I know what you're going to say already: "Eight days! You can't keep momentum for eight days!"
OK, sure. However vague the concept of athletic momentum might be, it certainly seems to go against form for a "hot" team to sit through eight days and about 50 hours of Fox broadcasts to finally play again. But no one would have said that if the Rockies had won, as inconceivable a concept as that might seem now (see footnote No. 1 ... yes, I've been reading DFW again). Had the Rockies won, we would have been hearing enough Mo talk to fill up the agenda of an LDS Conference.
That, ultimately, is why concepts like "momentum" and "choking" bug me so much; they're always predictive until they're not. Barry Bonds was a notorious playoff "choker" until he pretty much single-handedly took the Giants to the World Series. Derek Jeter was "clutch" until he grounded into three fatal double plays in the final two games of the Yankees season, v. 2007 (though, I suppose, the Cap'n hasn't quite lost his bona fides in the minds of most Yankee fans). And the Rockies had "momentum" until they got one of the worst teste-smashings in recent WS memory. As I said, it's there until it's not.
So what's the point, you ask? At the risk of continuing my Sisophysian trend of late (actually, my entire life), one just has to wonder how much longer we're going to discuss this kind of stuff like it's real, not to mention relevant to the outcome of events. Yeah, I know it's just sports, but I've never quite understood why bullshit is any less fetid in the context of "unimportant" events (see footnote No. 2).
My prediction? We still don't know what's going to happen in the series' remaining six available contests. And, when what will happen does, we will have a choice: We can either accept the fact that the game is free of any imaginary forces, or you can disagree. And since it works for the PUSA, I'll go ahead and say anyone who disagrees with me is no different that the terrorists.
1: I think it's fast becoming time to wonder exactly where Josh Beckett stands in contrast to his pitching contemporaries. While I'll be the first to say that the playoffs shouldn't be weighted differently per se, it's not lost on me that Beckett's track record in the playoffs, albeit in a small sample, is incredible. It's not hyperbole to say he was the chief reason the Fish won the shebang in 2003, and his performance thus far in the 2007 playoffs is certainly as good, if not better, than it was four seasons ago. Clearly, Josh Beckett is no reverse-shrinking-violet; the worst he's ever been in the regular season is very good if not oft-injured, and this season he certainly qualified as great while plying his trade in one of the most difficult pitching environments in the AL. But he's yet to approach the level in the regular season he reaches in the playoffs, which falls in line with the concept of a "big-game" pitcher. Bill James once said in an interview I can't find at this moment that "clutch," while conceptually dubious w/r/t hitters, is both intuitive and statistically provable when it comes to pitchers. I won't bother elaborating on his point, as I'll try and find the interview to link here. But, anyway, what I'm wondering is exactly how much Beckett's talents are worth, if we're to conclude that he can be counted on only to be very good in the regular season, but arguably the best playoff pitcher available, if we're willing to accept both premises as being true. Is he worth more than Johan, even though the latter can be counted on to be one (sometimes two) wins better over the course of the regular season? If you're the Yankees, and both are available as free agents, which one do you prefer in an either/or proposition? I sense that in New York, the answer is Beckett, but I'd be interested to figure out exactly how this would be discussed in a pure economic sense. Right now, I wish I had Nate Silver's brain.
2: This past weekend, I made one of my infrequent trips back to the Old Pueblo, and a certain sports writer friend of mine who will remain nameless renewed his long-standing and vocal objection to the American flag patch on sports uniforms during one of our meandering patio symposiums. To distill his point, he feels that it's become a purely political consideration (flag patches, not patio symposiums), and he would consider himself to be at odds with the political view that stresses nationalism above other all other considerations. I actually think this very topic would make for a great TGWNA debate topic (flag patches, not nationalism) once the baseball material dries up, but we'll leave that for another day. What the entire discussion brought to mind for me, however, was just how wrong the entire rationalization of sports viz. society and life is every time something really bad happens. See, sports so totally aren't unimportant, if for no other reasons than it's such a visible outgrowth of American society. James Caan's character in The Program, still the best sports movie (non-comedy division) out there for this particular writer's taste, defended his position within the school by stating, "When was the last time 80,000 people showed up to watch a kid do a damn chemistry experiment?" There's a reason people who really dig on "important" things are called "wonks," yet people who devote much of their time to thinking about games are most commonly referred to as "normal dudes." Sport is not just diversion, it is a vital aspect of life, and not only for those who actively participate. During an epoch in which we see a rapidly declining birth rate among Americans, in fact, sport may be vital in terms of population growth, as it's been proven that cities that experience a championship in one of the major sports usually have very busy maternity wards nine months later (though, it's troublesome to think the next spike will likely be in the Greater Boston Area, as such an event will likely coincide with fewer English-speaking Americans [I kid]). But, more importantly, I think sports can serve as great educational tools, both in terms of lessons about sportsmanship and the such, and also drawing the otherwise disinterested into stuff like statistics and economics. Needless to say, this particular author had no use for terms like standard deviation until Baseball Prospectus 2004 changed the way he looked at his favorite sport. Also, I really wasn't interested in writing until it became clear I could do so about sports, for pay (however meager that pay might have ended up being). I guess the point is, it really bothers me when Sportscenter rushes to marginalize itself in the aftermath of a disaster, when in truth it should only ever marginalize itself for its role in making us all aware of Stuart Scott's lazy eye.