"A New York Treasure" --Village Voice

He’s a Loser But He Still Keeps on Tryin’

Howard Bryant has a good piece about our increasingly shrill sports culture over at ESPN:

As technology expands and speeds discourse, edges have sharpened. The attraction to and appreciation for high-level competition — ostensibly the reason we watch these golden athletes — disappear as soon as the final gun sounds. The blame game is our new national pastime.

…A couple of weeks ago, Charles Barkley told me he believes this dangerous undercurrent is affecting play.

“Everyone is so worried about whether they win a championship,” he said. “They don’t care about getting there, about having to beat the best to be the best. All they worry about is what is going to be said about them if they don’t get there. I really believe this. Media and expectations have changed everything. Everyone’s afraid of it because if you miss a shot, if you miss a play, that overshadows the whole series, your whole career. So guys just want a ring, but they don’t want to risk losing. If you don’t want to risk losing, you shouldn’t even be playing.”

And this from a piece on Kendrick Perkins reacting to LeBron James’ tweet about a dunk Blake Griffin threw down over Perkins recently (the story is by Mark J. Spears at Yahoo Sports):

“If I was in the same position, in the same rotation, I’m going to jump again and again and again,” Perkins told Yahoo! Sports. “I don’t care. A lot of people are afraid of humiliation or don’t know how to handle embarrassment or would even get embarrassed. I don’t care.

…“You don’t see Kobe [Bryant] tweeting,” Perkins said. “You don’t see Michael Jordan tweeting. If you’re an elite player, plays like that don’t excite you. At the end of the day, the guys who are playing for the right reasons who are trying to win championships are not worrying about one play.”

Last week I heard Jeff Van Gundy refer to a former player as a winner. Not because the player had won a championship but because of the way he practiced and played the game. You can’t be afraid to fail if you are a true professional. Bryant makes a good point. Our sense of appreciation is often overshadowed these days by a willingness to blame and find fault. But that’s like a coke binge, bad vibes feeding off bad vibes. Appreciation is the name of the game. In the NFL, there was little that separated the last four teams. To dwell on the mistakes made by the Ravens, 49ners and Patriots is missing the point.

[Photo Credit: Paul Sancya and Pat Semansky/AP]


1 The Hawk   ~  Feb 9, 2012 9:15 am

TERRIFIC stuff. Wow, Kendrick Perkins is awesome.

2 The Hawk   ~  Feb 9, 2012 9:18 am

F*** Tom Brady and the Pats, btw

3 ms october   ~  Feb 9, 2012 9:23 am

[2] and kendrick perkins who thinks he is still on the celtics and really isn't shit.

4 Dimelo   ~  Feb 9, 2012 9:48 am

Great stuff! Kendrick and Barkley are right on. You have to be willing to take a chance, even if it means losing. The book "Scorecasting" did a good job of dissecting a 4th down play, where Belichick went for it and his team was on their 30 yard line, he ended up losing the game, but that was the right move and he had the balls to go with the decision that gave him the highest probability to win even though it was unconventional.

5 Alex Belth   ~  Feb 9, 2012 10:09 am

What I thought was interesting is that there is now a generation of athletes who've grown up with ESPN, and now, Twitter, and it is interesting how this could impact their approach to playing.

6 Dimelo   ~  Feb 9, 2012 10:18 am

[5] Oh for sure. The technology, like anything else, if used for the wrong reasons will come back to haunt you.

7 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 9, 2012 11:02 am

Good use of the word "ostensibly" btw >;)

I agree wholeheartedly, and maybe it's a generational thing now, but it sickens me how much media has shaped sports to the point that players are far more aware and reactive to what is being said as opposed to what is being done. It's practically demon possession in my opinion.

8 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 9, 2012 11:33 am

Oh, and the worst part is the anonymous, but increasingly voluminous presence and exposition of overt (shhh, racism...), ever-present cowards in most sports and political comment sections in cyberspace. The good news is it's easier to identify the organizations and individuals whom all condone it and those who don't.

9 NoamSane   ~  Feb 9, 2012 11:56 am

You're on it as usual AlBelth.

Barkley: "If you don’t want to risk losing, you shouldn’t even be playing.”
Words to live by.

Props to K. Perkins &, of course, H. Bryant too.

10 Dimelo   ~  Feb 9, 2012 12:21 pm

[8] Chyll can you elaborate on the exposition of overt racism? I see it a lot more in political comments, agree with you there, but not so much in sports commentary.

11 The Hawk   ~  Feb 9, 2012 12:25 pm

[3] ???


12 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 9, 2012 2:41 pm

[10] A casual glance at a particular sports network's website articles will give you a good idea. The Linsanity has brought about a plethora of Asian-based racial jokes in the comments that I care not to repeat. But from what I've seen, it's usually N-word this and that; not just there but at team-oriented sites in football and basketball. I agree though that you'll certainly see more of that on political-based sites or articles on big sites (an appropriately named email webserver is a prime example...)

13 Chyll Will   ~  Feb 9, 2012 2:45 pm

[10] Not the commentary, Dim, the comments (the responses). I need to make that a little more clear. Again, agree with the political on both post and response, but the sports seems to attract racist responders nearly as much, to which I can only blame the site owners and moderators for condoning it.

14 Dimelo   ~  Feb 9, 2012 3:31 pm

[13] Gotcha. Agreed.

15 Boatzilla   ~  Feb 10, 2012 2:18 am

[13] For some reason the "comments" sections to most middle brow websites (sports, tabloids, YouTube, etc.) reveal the most vile, moronic, repulsive, and racist elements of American society (perhaps in other countries too. Not sure.). Perhaps anonymity brings out the worst in people.

I get sick every time I venture to read them, and I always regret it.

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"This ain't football. We do this every day."
--Earl Weaver