Friday, November 1, 2019

Are We Tanking In Life - Politics - and Society Like Losing Sports Teams?

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Tanking in Sports -- and in Life; WHY?

By JV Howard

Tanking -  In a broad sense - is a term used to describe when sports teams lose games on purpose to secure some sort of future competitive advantage. The idea is totally anathema to the competitiveness associated with being the last man or last team standing - all things being equal.

Two teams take to the arena equal in the number, guided by rules of the sports, buoyed by the fans that buy tickets, tailgate, throw beer, hurl expletives, and wave towls, all in the quest to win but no less to feel the competitive edge from the team of their choice.

From the sound of gun, the tip off, toss up, kickoff, coin flip, first pitch, or bell the chase for victory is part the thrill of competition. Before each season there is a plethora of pre-coaching, preseason competition, OTA’s, winter training and film work necessary for success, yet, it is a hard sell to accept how athletes - elite - compartmentalize when to compete and when not.

Article On JV Howard Continues Below...

Perhaps there is some kind of combative gene they get to turn off or on - to play or not - to win or lose.  I am flummoxed how an organizational body of highly paid, deeply talented,  unbelievably skilled, and intelligent athletes can go through the motions of playing to play - but not to win. To what benefit?

The proposed benefit of racing to the bottom of the bracket, division, or conference - instead of the top - is the future consideration of drafting the next franchise player, Hall of Farmer, or GOAT  (greatest of all time), athlete.  But there is no guarantee.  With all the debate of analytics to predict a winner where is the math to debunk tanking improbable odds.

How many first rounder(s) become bust vs how many actually rescue a franchise from a fixed mortgage on a division lower level?  Most present a question? Where Are they now?

If tanking was in play in the early days then the thrill of being an underdog, or the inspiration of the improbable comeback, not to mention the unfathomable hail Mary would not be a part of the lore of the sport due to competitive forfeiture.  The competitive moral compass loses its calibration if you cheat to win or tank to lose but still expect fans to don team colors no matter what.

Fans are expected to embrace the - all in - concept with painted faces, over the top tailgating, exorbitant ticket prices, outside influences (politics) and accept tanking too. A touch of irony between fans buying all in and players opting out. 
Totally Unacceptable!

The repugnant choices of tanking, the questionable choice of sports betting, makes fantasy football a realistic option as the virtue of competitive sports sour. If a team can tank, a referee influenced, then fantasy football is payback for being taken - as fans-  for granted.

A fantasy sport is a type of game, often played using the Internet, where participants assemble imaginary virtual teams of real players of a professional with sport. These teams compete based on the statistical performance of those players'.

If, like a lame duck president, you have a lame duck coach due to be fired does the team tank or do they up their competitiveness so the coach can be retained.  This old school rationale is supplanted by current thinking;  tank and get the new coach high draft picks and maybe get a quarterback/coach match sanctioned by the football Gods. The purist won't like this approach but analytics savor it...under the guise of forward thinking.

Fan forward thinking may involve technology where a 75 inch 4k smarttv with astronomical pixels can stream and highlight both the empty seats and the empty spirit of players, coaches, and owners who tank. One owner was fined 600k after admitting telling some of his players; "look losing is our best options." Unbelievable!

It's a forlorn experience to begin the season already thinking of next season. Tanking is a random variable even sports analytics - across various sports- can't lock down. It's the draft that rewards tanking; one league introduced the lottery to increased the odd for the biggest loser.

Several teams are in the books for cheating to win and tanking to lose -  mandating fans should expect anything on Any Given Sunday, Monday night, or Thursday. Yet how dare they take away the metaphors of sports that we apply to life challenges.

There is an underdog in us all, we use the comeback hashtag when life sets us back, while a hail Mary can snatch us from the woes of defeat.  The rebuttals to tanking are filled with lies, dam lies, and statistics: attendence are down, tailgating also, and a study says it about protest; the concussion epidemic, Colin Kapernick stance, tanking, pricing, and over the top exposure are game changers.

Since the NBA plays 82 games, MLB plays 162 games, and the NFL plays 16 games a season, it's a total of 260 games played with only three  (one each league) emerging as the last team standing.  No wonder concept like tanking, cheating, gambling, and fantasy football are options for any season.

When the competitive pendulum swings to it's polar opposite you have the super team; the two to three superstars looking to dominate and intimidate before the game starts. Not every team can be a super team but any team can tank.

Yet, no fan should be expected to accept the watering down of games we love. But surprisingly some fans do and attend games with bags over there heads... sending the message of team contempt. It's a slippery slope and I wonder if this attitude has permeated other areas of our culture.

Take politics for instance. Are we now waiting for the next election cycle when there are politicians who should be removed immediately...I mean right now. Are we "tanking" with our health by not following doctor orders today?  How does "tanking" apply to life?

It could be argued that the abdication of responsibility, obligation, and duty is a form of  "tanking" out of selfishness. Moreover, accepting mediocrity in the pursuit of excellence personifies tanking too.  But the real measure of tanking is putting on the suit or the uniform and going through the motions with compromised intent.

Yet, as the gladiators played their games to the death following the mantra: Risk everything Fear Nothing. Today’s warriors opt out to live to play another day thinking there is always next year. From Colin Keapernick knee, to John Carlos raised fist, to Muhummad Ali’s heart across sports, politics, and religion the Wide World of Sports is not what it used to be.

The agony of defeat and the thrill of victory  are book ends of competitive sports, yet, analysis tells us its deeper ...its less about the game and more about the …Story of US.
Major League Baseball has just crowned it's last team standing - the Washington Nationals who ovecame underdog status at the beginning of the season, endured various setbacks mid season, and snatched their first ever championship from the woes of defeat in the 7th game of a memorable World Series... this is Why we play!!

The article ideas expressed are those of freelance commentator JV Howard and may not be totally reflective of Scoop publications.  You can reach JV Howard at:

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