Choices and the Usual

In Sports by Brock Bourgase

Choices and consequences are consistently highlighted yet the message – on many levels – often struggles to get through. Recently, athletes have showcased self-evident and senseless decision-making during championship competition.

During the Champions League final, Didier Drogba, one of Chelsea’s most skilled strikers, slapped Manchester’s Nemanja Vidić with minutes remaining in added time and metres in front of the referee and received a well-deserved red card. Drogba knew that penalties were imminent but he still chose to strike his opponent rather than the ball. Minus one of their top penalty takers, the Blues lost to United in sudden-death penalties. In fact, Chelsea had a chance to win during the first five kicks and perhaps Drogba would have converted when John Terry slipped.

During Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, Pittsburgh forward Ryan Malone was assessed two goaltender interference penalties. Penguin coach Michel Therrien complained that Red Wing goalie Chris Osgood dove to draw the penalties but his pleas fell on deaf ears. Both teams knew that protecting goaltenders was a point of emphasis and but Malone still chose to enter the crease. Two minor penalties leading to a 3-0 Detroit victory were dominos likely to fall.

During Tuesday’s critical Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, San Antonio desperately needed a score. It appeared that Gregg Popovich diagramed a three-point shot for Brent Barry, an accomplished outside shooter who is known for inconsistent performances during clutch situations and a lack of aggression. Until that point – when the Spurs were down 93-91 to the Lakers with seconds left – Barry’s fundamentals and critical thinking had earned him 23 points.

Under pressure, the San Antonio guard got open, faked a shot and dribbled to the right. Then Los Angeles point guard Derrick Fisher landed on his check, altering the shot without drawing a foul. Had Barry gone straight up without a dribble or had the Spurs gone inside to Tim Duncan, the officials likely would have rewarded the aggression with a trip to the line and the 2007 Champions would still be playing but the team chose to take a twenty-five foot shot.

Don’t tempt fate. In school, work, life, or sport, it’s often easy to foresee outcomes and avoid them with diligence, planning, and thinking. Challenging the officials is a lose-lose proposition. Refs have to call the points of emphasis, especially when the action happens in front of them. Association refs have always rewarded superstars and aggressive play; they are liable to pass otherwise. People know this and have control over their choices, and their consequences.