The Super Bowl capped off an incredible run of championship contests for the 2016-17 seasons. It started with Villanova winning on a buzzer beater. It continued when the Cleveland Cavs improbably edged out the Warriors on the road in game 7. The World Series was one for the ages, needing extra-innings in Game 7 to break a century old curse and crown a champion. In Omaha, Coastal Carolina made an incredible play in the 9th to maintain their lead then stranded the winning run at second to win it all. The college football National Championship came down to the final second. Finally, Tom Brady led the New England Patriots to a 25-point comeback in a quarter and a half in the most improbable of overtime victories. 6 championship contests decided in the last seconds or on the last play. The entire year served as a constant reminder that in sports, you should never give up, the details always matter, and perhaps more than anything, that you never know which plays will end up mattering most.
While the Super Bowl featured a new version of “the catch”, even Tom Brady pointed out after the game that had one of about 30 plays gone the other way, the outcome likely would have been different. Those 30 plays were all made possible because even when statisticians gave the Falcons a 99.9% chance of victory, the Patriots never played the scoreboard! In other words, they never let the score dictate their effort or behavior—they continued to play each play like the game was tied.
The lesson to never play the scoreboard is particularly applicable to baseball. And here are three reasons why:
- In a game where there is no clock and a team must earn every single out, literally anything is possible and nothing is out of the question until the final out is recorded. The play that changes the game may come when a team is up big or down big and not reveal itself as important until it is looked at retrospectively. Like Brady alluded post-Super Bowl, you never know which piece of the puzzle can change the outcome and you should play with unrelenting focus and effort!
- Baseball is a game of momentum and it’s hard to control the pendulum once it starts swinging. A pitcher is cruising until a call goes against him and he can’t find the strike zone. An offense is rolling until a base running blunder kills a rally. There are so many areas of baseball that are out of a player’s control, there is no room for losing control of the mental game or effort, two areas where you have complete control as a player.
- Baseball is a long game with a short-term memory. It’s a game notorious for turning heroes into goats (and not in the Greatest Of All Time sense) and vise-versa. Remember when UC Santa Barbara’s struggling freshman hit a walk-off grand slam off of an All-American closer and 1st round draft pick to win a Super Regional? If you can dream it, it can happen. But it won’t happen unless you disregard the scoreboard, never give up and play hard every single pitch. Just ask Tom Brady and the Patriots.