Last Sunday night was the Canadian Football League's championship game. One of very own ultimate players works for the CFL head office (Let's call him "Loic") so it is great to see the league doing so well and being so popular in Canada. 6.1 million viewers watch the final game of three down football in 2009.
The Montreal Alouettes won the game with a 28-27 win over the Saskatchewan Roughriders. This was Montreal's 7th appearance in the cup final this decade, and had only won once before in six tries. If they didn't win, I was going to write an article asking you readers if great players whose teams don't win are still great. (Jim Kelly and Dan Marino anyone?)
After a somewhat quiet first three quarters, the game picked up and saw Montreal come back froma 27-11 deficit to win the game on the final play of the game.
Pretty normal stuff right? But for those of you who didn't watch the game.. here's where it gets tricky.
- On the final play Montreal's kicker (Damon Duval, who set a league record for points in a season this year) misses a 43 yard kick.
- Saskatchewan celebrates their win
- Flags are down amid celebration
- Saskatchewan has too many players on the field for the final play. 10 yard penalty and another chance for Montreal.
- Montreal boots the 33 yard field goal and wins the Grey Cup
The news headlines and TV coverage were pretty consistent: 'One big mistake costs Grey Cup'. But was that really the case? Was it just one penalty that decided the game?
We are guilty of this same type of analysis in ultimate. We often point to a single play as the "TSN Turning Point". That big d block "turned the tide" or "made the difference". It's simply not true.
Blaming a loss on one player making one play/mistake is very unfair. When you blow a 27-11 lead in a football game or a 14-10 lead in ultimate, there were many wrong things that lead to the loss. The defence failed to stop the opponent. The offence stopped scoring. Players allowed one play to get into their game and distract them.
Conversely, I also get disappointed from the overused word "clutch". Somebody can miss 70% of their shots in a basketball game, but if they hit a game winning shot at the buzzer they are clutch. Would the game have needed that shot had the player made more of their shots earlier?
Why should we try to avoid judging a game by one play?
The consequences can be heavy. It's a heavy burden to bear for the person that is at fault. It can also lead to overvaluing someone who makes a key positive play.
Look no further than Bill Buckner. Buckner had a stellar Major League Baseball career and made it to an All Star game. However, he and his name is now synonymous with one error in the 1986 world series. It doesn't matter that the team had another game to make up for that play and lost game 7, he is still the goat.
Right now the Saskatchewan team refuses to identify who was at fault for the play. They don't want someone to be labeled and I salute them for that. I hope ultimate teams behave in such a manner when the unfortunate happens.