Schwartz: When A Loss Is Just A Loss

February 21, 2019

Written by David Schwartz

First Jordan Bohannon’s shot missed, then Isaiah Moss’s. There would be no third consecutive buzzer beater Tuesday night against Maryland, only a reminder that sports are sports, and sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

That’s the extent of my game analysis. There wasn’t much else to look at. Stats, I guess.

So now we do the only thing we can do: turn the page toward Indiana on Friday night. Hopefully it goes better.

This is why they call me “Mr. Analysis.”

For real, though, Tuesday night’s loss was a reminder that sometimes it’s OK to watch sports and not overthink the results. Emotion is a completely different matter. But if you’ve watched sports any time over the last, say, 20 years, you’ve probably noticed we as a sports-consuming culture put more time into determining outcome causality than we do key matters in our own life.

By last count, there were nearly 700 radio stations across the United States dedicated to sports talk and game coverage. Seven-hundred. That doesn’t even include podcasts, websites, bloggers, and the 24/7 coverage provided by ESPN’s eight networks, Fox’s networks, regional networks, and local coverage. Twitter, too.

And there wouldn’t be so many if there wasn’t a market for it. We eat that stuff up. If we stopped downloading podcasts, stopped tuning in to Chippy n’ Flip-Flop’s Sports Talk Morning Zoo, stopped dialing in to Stephen A., Max, and Skip during our morning workouts, content producers would find something else to capture our attention. But they don’t need to do that, because they’re armed daily with evidence that our sports appetites are insatiable.

Last year ESPN2 lost its spot as the second-rated sports network in the country after nearly a quarter-century. It fell from second to fourth, behind NBC Sports Network and Fox Sports 1. What do those two stations – the ones that leapfrogged ESPN2 – show in the morning?

Sports talk.

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Debate.

FS1 begins its programming day at 5:30 a.m. with 10 consecutive hours of sports talk and debate. That’s not a misprint. Ten straight hours. NBCSN is slightly more restrained, starting with just five straight hours.

That’s just the national material: Duke, Red Sox and Yankees, NFL, UConn women, Steph and KD. It’s on the local level, too, with great reporting and analysis coming out of sites like SB Nation, The Athletic, and Bleacher Report. Heck, HawkeyeNation is just one of several online publications devoted exclusively to the Hawkeyes, a hard-working but relatively unsuccessful college athletic program that is one of the smallest schools in the Big Ten. And HN and many of the other sites consistently produce smart, entertaining content that gets consumed – because the market is insatiable.

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Which is why Tuesday’s loss was so unremarkably awkward. It could be digested in a sentence or two. Why did Iowa lose? Shots weren’t falling. Why not? Maryland plays pretty good defense and the Hawkeyes had an off night.

Imagine how dull the talk shows would be if they approached sports realistically:

Moderator: Skip, how did the Patriots come back from 25 points down to beat the Falcons in the Super Bowl?

Skip Bayless: Well, the Falcons got nervous late while the Patriots executed better.

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Shannon Sharpe: Yes, I agree.

(Awkward silence for the next 2 hours, 29 minutes)

In a way, Iowa’s loss Tuesday to Maryland was refreshing, not because we wanted them to lose, but because it was so normal. There was no equivalent of Nate Stanley panicking at the end of the Penn State game, no Wisconsin players throwing knees and elbows while B1G refs were too busy watching Netflix on their phones to notice and blow a whistle.

It was just … a loss.

* Talk with Mr Analysis at @daveschwartz.

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