Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Crowds, Clay, and Craziness

Small city, greater chances?
The idea of a home court advantage is more than intriguing. The fact that environment can occupy such a critical role in the way a team prepares and plays is perplexing. Yet, it’s understandable, too. Players like to feel comfortable. They like to be fitted in great gear, execute pre-game at their own baskets, and hear their home game warm-up music. They get excited for their home announcer, their own bench, and their locker room. Phil Jackson suggested the experienced (or aged, depending on interpretation) Spurs are facing an arduous path this week, as they aren’t allotted much time for recovery between games. The modern NBA schedule insists on a game every other day regardless of travel.

Could it also be that Mizruchi’s (1985) study is valid in the 21st century - that home court advantage is related to the surrounding city size? If so, Boston has nothing to worry about, especially with LA, San Antonio, and Detroit as the final teams standing. He found that the smaller and more intimate cities produced more successful teams at home. Loyalty. Connectivity. Supportive fans. The talk of the town directly influences the play all around. Maybe there is something to be said for positive spectator thoughts and high crowd energy. (Superstitious folks tread lightly)…

French connection?
Rafa Nadal is on his way to defending his own home court at the French Open. He looks to win his fourth title on the historical clay where he has been no less than dominant. Pressure? Not really. Former tennis great Alex Corretja believes Nadal beholds the psychological toughness to keep on rolling at Roland Garros, a place where his record is a ridiculous 21-0. "He has the mental power," Corretja said. "He believes he was born to be the best. He doesn't think he can ever lose."

Mentally tough or just plain insane?
The looking-to-be famous Frenchman Michel Fournier has spent two decades preparing for his great leap from the edge of the atmosphere after selling his home and raising $20 million. Unfortunately for him, the jump from 130,000 feet above the ground continues to get postponed due to mishaps with his advanced balloon and spacesuit. Technology is supposed to keep him alive during his two-hour ride up and less than 15-minute fall, one that would "go down" in history. I suspect he is so focused now that he is 64 and has the mindset of “let’s just get this thing off the ground” that his anxiety is lessened. I’d love to know if the pressure in his mind exceeds the pressure in his suit…


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