You're watching a sports event on television, almost any sport will do, and when going-to/returning-from a commercial break you see a few things. First, you see the game breakdown – the score, how much time is left, the television station, etc. And then, almost every time you see the typical over-bearing fan that screaming into the camera, "we're number one!!!"
In most cases, neither of the teams playing, are number one. Some times, they're not even close. But that doesn't stop the fans from believing it, much less screaming about it on national television. Why do fans do this? Where do they get this insane amount of pride that makes them think their team IS number one and better than anyone else?
I ask these questions all the time, and I attribute the fact that I do to living in Kansas City – which means being surrounded by one of the nation's most prestigious college basketball programs, the Kansas Jayhawks.
It never fails. The argument about how good Kansas is comes up every single basketball season. KU fans are very proud... annoyingly so. I feel like they never see the bad in their team and always think that everyone else is below them. It's a very self-important way to think, and while most die-hard fans of ANY team would think that way, I've never seen it this bad.
But, I digress. The purpose of my writing today is to address the notion of "choking." This was all brought about from a recent argument about KU basketball, but I think it can apply everywhere in the sports world. The questions I propose to you... Is it better to be elite year-in and year-out, or does a team need to win a championship to prove itself? And what exactly does choking mean in the sports world?
Let's look at each question individually:
Is it better to be elite year-in and year-out, or does a team need to win a championship to prove itself?
Good question. I think a goal of many sports programs is to be elite – constantly being in position to challenge the top teams. But I also think that teams want to win championships, too.
The championship means you were the best of the best. You beat everyone else. You finished on top and no one can take that away from you.
Juniors don't pass up the millions of dollars of the pro sports to return as Seniors to simply be an elite team. Michael Jordan didn't come back to the Wizards because he wanted to be on an elite team, he thought they could win it. Dick Vermiel doesn't come back to the Chiefs because he thinks they could be a "pretty good team next year." It doesn't work that way folks, you want to win. No one talks about dynasties that don't win championships.
So, I think while it's great to be an elite team all the time, it's not enough. You must win the big game(s) to be considered the best (not just one OF the best).
And what exactly does choking mean in the sports world?
Maybe we should ask the following teams this question: New York Yankees, Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Lakers, Oklahoma Sooners (football), yes, even the Kansas Jayhawks. These are just a few teams from recent history that usually under-perform when it matters the most. These are the teams that are among the elite, they have the talent, they have the tradition, but sometimes just can't close the deal.
No one expects a #16 seed in the NCAA Tournament to win it all, so when they lose, it's no surprise. Everyone expects the Yankees to win when they spend $200+ on paying their players. When they don't win, it's a complete let-down. When the Lakers lose in five games to the Pistons, even when their talent level is much higher and since they've won the past several NBA Championships, it's a let-down. When the Eagles loses three straight Divisional Playoff games three years in a row (the last two years at home), that's a let-down. When the Oklahoma Sooners and the Kansas Jayhawks lose in the Championship game, that's a let-down.
I think that's the definition of choking, when a team that is expected to win, doesn't. It can also mean a team that has had numerous chances to prove itself, can't get it done.
It's bad enough when a team's fans are over-bearing, but it becomes oh so sweet when they can't talk because their team doesn't win the big game(s). So, keep on shouting "we're number one" all you want, because unless your team isn't number one after that last game of the season, then you're just wasting your breath and energy.
+ original post date: January 16, 2005 03:18 PM
+ categories: Sports