The science of sports isn’t always evident

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ANDREW OTTOSON
I have a bike I ride to work almost every morning. It has never been much to look at, but it has always gotten the job done.

When I say that my bike isn’t much to look at, what I really mean is that some kid who probably has to walk to school every morning takes time out of his busy schedule to mock me on my way home from work every afternoon.

I mention that only because all of my six years at college somehow failed to teach me the kind of practical knowledge it takes for a man to make it in this world.

I hope you can cut me some slack for missing the obvious this time, because whenever I look at my bike I see a one-speed with bad brakes, a broken seat and an unquenchable thirst for WD-40.

But one of the lessons in real life I should have learned a long time ago is that every bike needs a bike lock.

* * *

I spent a lot of hours reading sports columns on ESPN.com written by Greg Easterbrook and Bill Simmons and others.

Most of the sports columns I’ve read have taken what I’ll call a “CSI: Invesco Field at Mile High” kind of approach to the place of science in sports, and this interests me for one big reason.

That reason is, despite all the hours I spent reading columns and throwing frisbees and watching sports (or really, almost anything on television from professional wrestling to music videos) to avoid doing my homework, I ended up with a chemistry degree.

If you saw one Barry Bonds at-bat this year, you saw why I think sports are probably better off without a lot of science.

One of my favorite sports movies, “Rocky IV”, showed it better than I can write it.

Drago had science, but Rocky went old-school-and not only did Rocky flatten Drago in the end, his unrelenting toughness and will to win gained the favor of movie watchers and sports fans around the world.

I think it’s funny that in the BALCO era, little David Eckstein won the World Series MVP award playing for Tony LaRussa-probably the most science-minded manager in Major League history-and that LaRussa likes Eckstein for the same reasons I like Rocky.

LaRussa told USA Today that Eckstein is “the toughest guy I’ve ever seen in uniform…more than just guts, a very good player.”

* * *

As much as I’d like to combine my field of study with my interest in sports, there really isn’t much of a connection.

But then again, there are plenty of sportswriters out there trying to add some scientific credibility to their take on this week’s games.

Some track every play on any given Sunday, and their findings end up in mathematical models that speak in big, bold, scientific letters that Terrell Owens has to catch the ball if the Cowboys are going to win.

One sports guy even names his theories after basketball players that I’d have to find in an almanac from 1988 to have any chance at figuring out what he means.

Maybe the sports guys who do that know something I don’t know about sports and writing.

I’m still new at this, and I’m still learning something new every day at the office.

And I’m setting a couple goals for learning how to be a good sportswriter: to write about what I think without coming off like I know more than I really do, and to keep things simple without stating the obvious.

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