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I Was Wondering...

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Here's a meta, philosophical question out of the break: what are we refering to, exactly, when we say a player or a team is 'consistent'?

This is basically asking, 'What makes a player good?' since, once they reach a certain level, every athlete is physically capable of carrying out his assignment, or occasionally going beyond that. I was thinking about this when comparing a couple of very similar players for a post that might go up later today. Virtually the same skill set, the same capacity for success, but one guy is "consistent," the other guy isn't. The difference in this case is probably something like a 70-75 percent success rate vs. a 60-65 percent success rate. Both guys are good a majority of the time. So what is the difference?

Even the worst players make good plays; even the best players make bad ones. Sometimes the relatively mediocre guys do amazing things at the expense of players who are usually, by any objective measure over a long period of time, 'better' players.

Is this just a random burst of the split-second combination of firing synapses, fast-twitching muscles and hand-eye coordination, or is it `clutch'? Did David Tyree just find himself in the right place at the right time, facing the same long odds of making the play that any other person with the physical and mental skill set to become a pro wide receiver would have faced under the same circumstances? Or is there something inherent about his mind or body that increased the odds he would make the catch?

If success is the former, a totally random act, why do some players - Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Robert Horry - find themselves performing those acts so much more often than others? If it's the latter, some inherent trait in the individual, what is it? Could it be identified on a brain scan (if such things actually existed)? If not, then what do you think you're talking about?

This doesn't just go for the extraordinary plays. Since the question is really about consistency, apply it to the every-down routine: why do the same guys make blocks sometimes and miss them other times, catch difficult passes sometimes and drop easy balls other times, make perfect breaks on an out route sometimes and get completely burned other times? And why do some players - sometimes the guys with obvious physical advantages, sometimes not - succeed a much greater percentage of the time than others? Is there any actual difference in the .265 hitter and the .305 hitter?


Sometimes, this game makes no sense.
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On a fundamental level, it's a simple matter of practice, of conditioning the body to perform these tasks routinely - some players practice harder than others and have a better mastery of technique and a better understanding of what's happening, strategically. This only takes you so far, though, since the advantage is not perfect: sometimes the smaller, slower, less prepared guy wins. What's happening then? Why can't it happen all the time?

Beyond that, the physical and mental level of the vast majority of players is roughly equal. On any given play, unless the physical disparity is extreme, there's no way to tell which player or which team will `win' that specific play. What varies is the consistency of their performance over a large number of plays, the odds that a player or a team will be more successful a greater percentage of the time. Assuming everyone has talent and everyone is running his wind sprints, what is that? Strategy? Uh, "moxie"? Explain.

Just something I think about whenever I'm about to write 'Player X isn't special, physically, he's just consistent.' I know what I mean based on the results, but the notion of "consistency" as a cause, as a trait that leads to results, does not exactly compute. Consistency is an effect. But of what? This is the territory of psychologists and neuro surgeons, I guess, and most people probably don't want to know the answer. If there is one. But there must be an answer, because otherwise...it's random, right? And it's not random - if it was, all the records over time would be the same. I dunno. Maybe I'm listening to too much Radio Lab.

Also: Tim Tebow MD spent time this spring circumcising some Filipino kids, whose genitalia will be heretofore worshiped as a golden gift from heaven by the most fertile women of the land. That is all.