of us will concede a point, no matter how valid the argument preceding it is.

That being said, I had a crazy argument with that same person over choking in sports. He maintains, like much of the sports world, I imagine, that if a player misses the final shots of a close game, and those shots end up deciding the game, then that player has choked.
similarly, we can assume, if that player makes those shots, then he is clutch. Everyone seems to agree that such is the case.

Everyone but me.

See, in organized sports, especially when a team is involved, there is a concept of a whole game. That game, certainly, is made up of moments, but you have to take ALL those moments together to get a game.
In a close game, then, the chances are great that there were moments both teams missed opportunities. One team, certainly, more than the other. The converse stays true, as well.

So, if the game is close, then any one of those moments before could have decided the game, and THOSE people are never accused of choking. If the guy who made the first shot in a game never takes another shot, and the team wins by that shot, then he is not considered clutch, either.

I don't agree. EVERY SINGLE MOMENT in a game has significance. We lend drama to the contest by making the last moment more important. But talk to anyone who has ever played a close game, and the last shot is the last thing on their mind. They want back a pass in the second quarter, or a ten foot putt that went right, or a pitch that was called a strike.

In fact, more important to the game may just be all those middle moments, added up. A team that goes on a run, only to come up short, probably doesn't think of the last shot missed in that run, but that the WHOLE effort was not enough. That psychology of sport far outweighs a single moment by a single player.

Now, what brought this about was Michelle Wie's last attempt at getting on tour. He said she choked on the last hole. I maintain that her whole back 9 (played on the front 9) was terrible, and put her in that position. Further, the accumulation of that bad back 9 weighed far more on her than the severity of the moment, and the outcome of one putt. Had she made two putts anywhere on that course, she could have choked her way right into a victory, and she did not. Now she is sitting at home.

Just think of it this way: if the team or the player performs better in the stretch of the competition, the situation most people describe as choking could not exist. Better to be good over the long run, than great over the short run.

Or, as Alonzo says, "This shit is chess, it ain't checkers!"

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