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The Bathwater

Aside: the most popular search turning up this blog right now is the “origin of the name Byfuglien.”  How disappointed those people must have been. Now I don’t feel so stupid for not being able to find more details.

One of the most busy topics of conversation on the Sharks message board right now is next season.  I thought I had a problem with A.D.D.!  The Short Attention Span Theater is alive and well in Shark territory.  The part about these discussions that disturbs me is the focus on trades, contracts ending, and people shuffling about, that is: leaving.  People have many opinions about who should leave or be sent packing, mostly based on very recent performance.  I feel like the game is being narrated in Czech again and I am not drunk enough to understand it.

I don’t see any point in repeating which players are on today’s dump roster.  If I dwell on the details, there might be unseemly language.  Also, the list seems to change every day. Public opinion is like a loose Gatling gun on deck.  Maybe a Gatling gun would not do as much damage as a cannon rolling around on deck, if there were no one to crank it.  So maybe I mean a Maxim gun.  One of those might keep firing while rolling around willy-nilly.  But those didn’t have wheels when used on a ship.  I give up.  I mean public opinion is pretty randomly destructive.

Mostly I am confused by the idea that what you pay someone should have a direct impact on their performance.   These players are not fixing leaky pipes.  Athletes are not that different from those who dabble in the fine arts, or even the less fine arts.  Everyone wants money, usually they want as much as they can get.  But when what you do is all wrapped up in emotion and mental clarity and the mind/body balance, well, that ain’t no kitchen sink.  It cannot be fixed in position with a pipe wrench and a hammer, and stuffing cash into the pipe will not solve the problem.  You have to think organic, see how it evolves.

You are also not going to replace one player with any guarantee that the new one will work out better.  I’m not going to argue that change is bad, but change is just different.  It can be bad or it can be good, and what you paid for it will not be the determining factor.  Better to pay for the opinion of an astrologist.

Wow, we really do treat each other like race horses.  Not only is that mean but it is really really stupid.

Everyone has to cope with emotional ups and downs and various external factors influencing what they do for a living.  We don’t work harder because we get paid more than at our last job.  The quality of work we do will pretty much depend on whether we are having a bad day or a good day.  I’m not saying “oh, poor highly paid professional athletes, what burdens they bear.”  I’m just saying that it is really stupid to think they will win because you pay them a lot.  It isn’t tragic on the level of Othello,  just sadly preposterous like ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.  Irrational expectations and a misplaced sense of entitlement make people crazy and ultimately someone ends up bleeding on the floor.  Usually that person is the one who was trying to make things right.

Of course the payment level is usually based on recent past performance.  That makes sense.  Or it could make sense if it was like piece work: 1 point= $x.  But that isn’t how it works.  It’s more like a show pony system, where someone buys a horse so he can claim  “I got last month’s champion!  And I paid a boat load of money and I am still paying for it.”  Well, fine, if it really were just a trophy thing.  It isn’t.  No, the Derby winner is supposed to keep winning.  The fact that most of them do NOT keep winning seems to escape the buyers.

Granted, athletes have a longer career than show ponies or race horses.  Presumably if you find someone on the upswing they will keep contributing to your team’s success for a while.  But achievement is not linear.  Talent and success are not linear.  The longer the career, the more ups and downs you will see.  Injuries, slumps, new skills, even a good mood at the right time might be a turning point.  So it really is crazy to think that swapping players around will result in anything more than a team reboot, which will require time to get going again.  How much time will vary, like everything else.  It is not something to bank on.  The odds are, you will send someone on their way just at the wrong time for you.

Look at Michael Leighton.  I’m not sure what went on behind that shuffling, but he started this season with the Hurricanes where his performance was described as “dreadful.”  Traded to fill in for an injured starting goalie for the Flyers, he did pretty dern well all of a sudden.  Then he got hurt, an injury described as “season ending.”  (Yes, another one- I said avoiding injury was not that team’s forte.)  Then he came back all unexpected (yes, he was dressed but still was not supposed to play) and he did very well.  Then he kept doing very well, and suddenly he’s Superman.  That was a good change, a whole slew of them.  But I don’t think those changes could have been expected and any team’s management could go a long time trying to replicate that sequence of events.

“Just get one goal.”  That’s what Laviolette said to the Flyers.  Someone other than characters in City Slickers introduced the concept of “one thing” as a quip for how to get the job done.  Sounds Buddhist.  Even if a notion has been bantered about quite a bit, and dragged through the mud of broad comedy, it can still be true.  Scuttlebutt is that Dan Boyle says his team must raise one finger to those who have counted them out of this series. I’m glad we’re on the same page. (See Working the Corners for more on that page.)

Just one.  One puck, slipping and sliding around in murky waters.  Be careful about tipping that tub over just yet.  You never know what’s still in there.


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