Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Somebody Tryin' to Tell Me Something?

As some of you may know, aside from baseball my other great vice is pool. Recovering from the Yanks' big loss to the Red Sox, and bored while checking out the World Series (where the Sox now have a dominant (but not as dominant as it used to seem) 3-0 lead against the Cards) I found myself pulling Phil Capelle's "A Mind for Pool" off the bookshelf.
As is my tendency, I opened the book to a random page. This is what I got, under the chapter heading "Winners Learn From Losing":

After losing go shake hands with your opponent and congratulate him on his play. After all, he must have done something right to beat a good player like yourself. Once this formality is over, your pool personality kicks in. The recovery time after a loss varies for each individual.
Your reaction to a loss also depends on the nature of the contest. Among the toughest losses to swallow are those where you had it won in your mind, but not on the scoreboard. Blowing a big lead is painful, but completely understandeable once you analyze why it happens. Switching from an aggressive style of play to one where you are trying to protect your lead can backfire. A shift in momentum and/or the rolls could let your opponent back in the match.
No matter how or why you lost, once you've recovered from defeat, it's time to think objectively about the match. This will help you to gain something positive from what is an oftentimes painful experience.

Some things are universal in sports (yes, I know, most people don't consider pool a sport, but bear with me). The test for the Yankees and their fans will be how quickly we recover from this loss, and how honestly we're able to analyze that loss once we've recovered. Going back over those three games the Yankees won, there were even some warning signs in the early lead: the Sox scored 7 runs in Game 1 and 9 runs in Game 3. If I'd have told you before the ALCS that the Red Sox were going to score 7, 1, and 9 runs in the first three games (without telling you how many the Yanks would score), would you have picked the Yankees to be up 3-0? Would you have even picked 2-1?

I bring this up for two reasons. First, looking at the Red Sox' 3-0 lead in the World Series, I see no warning signs that would indicate St. Louis can win the series. It hasn't just been one element of the Sox' game making up for deficiencies in other areas -- the Red Sox have controlled this Series. So as much as I'd love for the Red Sox to join the Yanks on the list of "team(s) to lose best of 7 matchups, up 3-0," I'd have to say it ain't gonna happen.

The other thing is, we're going to have a lot of introspection over this offseason. The Yankees organization is holding meetings as I write this. Talking heads in the press and on the radio are chewing over the "Yankee collapse" on a near-daily basis, and will continue to do so until (and perhaps past) Opening Day, 2005. For all those people, Phil's book has a warning:

One of the most counterproductive ways that pool players use to deal with losing is to make excuses. They love to tell you how they would have won if they had: gotten a couple of rolls; weren't sharked; weren't stuffed from lunch; weren't this and weren't that; and so on and so on. The list of excuses goes on, limited only by the imagination of the player who has just lost.

By making excuses, a player is trying to say they won, but with an asterisk. Likewise, their opponent really lost once you factor in the excuses. It's almost as if each excuse is worth a game or two on the wire. The trouble is, they are not. The loser lost and the winner won, period.

We lost. No excuses. Congrats to the Red Sox, and their fans. Hopefully we'll learn something, and make you choke on it next year.

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