Practice Makes Perfect?

The NBA and NHL seasons have ended and now the real seasons begin: the Playoffs.

Playoffs, you ask?

Yes, the Playoffs. But before we talk about playoffs, it seems pertinent to talk about the value of regular season. In a strike shortened NHL season, the Chicago Blackhawks broke the record for the consecutive games with a point to start the season – 24 points (21 wins, 3 shootout losses). The Anaheim Ducks and the Pittsburgh Penguins both went on doubt digit winning streaks. These three teams are the favorites to win the Stanley Cup (at least on paper).

Last year’s champion, the Los Angeles Kings entered the Stanley Cup playoffs as an 8th seed (last place) – just barely making the playoffs. And they are not the only ones professional sports team to have barely gotten into the playoffs and won a championship. In 2011, the St. Louis Cardinals fell into the playoffs after an epic collapse by the Atlanta Braves. Surely a team destined for a first round exit, right? Nope: the Cardinals won the World Series. An article by Dan Levy of Bleacher Reports in 2011 provides more evidence to show that there is little correlation between regular season glory and a post-season championship.

The question is: does the regular season really matter? Or is it just practice?

The most convincing argument against the value of the regular season rests on the slim shoulders of former Vikings Placekicker Gary Anderson. In the 1998-1999 season, the Vikings went 15-1 in large part because of Anderson’s “perfect regular season” in which he successfully made every field goal and every point-after attempt. However, in the final moments of the NFC championship game, he missed the field goal that would have propelled them to the Super Bowl.

Forget that he broke records, forget that he helped make the Vikings contenders. In American culture, you only matter if you win.

What about the rest of us non-athletes who are told that 90% of success in life is just showing up and persevering? Is it better to be a 4.0 student all throughout high school and bomb the ACT, or slough off during high school with a gentleman’s C average while acing a college entrance exam. Who do we reward? Who should we reward?

In the Ignatian world, we tell ourselves that everyday is a journey and that everyday matters. The sweat equity will pay off.

Me, I’m tempted just to follow the examples of those who barely get into the playoffs. I’m just gonna sit on the couch and rely on my natural talent to carry me through Spring semester finals.

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Cover photo by Life is Good via Flickr.

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