Friday, March 25, 2011

E=MC Titles: Chemistry is Sports' Winning Equation

To call myself a ladies man would be an insult to Leon Phelps.  I am in no way, shape, or form cut from the same mold as Hugh Hefner, David Hasselhoff, or Dirk Diggler.

But, I'm not exactly Screech Powers either.  I've had my fair share of girlfriends and dates, some memorable and some that made me want to find a big patch of sand to bury my head in with shame.

Minka Kelly: Dream Date
The best ones were obviously attractive (at least in my eyes), fun to hang around, and could carry on a conversation.  In other words, there was mutual chemistry.

The ones that didn't work out so well, were more along the lines of, "do you think she'll buy it if I fake a heart attack?"   Meaning, the chemistry was as jacked as an Englishman's teeth.

I was on Facebook, recently, and was reminded of one such date.

I won't disclose the young woman's name because I'm a gentleman (don't roll your eyes!), but here is a little background.  We met at a party, struck up a conversation, and decided to go out to lunch later in the week.

This girl was fine.  I mean fine.  No doubt a 9-9.5, even Ray Charles could see that.  Cute face, nice smile, a body so amazing it was as if Praxiteles had sculpted it himself.  Physically, she was stunning.  (Full disclosure, I exceeded expectations by even convincing her to go out with me.  *Pats on back*)

We went out, which I proceeded by actually showering and putting on clean clothes. I sported the usual Mr. Rogers-clone look of cardigan sweater, jeans, and Nikes. It was a pretty nonchalant meal, standard because I was buying.  But because I am shallow and she was sooo good looking, I upgraded from my usual dollar menu first date and opted for a chain restaurant, still keeping the bill under $20, though.  (G-status).

The fries were the best part of the date.  I spent more time tracking baseball scores on my phone than talking with this vision-of-beauty sitting across the table.  We didn't relate in any way.  I'd ask a question, she'd respond with yes, no, or my favorite, the blank stare
It was miserable, for both of us.  After our lunch, we parted ways with that weird, awkward hug you give with your head turned to the side while cringing your eyes to express the frustrated pain that you just spent two hours accomplishing nothing.

And that was that. Physically beautiful + conversationally disconnected = No chemistry.  No chemistry = one-and-done date.

Sound familiar, Duke, Miami Heat, New York Knicks?

It should.  Just as lack of chemistry ruined my date, your teams' lack of chemistry ruined your season.    Like me, you were suckered in by attractiveness and didn't take into account anything else.


Duke thought plugging in its all-world freshman point guard, Kyrie Irving, would mean a cake walk  to another Final Four.  However, they discounted the fact that putting a kid on the floor that hasn't played in three months would disrupt the bond and rhythm the rest of the team had developed during that time.

Irving is a phenomenal talent.  He will be a top-5 pick in the draft.  But, his ability can't compensate for messing with a team's chemistry.  That's what happened to Duke against Arizona. They looked confused, unbalanced, and out of sync.  That's why they will be spending the remainder of the season, like the rest of us, watching the tournament from home.

That and because Derrick Williams attacked the rim like a warrior.

Example B.  The Miami Heat. 

I'm not one of those people that think the Heat don't have a chance to win a title this year.  They are too good not to be considered contenders.  But, I never thought they'd win 75 games, either.  No matter how talented Bron, DWade, and Binky Bosh are, it still takes time to learn each others tendencies and establish, here's that word again, chemistry.

Unfortunately for Miami, chemistry doesn't form from strobe lights and preseason pep rallies.  It takes focus, commitment, and above all else, time.

Plus, you can't just surround your stars with journeymen garbage.  A guy who made an all-star team 10 years ago doesn't mean he fits into your superstar experiment, now.   It takes work to find pieces and lineups that gel together.

The Heat will win titles eventually, but to think they will be able to get past teams that have been through battles and wars before, as a unit, like the Spurs, Celtics, and Lakers, is unlikely.

And Example C. The Knicks.

Where is that buzz in the Garden, lately?  It must be drowned out by the sound of bricks hitting the rim.  New York stinks right now, but it shouldn't be a surprise. 

Trading for Carmelo Anthony is a great move for the future, but to think he was going to come in a take the Knicks to the promise-land in three months is absurd.  Melo's game is different than the way the team has played all season. He is a forward who prefers to play in half court sets.  Before his arrival, the Knicks were driving up and down the floor so fast it was as if they were passengers in a white Bronco driven by Al Crowlings.  They were moving, explosive, and winning.

Carmelo has slowed their pace, changed their identity, and messed with their chemistry.

It's probably going to take an off-season to re-establish who the Knicks are, which means, like the JETS, it'll be another disappointing, title-less end to a season in the Big Apple.

Now look at teams like Butler, the 2004 Pistons, the San Francisco Giants, and the Green Bay Packers.  They have CHEMISTRY! They meshed together and blocked out any distractions.  They fought through tough times and decided as a group that a championship is the only focus.  While they may not be the most talented, their team cohesiveness is more powerful than any one or two elite players.

Chemistry is the most fail-proof formula for winning titles....and scoring second dates.

1 comment:

  1. Right on. People act like chemistry is some intangible, mystical element that magically helps teams win.

    It's not mystical at all, though. Chemistry is roughly equivalent with efficiency...a bunch of guys working as one to take the best shots possible and force the other team into the worst shots possible.

    When you add multiple new pieces (Carmelo/Billups or Kyrie), the team as a whole must change what it use to do to maximize efficiency, and that's hard to do.