I hope those of you who couldn’t care less about Dancing With the Stars and feel Antonio Brown is wasting his time will bear with me for a moment, because something happened in last week’s episode which got me to thinking about a lot of stuff football fans say (and believe) which is perhaps meaningless. Or perhaps it is meaningful, but not because of what we think.
I refer to expressions like “they play down to their opponent,” “they came out flat”, and other such phrases which seem to be at least somewhat analytical in nature. But when you parse them out, they often turn out to be a sort of disguised tautology, because the statement is only being made because of the result and is based upon the perception of the viewer.
If the Steelers play the 2016 equivalent of the Cleveland Browns, (and that team might well still be the Browns) and they win the game by three points, then we will hear the constant refrain that they “played down to their opponent” or “came out flat.” If they lose by three points to, say, the Bengals, or the once-again-quarterbacked-by-Tom-Brady Patriots, the perception will likely be different. But is the perception correct, or merely perceived in this way because of the assumed prowess of the opponent?
I have written at length about the razor-thin edge that separates the best and the worst teams, and why the saying “any given Sunday” is so apt. The question here is, is there anything in what one might term “team psychology” to justify (or perhaps to better explain) such expressions? Read more