How To Stop Choking

Posted/updated on: July 21, 2011 at 8:57 am   Print This Print This

US Women Soccer Team receive individual medals awaiting Silver presentation after falling to Japan 3-1.

Following the US Women’s Soccer Team’s World Cup loss to Japan Sunday, there has been differing opinions as to what happened, or more appropriately how to describe what happened.

Some fans and journalists have said although they rooted for the US Team, they were glad Japan, amid all that countries struggles of late, were able to win. That Japan played well, survived and if the US had to lose, at least it was to a team with something to play for.

Other fans and journalists have not taken the most positive approach, saying that the US team simply choked, giving up leads two different times and then mailing in the penalty kick portion to basically hand Japan a win.

Honestly, I think there is a middle ground…but let’s face it, that’s not interesting, to be “in the middle”. So, let’s talk about what it is to “choke”.

Reggie Miller giving the universal sign for choking to his opponent. Reggie was the game's number 1 trash talker.

One writer says that the US Team was the number one seed in the world coming into the tournament, that they clearly out-sized and were more skilled than the team from Japan. They squandered scoring opportunities in the first half, couldn’t clear a shot on goal against them and then flopped in the penalty kick phase. I agree with all that, but it doesn’t constitute a choke does it?

NBA – The most recent and easiest comparison to a team that was highly favored but failed is the Miami Heat losing to an older, “less talented” Dallas Maverick team. Therefore, by current popular opinion, Dallas didn’t win the title, Miami just choked it away.

NFL – Green Bay got into the playoffs as the lowest seed in the NFC. Fact! They then beat favored Philadelphia, Division Champion Atlanta (in a rout by the way) and another Division Champion, the Chicago Bears. All those teams apparently CHOKED! If that weren’t enough, the Packers then faced off against arguably the most successful franchise in football history, the Pittsburgh Steelers, again, heavy favorites who apparently choked. Too many turnovers, a defense that had been a strength became porous, they simply choked right?

Chicago White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen gives the choke sign to Cleveland fans and mascot.

MLB – San Francisco won the World Series last season after upsetting their way through the playoffs and even overcoming their underdog role against the American League Texas Rangers. Keep in mind, one betting service offered 22-to-1 odds on the Giants winning it all before the season. Umm, that’s a long shot. So, by current standards, teams who were higher bets like the New York Yankees (11-4), Boston Red Sox (11-2), LA Angels (14-1), Philadelphia Phillies (11-2), St Louis Cardinals (13-1) and LA Dodgers (12-1) all choked. Teams like LA Angels and Dodgers didn’t even make the playoffs…what a collapse right?

Surely by now you can cut the sarcasm with a butter knife. I just don’t buy it. I think the word choke has no place in sports, it’s overused to overemphasize a word that used to be harsh enough, lost/losing/losers. In every match or game there is a winner and thus a loser. Losing doesn’t make you a loser necessarily, but if you don’t win, by default you lost. That used to be bad, real bad. But today, it’s not enough when a favored team loses to say they lost. It doesn’t have enough punch, grab attention or fill out the headlines like CHOKE does.

Let’s face it, the women were favored to win. They should have! They had chances and failed to take advantage, but to say they choked is completing taking out the fact that sport is a competition with worthy adversaries. Not to over-credit Japan’s team, but they played tough and did what they had to do…outlast the American offensive attacks. They survived long enough, found just enough breaks to win the match. But what they didn’t do is stop playing, empty their nets and allow the American team to CHOKE.

Unfortunately, it’s just a term that some of us like to use to get more attention and bash a team that failed to live up to expectations. Expectations which are set by outsiders, media members even. Expectations which mean absolutely NOTHING! Afterall, if preseason rankings or being the “favorite” meant that much, some of those favorites might actually win.

So, if anybody choked I say it’s the people or systems who rank these teams. Because apparently, they can’t pick a winner to save their lives.

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