Choke! Why there’s no double standard for women’s soccer

Let’s rewrite history, shall we?

1. 1988 World Series: The Oakland A’s choked in Game 1, when Dennis Eckerley got out to an 0-2 count with two out in the ninth and a 4-3 lead but hung a slider that Kirk Gibson, so hobbled he might have been thrown out from left field, hit for a home run. (Sure, Nate Silver lists this as a choke in passing, but we remember Gibson in that situation much more clearly than we remember Eckersley. Silver also points out the ugly aftermath of living with a “choke” — Donnie Moore’s 1989 suicide.)

2. 1982 NCAA Championship: Georgetown gave away the national men’s basketball championship when Fred Brown passed the ball straight to North Carolina’s James Worthy. Oh yeah — some guy named Michael Jordan hit a big shot before that, a shot that some report today as a “buzzer-beater” even though it hit the net with 15 seconds left.

3. 2010 World Cup: Oh boy, did Slovenia and Algeria choke!

Get the picture?

Frankly, “choke” is a term that doesn’t interest me, mostly because I associate it with insecure guys trying to exert some sort of power over the sports they watch. It’s a word for the keyboard warrior and frustrated fan, and it’s not applied with any sort of consistency to either gender or any sport. If you think it doesn’t apply to women, talk to Daniela Hantuchova.

“Choke” is sometimes used as a way of distancing ourselves emotionally from a loss that would otherwise be painful. Our college hoops team lost? Oh, they choked. Our baseball team blew a 5-game lead in September? Choke! Scott Norwood missed a difficult 47-yard field goal — or a “chip shot” in the words of revisionists — that would’ve spared the Buffalo Bills the indignity of being perennial runners-up? Choke!

So in a weird way, yelling “choke!” is just a way of saying you care. Thanks?

3 Comments

  1. The flip side of choke is “we just wanted it more.” It’s never “they were better than us.” Both ascribe context that says more about the hubris or insecurity of the person speaking.

    Also, while it is human nature to look for correlation between discrete events, I believe the notion that Donnie Moore killed himself because (or in large part because) of Dave Henderson’s home run, while an easy and obvious story, may not be altogether true. I believe there is a difference of opinion. Only one person knows for certain, and he is no longer with us. And sportswriters are not mental health care professionals.

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