Thoughts on Pete Carroll, Winning and Losing, and Left Shark

I watched Super Bowl XLIX with friends. By now the events of the game and halftime show are old news, but a few things about it have stuck with me. Here we go:

Left Shark

Let’s start with left shark. After the halftime show Twitter and the rest of the internet buzzed with references to left shark. For those of you with real lives, here is the quick version of why this was happening: during Katy Perry’s halftime show, during the singing of California Girls, Perry was accompanied by two dancing sharks. The sharks were not synchronized in their choreography. People were quick to mock left shark.

While I think right shark was the better dancer, I do not think left shark messed up. If you play the tape and cover right shark up, the moves pulled off by left shark are completely fine. They fit the beat and the song. It is only in direct comparison to right shark that they look off.

The flak left shark is catching is merely a reflection of the hyper-critical and mean spirit that pervades social media.

Pete Carroll

I find it amusing and frustrating that so many people have criticized Pete Carroll after the Super Bowl. I do not think he made a major blunder with the play call at the end. Just look at two of the biggest calls in the game: 1) the call to throw the ball into the end zone before halftime and 2). the call to throw the ball into the end zone at the end of the game. The first one flew in the face of conservative thought . . . and it worked. It worked in a major way. I feel secure in saying many head coaches in the NFL would have settled for the field goal, happy to have the 3 points and willing to sacrifice the other 4. Not Carroll. He went for it and it paid off. At the end of the game he made another aggressive play call, and in this case it backfired. What must be remembered, however, is that it was not probable that New England would intercept the ball on the throw. Carroll didn’t make a stupid call. If you run that play 10 times, I bet the outcome is favorable for Seattle 8 times (either a touchdown, penalty, or completion–which isn’t a major problem in this scenario).

Hindsight is a beautiful and terrible thing.

I do not consider Pete Carroll a goat. I do not think he choked. I do not think he is a bad coach.

I think the negative backlash is a reflection of hyper-critical and delusional sports fans (notice a theme?).

Winning and Losing

Following up on the last point, the constant need to evaluate winning and losing in sports drives me crazy. I despise how negative analysis has become, especially when it gets personal. This is true of the interception at the goal line in the final minute of the Super Bowl. Two teams competed. Each played hard. One team emerged victorious. No one on the field or sidelines was incompetent. Everyone competed well. And one team won (that’s sports). Just because you lose doesn’t mean you made terrible or horrible mistakes. It might be the case, but one team has to lose. You flip a coin–one side loses. Yes, there are instances when poor play calling or preparation exist, but often chance is a major factor.

I see this in baseball. A pitcher must throw a ball past a hitter. The ball needs to go through a specific strike zone to avoid being a called ball. Most major league hitters are capable of hitting any strike very hard. So the pitcher attempts to throw off the hitter’s timing and move the ball around. But sometimes the hitter hits the ball hard. And here’s where I get frustrated, analysts will always talk about the pitcher making a mistake “up in the zone” or “over the plate.” The only times these mistakes are pointed out are when the batter hits the ball hard. Baseball is a game of probabilities. Pitches get hit. Good pitches will get hit hard with less frequency than bad pitches, but you might throw a very good pitch and have it get smoked. It happens. The nature of the game is that you can do a great job and lose.

A very good batter will make more outs than hits. Why do we have such a hard time accepting this?

I understand the desire to win. I admire the refusal to accept moral victories and to remain focused on the bigger prize. I like a champion. It is important to remember that winning and losing is often out of the hands of one person–the best that person can do is compete with honor and effort. I respect that.

Conclusions

Don’t criticize left shark.

Evaluate Pete Carroll on more than just the (improbable) outcome of one play.

Respect competition and realize that the natural order demands winners and losers.

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