Why Do We Choke?
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Well, it’s a tale as old as time.
Or at least as old as competition.
I’m sure, back in the caveman days when the Waka tribe was taking on the clearly inferior Wooka tribe, they somehow managed to choke away a lead or a game or a match. I’m just not sure if they were playing a best-of-seven series where fortunes shift as home-cave advantage is squandered.
But that’s certainly how it is in the modern NBA. So why and how do seemingly vastly superior teams manage to eff it all up? Okay, let’s clarify; one game does not a total eff up make. There’s still time. But therein lies the rub of how it all goes so wrong. Let’s examine some of those reasons.
We've Still Got Time
As I just mentioned, teams take their own sweets establishing their dominance. They try to play it cool. They don’t want to be too overanxious. They just want to chillax and go through the motions. They know they’re better than those other guys. The record proves it. So let’s just … let it flow. Until it doesn’t. Time, of course, is relative. They may still have time to win the series. Okay, no need to panic. But hey, that whole time thing didn’t work so hot in Game 1. Maybe it’s time to hit a panic button.
Underestimating the Opponent
They’re loosey. They’re goosey. They’ve got nothing to lose. They may try some funky things they’ve never done before or certainly not had the time to perfect. And you’re sitting there, basking in your overconfidence. The next thing you know, you’re looking at the scoreboard wondering, “Who are these guys?”
And then there’s the question, “Who are we?”
The playoffs are always a time for self-reflection. And in this day and age of me, that self-reflection is often fraught with egotistical chest-pounding. Hey, good for you! You had the best record in basketball. But did you forget how you got the best record in basketball? Maybe by not acting like the team with the best record in basketball? Now don’t get me wrong; there’s definitely room for confidence. But confidence should never supersede hunger or desire. It should compliment it.
And that’s where a lot of playoff teams go wrong. Their panic is quiet but palpable. They laugh in the locker room with each other but look in the mirror with the gaze of a guest at a Game of Thrones wedding. They search for a happy medium.
So, what’s the answer?
Well, if there was a clear-cut one, it would have been discovered by now. The cavemen probably thought they had it figured out. But the Wookas kept winning.