Friday, April 3, 2015

Pardon My Absence. Let's Talk About Basketball and Boxing!

Well hello there, all you lovely sports and fitness-ers... or people I've hustled into reading my blog.

You probably thought I was never going to return, but alas, here I am! However, my life has become incredibly busy and it will likely stay this way for at least the rest of the year meaning much fewer posts than I had hoped. I do have some very exciting things going on, and while this blog was a front runner of those things for awhile, it does not make me any money so it has to be demoted from the shotgun position. I do have a million things I have been thinking about recently, and have really wanted to write about, namely, um... college basketball, duh.

Like the majority of the population, I have Kentucky winning it all. Unfortunately, Nova let me down last Saturday, as I had them in the championship game so also like the rest of you, I'm just hoping a miracle happens and everyone else's bracket is more busted than mine. The whole Kentucky thing though... It will be pretty awesome for them if they win. A perfect season does have to happen again sometime, but I definitely had a hard time convincing myself that it would be this year. Their domination of West Virginia seemed effortless so maybe this is the year. Either way, I just find college basketball, especially during the tournament, to be so addictive. I would sit at home and watch every single game if I could... I become obsessive and ruthless, and really I don't think it has all that much to do with winning the pool. Although, I do wanna give a shout out to Ryan Finger who organizes the pool I join every year. I think we are going on ten years now, and it is nice to have a go-to. The tourney just provides such a great opportunity to see the top college players showcased rather than trying to follow along throughout the season. It lets you know who to watch next year, and who to look for in the NBA draft. Not to mention, the end of the tournament means we are closing in on NBA playoffs. It's true, spring is magical.

So what do you think? Will the Wildcats win it? Statistically, yes, you probably think they will. I just can't help but feel like if a team is trying to win the national championship, losing a game or two earlier in the season might actually do them some good. Winning every single game for an entire season?! How does that even happen?? The pressure of winning... I don't know, how many games is that? Like 30 by the time they're through the tournament?

You're always going to get the chatter about the depth of the schedule and what they are actually up against. There will always be haters, but in my opinion staying strong for that long... not taking it easy for even a single game, that takes an extreme amount of athletic, as well as psychological power.

Last weekend they were almost upset by Notre Dame and I was thinking I should have gone with my gut on this one, but they managed to pull through in the last 30 seconds, thanks in part to an ND airball at the buzzer (talk about a #confidence killer). On that topic, and going back to my first post, confidence. I wrote previously about a mental loop that is playing constantly for athletes. If a basketball player sees the ball go through the hoop, he (or she) has a visual in his memory and is likely to recreate it with ease. If the last addition to the loop is an airball, the confidence stream is interrupted. Does that make sense? Okay, so if this is true then what I said before about the function of losing a few games in favor of making it to the national championship doesn't fit.

However, regardless of the level of a player's confidence, chances are the whole team will have a hard time maintaining a collective level high enough to pull them all the way through the season. Obviously there are other factors involved, specifically fatigue and injury. This was pretty clearly exemplified in their play last weekend. Not to take anything away from a Notre Dame team that was able to compete at a very high level, and was in my opinion the better performing team of the two, specific to last night. Kentucky looked tired. They did not play as well as they have been most of the season, but that's totally normal and to be expected. People might start testing for performance enhancing drugs if there were no signs of them wearing down by now. This is exactly why I have a hard time convincing myself they'll end up winning the next two games. The timeline isn't helpful either. They play Wisconsin (the team I originally had winning it all), tomorrow, Saturday, April 4th and if they win, two days later, Monday, April 6th , they will play in the championship game. Woo, that will really be something to see. Mental exhaustion due to the tremendous pressure of the entire world watching and holding their breath, AND physical exhaustion from having to recover in twenty four hours from playing another incredible basketball team.

That brings me to the other point I wanted to make. The term, "team" in itself refers to a unit or a group of individuals who work together toward a goal. However, like the saying goes, the whole is only as strong as the sum of its parts. Since before I began to write this blog, one of the concepts I have been interested in, is differences between team and individual competition. The much hyped and discussed fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao is approaching and since I may not have another chance to write before then, I figure now is as good a  time as any to broach the topic.

Boxing... fighting in general, requires a tremendous amount of endurance and strength. Not to downplay the endurance and strength of those who compete in team sports, but when fighters are in the ring, they have no one to lean on both literally and figuratively (although sometimes they try). They are on their own in terms of getting the job done. No timeouts, no subs, no rest for the wicked. My ponderance about this stems from the psychological standpoint (duh). What is the mental experience of relying solely on yourself to take home a W? My own familiarity with real competition is primarily as a solo competitor and I will tell you, it is a lot of weight to carry. When you lose, especially. There is no one else to share the blame or heartbreak. No one who really understands the sense of defeat you're feeling. For that matter, when you win there is no one who understands the elation. The bright side is the sense of accomplishment. You worked hard and you reached your goal on your own. But did you really? The preparation for solo competition is rarely done well, solo. There are coaches, trainers and other competitors surrounding whilst you train... so maybe they do feel pride when you succeed, but is it the same kind you feel?

Speaking of the upcoming match up Mayweather said recently, "I have a longer reach, I'm taller, I'm stronger, and I'm more accurate... The only thing I know is to win" (Thompson, 2015). This statement exemplifies the mindset, I have been told, is necessary to succeed in professional fighting. If you don't know for sure you will win, you won't. It also speaks to the conjecture I made earlier regarding the benefit of losing once or twice along the way in order to win when it counts. Like Kentucky this season, Floyd Mayweather is undefeated. I have to wonder whether this stacks the odds in his favor... Has he gotten too cocky? He says he doesn't know how to lose, so maybe he won't see it coming when he is about to.

Afterword: Patrick has kindly informed me, it's 40 games in a college bball season.

Thompson, B. (2015, Feb 20). "Floyd Mayweather Speaks in Depth About Manny Pacquiao and      Their May 2 Showdown: 'The Only Thing I Know is to Win'" Fighthype. Retrieved from

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