Friday, April 14, 2006

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

As I get older, the way I view sports has changed somewhat. Setting aside all the issues about cheating, corruption, etc. which have also changed the way I look at sports, one important central theme is my move away from valuing statistics toward valuing that intangible aspect of performance that separates the good from the great.

In the past, I resisted commentary by old-timers about this player or that player who was special, particularly when a player I favored had better stats. Can't you see, it's right there in the stats? The stats prove this guy is better than that guy.

Increasingly, I pay attention to an area of sporting life that is a lot more about soul than statistics. Statistics can't measure this aspect very well. I am talking about the crunch times, those moments when it isn't about a game or a season or a career, but it is about this moment, and is my best guy better than your best guy. The funny thing is sports themselves have never had any sould searching on this issue. They have always been about that. The players themselves know. It's always up to the rest of us who follow sports to kind of catch up in appreciation.

These are intangible things. Peyton Manning is a classic example of "guy who doesn't have a lick of it." In my personal rooting world, nobody exemplifies the quality of anti-clutch, anti-leadership, anti-big moment player more than Keith Tkachuk. Yet many Blues fans look at is regular season point totals and love him.

On the flip side, I have always resisted the way Joe Montana is immortalized. But the truth is he always performed in big moments. That matters hugely. It tells you about the soul of a player. The ultimate example is Jordan, of course. It'd be hard to name a player with greater will and greater feel for the clutch moment in the history of athletics. But when you look at statistics, it isn't nearly as obvious. Still, it's real. it exists. And most importantly, it matters.

So why not post this on my sports blog? Because this post is not about sports, it's about politics.

Why am I a Democrat and not a Republican? There are members of each party who can argue incessantly for this theory or that theory, and the best ones can come off as super-convincing.

That's stats.

I am a Democrat because to be a Republican, despite all arguments for all time, is a nullification of soul. It is literally to be a bankrupt human being. And you can't quantify it. It is something you have to know inherently in the moment you see it. No fifty billion volumes and opuses of words and argument and theory and counterproofs could undo this. This is real. This is who they are.


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