When the power went out during Super Bowl 47 the other night the first thing I thought was that the delay helped the 49ers more so than the Ravens. What did the 49ers have to lose at that point? Sure enough, they mounted a furious comeback that almost ended with them being crowned Super Bowl champions. At one point I wondered how much – if at all – the Ravens would potentially fall back on the power outage in terms of explaining what happened (if in fact they ended up losing). In other words, would the Ravens use that as an excuse? I don’t follow the Ravens as a writer like I do the Baltimore Orioles, so I can’t really speak to how they go about their business in that regard. They don’t seem like excuse-makers, but who really knows?
The O’s on the other hand I can say for sure are not excuse-makers. During the 2012 campaign we heard at various points “we just have to be better than we were today,” and things of that ilk from the likes of Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, et al. This starts at the top, and Buck Showalter takes that view of things as well. The fact is that it’s human nature to make excuses, and we’ve all done it. I remember in the autumn of my senior year in high school I knew that I was bringing him D’s in math and science (two of the subjects in which I struggled). When report card day came I tried to convince my parents that the D’s were actually interim grades, and thus if I did better in the second quarter it really wouldn’t mean anything. My parents didn’t buy that, just as they rarely bought any of my excuses. (But for the record I was right…I got a B- in the second quarter giving me a C for the semester.)
Why do I bring this up? Again, the Orioles were very good at taking accountability for their errors last year (and there’s no reason to believe that won’t be the case in 2013). However I also feel like there were other teams who played the excuse game, and many people’s attitudes seemed to be “oh okay well that explains it!” In effect, this is buying the excuse. In one game last May I remember Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals getting knocked around to the tune of 5-0 or 5-1. Afterwards manager Davey Johnson hinted at someone using icy hot with Strasburg’s jock strap. Many people with whom I spoke said that Strasburg can’t be expected to perform at a high level under those circumstances. Again…people bought the excuse.
The icy hot thing might well have been an issue that day, however the point is that people accepted that. In 2011 I attended a game between the aforementioned Washington Nationals and the Chicago Cubs. I have a friend that’s a Cubs fan, so we bought some tickets when they came to town. Washington ended up winning in extra innings on a walk off single. My friend claimed as we walked to the car that the commercial jet that flew over the stadium just as the Chicago pitcher was going into his windup on the fateful play affected him and he hung the pitch. How about the guy made a bad pitch and the Washington hitter did his job?
I’m not suggesting that athletes should be strung up and lynched when they make mistakes. However I’d rather that the athlete and the franchise own the mistake in public as opposed to saying something like that. (And I recognize that in this case the manager made the comments and not the athlete, however the ends are the same.) Yet the sentiment that I sometimes get from Orioles fans is that “if they know what they’re doing is wrong, they’d better fix it and fix it soon.” My point is that accountability is something that should be applauded as opposed to people cracking down upon it. Granted at a certain point people want to see results as opposed to accountability, however we all know that mistakes happen.
I recognize that I may not have done the greatest of jobs in terms of relaying my message here. However the point is that while many people in our society (especially in sports) talk about accountability and so forth, I think there are times when we’d rather hear excuses. In 2011 the Boston Red Sox had one of the greatest collapses in league history, the coup de grace of which occurred in Baltimore on the last day of the season. We heard a lot of clamoring about how injuries ravaged the team and so forth, which inclined a lot of analysts to pick them to be in the race again in 2012. Was that an excuse? Absolutely; but it was also the truth. So this is all a fine line in that as truthful as some excuses might be (and perhaps even legitimate), it’s still an excuse. Ultimately, doesn’t putting the onus on yourself by saying we need to be better sound better than but it’s not really our fault, because…?