The Breakdown: Streaking examination
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Summit County, Colorado
Impressive streaks in the past week: The UConn women’s hoops squad earning its 71st consecutive win, the Dallas Mavericks winning 12 straight NBA games, and Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger having someone accuse him of sexual assault in back-to-back years.
Actually, that last one isn’t as much impressive as it is disturbing. I should have said “noteworthy streaks.” That’s my bad.
(Tangent: While it’s certainly possible that Roethlisberger has been falsely accused both times, I still find it amazing that someone would put themselves in that position again after the first go-around. And if you’re wondering, “Well, what should he do, stay at home and not go out at night?” Yes, that’s exactly what I am saying.)
Either way, what I’m getting at here is the idea of streaks in sports.
Streaks are one of the most fascinating aspects of athletics. Whether it’s someone getting a hit in 56 straight games or whiffing in 56 straight plate appearances, there are rarely times that a streak can easily be explained.
Although, I feel that it’s my duty as a columnist to offer some sort of explanation for the examples I gave earlier – or at least for that first one.
Now, there’s always been a cliche in sports that players and coaches like to say after a regular-season loss: “You can’t win ’em all.” That’s not exactly true, though, because, well, the Lady Huskies have won them all for two straight years – and counting.
I’ve heard some people in the past couple days try to belittle the achievement of 71 straight wins for two reasons: 1) UConn already had a streak of 70 straight wins in the last decade; and 2) The competition isn’t there in women’s basketball.
Both arguments are ridiculous.
First off, UConn’s two streaks have absolutely nothing to do with one another. In college sports, a program only has a player for four seasons, meaning that every four years, that team (and its competition) are completely different. If anything, the fact this same program has had both of these runs makes it more impressive.
Now, as far as there not being any competition in women’s basketball, I can’t help but feel that theory is a bit chauvinistic. Whenever a women’s team dominates its competition, people always say that they just don’t have any depth in their sport. (Think Olympic hockey, college soccer, softball, etc.)
Anyway, this has nothing to do with explaining how the streak happened. I just felt I needed to defend its importance before I went further.
So how do we explain UConn’s dominance? It’s easy: They’re better than everyone else.
That doesn’t sound good enough, huh? Well, let me explain.
You see, the biggest thing with a team like UConn is not their talent, no matter how considerable. After all, there are plenty of teams over the years that could equal the Huskies’ current talent level. (Coach Geno Auriemma said this isn’t even his most talented roster ever.) The difference here is the team’s collective attitude: The Huskies don’t just think they’re going to win each night, they know they are going to win and do whatever it takes to do it.
Sports streaks are entirely mental.
Think of the New England Patriots heading into Super Bowl XLII. They were undefeated heading into the game, but they’re confidence had been a bit shaken by all the pressure and narrow wins throughout the year. Right before opening kickoff, the shots of players on the New England sideline didn’t exactly exude confidence. They looked nervous, almost scared to lose.
And it goes the opposite way, too.
Sure, UConn needs to have some of the best players in the country on its roster to win titles, but it’s the players’ confidence and belief in themselves that allows them to rattle off so many consecutive wins.
Makes sense, right?
Now, if only we could explain Big Ben’s streak.
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