Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gary Danielson and Momentum

I won't go through the my own thoughts about momentum here (it's been done a lot), but a college football announcer I like a lot surprised me during the SEC Championship last year by bringing up the topic as something that is debatable. He only hinted at it, and I really wanted to know what his thoughts were on the subject.

During that game (Florida-Alabama 2009), CBS' SEC broadcaster Gary Danielson (and I'm paraphrasing and taking the quote out of context because I can't remember what led to him bringing it up) said, "Momentum is something that if you believe in, and it works for you, go for it."

Nowhere else did I hear anything about momentum. Then today, during the Florida-Tennessee game, Danielson got a forum to speak about it. And it was refreshing.

After Florida successfully converted a fake punt with the game tied at 10-10, Danielson commented that Florida coach Urban Meyer is a big believer in momentum and that he was trying to make a play that would bring momentum into their favor. And then he said, "Well, just because I don't believe in it doesn't mean Urban Meyer shouldn't."

After the Gators scored a touchdown and CBS returned from break, Danielson laid it out like this (again, paraphrasing), "Momentum suggests that a team has some sort of advantage, when really one team usually just has better players than another team." He brought up that in a tennis match, you'll see the better player win most of the time because they just wear their opponent down over the course of the match. I'll add, we generally see Rafael Nadal win because the guy is fitter, faster, more skilled, and has a better array of shots that he can land at any given moment. Well, Danielson believes that football is much the same way. You'll see Tennessee hang with Florida for awhile, but then the better players eventually wear them down.

I'll try to sum up Danielson's comments this way: what we see as this unstoppable force of momentum is really a product of a better team playing a steady game (skills, execution) and eventually tiring and frustrating their opponent to the point that it looks like the better team is just coasting. We see this with sprints in the Olympics when a faster runner seems to be neck-and-neck with the pack and then pulls away. They're not running faster, the other runners are just slowing down.

After Tennessee apparently recaptured momentum after scoring a touchdown that brought them within 24-17, the ensuing kickoff went out-of-bounds. Danielson took the moment to say, "This is why I'm not a momentum guy." He added, "Yeah, I get kidded about it a lot, but that's the way I see it."

So I have at least one guy in my corner. I'm glad it's not someone who sucks.

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