The Sports-Observer’s Paradox

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Published on : February 6, 2016

 

 

 

According to noted scholar Erwin Tillinghast’s Wikipedia page, the Observer’s Paradox is described thusly:

 

In the social sciences, (and physics and experimental physics,) the observer’s paradox refers to a situation in which the phenomenon being observed is unwittingly influenced by the presence of the observer/investigator

 

The implication, then, is that the mere act of observation itself has the power to affect that which is being observed, including its outcome.  So it’s not unreasonable for me to assume that when I watch a game, I have a certain and unique influence on the score.  As a fan, knowing this inarguable fact is validating and, perhaps, delusional.  Surely, ritualistically kissing my Vladimir Konstantinov and Sergei Mnastakanov “Believe” patch, yet to be sewn onto my Darren McCarty Jersey, had a singular sway on the ’98 Detroit Red Wings-Washington Capitals Stanley Cup Final!

 

But taken to its logical extreme, this reality can also have terrible consequences.  For instance: that yellowish (not maize) Block-M shirt I wear? A definite bad luck charm for the University of Michigan Football team, but good for the Men’s Basketball team.  Skip watching a Wings home game? Whoops, turns out Larkin scored four hat-tricks.  Watch the next game, and it’s another third period meltdown.  What happens when the Sports-Observer’s Paradox goes wrong?

 

This Sports-Observer’s Paradox covers the unfortunate experience of your viewership befouling the entire existence of a high-level athlete.  Every time you watch this supposed all-star, it’s anything but an all-star experience.  They can’t hit a shot! You also know the feeling too well, when your friends are talking about Athlete X and glowing about that one goal or that clutch shot; you’re confused, because you know that this player is hyped and popular, but you thought at least your buds would get it.  Each time you watch Athlete X, they’re stumbling over themselves, dribbling in circles, or shooting the puck / ball / whatever out of bounds to the benefit of nobody.  Are you somehow ruining these fools?

 

Hockey: Rick Nash

(stats courtesy of Hockey-Reference.com)

The story to tell here is not so complicated.  Every time I watch this guy, he becomes a sluggy vortex of avarice, happier to shoot the puck in the general direction of the goal than to pass it to a teammate.  I guess it’s okay to be a big goal-scorer if you’re a prolific beast who hits and pelters the goal with a hailstorm of galvanized fury; Rick Nash is a marshmallow.  He’s a gummy, semi-hardened marshmallow that’s been through the ringer, but still a marshmallow.  He’s a goal scorer that doesn’t score enough to be such a terrible creator and provider.  He needs to give up the rock.  Shit or get off the pot, as they say.

 

Rick Nash Regular Season Stats

 

Nash is likely to plop a goal in when I’m not watching, but since he joined New York, he’s played dozens of nationally televised games.  Many of these came during the last two years, during which time Nash’s Rangers played 44 playoff games.  That’s two deep Stanley Cup runs, which can be a drain both physically and mentally when a player is locked in.  But when a player is Rick Nash, they only score EIGHT TIMES IN FORTY-FOUR GAMES.    That’s $8 Million a year well-spent!  Gotta love an all-star that excels when it doesn’t matter, and makes no one around him better.  Rick Nash: deadly once every six games.

 

To be fair, many, many other people have also seen this version of Rick Nash.

 

Rick Nash Playoff Stats

 

 

Soccer: Arjen Robben

It’s not even a secret, but rather a defining trait: Arjen Robben has a signature move.  He cuts left.  He has a very, very deadly left foot.  He loves his left foot.

 

 

He loves it for a reason. One would think that this predictability would be a tremendous Achilles’ heel, and every time I watch him, that looks to be true.  He’s maddeningly predictable, but not just in that move; his featherlight, dainty paws are vulnerable to tackles, grass, wind, and strong emotions.  If an opponent feels a powerful sense of ennuí, Robben is likely to fall over and draw an unwarranted card.  Yet…

 

Robben Fall

 

…It works! But still, fuck this guy, right?  What a flamboyantly aggressive display of spinelessness.  I actually saw this moment, which was technically a very positive outcome for the Dutch national team.  But what’s good for the Oranje is not always good for the sport. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the unbecoming flair of this floppery is directly caused by the incompetence of all soccer refereeing, but still — it’s not a good look.  Whenever I watch Robben, this is the best he can do.  I always miss the incredible moments that are apparently happening.

 

You look at that, and it’s easy to say that these lousy Barcelona defenders are fools to have put themselves in such a vulnerable position only to fall prey to a guy who can’t even use his right foot!  He ALWAYS CUTS LEFT.

 

Robben cuts right

 

HE GOES… to his right foot

…Except when he doesn’t.  But of course,  I’m always at work at that time, and I never see those moments, or any of the other brilliant, shameless antics.  So he remains a craven chump to me.

 

The examples go on and on, such as the excellent quarterback mirage of Carson Palmer 2014-15; Kyrie Irving, the best player on the planet that I’ve never seen do anything on the court when there are any sort of stakes; ditto for NHL goalkeeper Roberto Luongo.  Is this the result of some faulty alignment of all the parallel universes in existence? A tear in the space-time continuum? String theory?

 

The ScoreBoredSports Science Division is currently hard at work researching this phenomenon in our secret hydroponic laboratory.  While we wait for the answers, you, the reader, can help by asking yourselves: which athlete is your paradox?

 

 

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