Sometimes we tend to over analyze things. This is especially true in sports, where we tend to dissect every pitch, pass and screen. This is no reflection on any one coach or any one sport, but I sometimes think we spend so much time focusing on Xs, Os, formations and systems that we forget about what really counts.
I believe that all sports are beneficial from the lessons learned about competition, sportsmanship, effort, integrity, team play and so much more. These are things that are not dependent on the scoreboard. That being said, the payoff in terms of wins and losses is on the scoreboard and the scoreboard only. There are some exceptions, but in most sports, there is no such thing as style points. The scoreboard doesn't blink every time you correctly run a play, force a turnover or slam a line drive. These things are important, but what really counts is when you score.
In baseball, cross home plate more than the opposition and you win. It doesn't matter how many hits a team gets or how many strikeouts a pitcher records. What matters is home many times you cross home plate. In football, if you cross the goal line more often, kick the ball between the uprights more often or have a bigger combination of both you win. In soccer, if you kick the ball into the net more often than the opposition you win.
Of course the more often you execute a coach's designed plays, the more often you apply basic fundamentals like blocking and tackling in football or hitting a slider or turning a double play in baseball, the better are your chances for achieving scoreboard success. Still, it all comes back to scoring.
In any sport, you don't have to score a lot to win, but you have to score more than the opposition. Defense counts, but no team in any sport has ever won a game 0-0.
What started my mind wandering down this track was watching two high school basketball games last week.
The first was at Casa Grande High School where Casa's girls played magnificent defense against Maria Carrillo in a game matching Carrillo's defending North Bay League champions against Casa's defending Sonoma County League champions. Casa pulled the game out, 37-36. To hold Maria Carrillo to 36 points is a major accomplishment, but the game was decided by three shots. Casa's Brooke Santander hit a 3-pointer with just over a minute left. Maria Carrillo missed two shots at the end of the game that would have resulted in a different outcome. Despite the excellent defense played by both teams, the game was decided by the ball going through the hoop.
Later in the week, I watched the Petaluma High School boys team play at Piner. The Trojans, as they always do, hustled from start to finish, never once letting up, and, although there were admittedly a few miscues, they generally played very strong defense against quicker opponents. Still, Petaluma lost, 65-58.
The ultimate difference was that Petaluma missed too many open and easy shots. I don't know what the Trojan shooting percentage was, but it was somewhere between poor and bad. The Trojans ran their offense well most of the night, and even Piner's nearly game-long press was more a hindrance than a real problem. The game's seven-point difference was because way too many missed good-look shots and too many shots put up from underneath the basket somehow hit more rim than net.
Despite moving the ball well, playing good defense and hustling all over the court, Petaluma ultimately lost because the ball wouldn't go through the hoop.
I'm not discounting the other aspects of the game or saying the Casa Grande girls won only because of one shot they made and two Maria Carrillo missed, or that Petaluma's boys lost only because of missed shots, but I am saying that sometimes we get all wrapped up in the nuances and overlook the obvious.
(Contact John Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org)