Monday, June 18, 2007

Mike Lupica on Tiger Woods

I just watched the Sports Reporters on ESPN that aired on Sunday morning (TIVO'd it). Mike Lupica voiced the opinion that Jack Nicklaus is a greater golfer than Tiger Woods (up to this point). I'm ok with him having that opinion, its his opinion after all. But it is his reasoning of his opinion that I have a problem with. His reasoning that Nicklaus is better than Woods was based on (I'm paraphrasing here): Woods has never come from behind on a Sunday to win a major while Nickalus has.

Lupica has drawn an arbitrary line in the sand, one that deals with an unimportant round number or goal. And he uses that arbitrary line to judge who is the better golfer. This reasoning is used all the time by members of the media in other areas like voting players for the hall-of-fame (oh, if he hits 500 HRs, I'll vote him in, but if he only finishes with 495, I'll pass) and voting for the Cy Young Award winner (pitchers who get to the 20 win mark get an unfair advantage over pitchers that don't even though it its clearly proven that the W statistic has a lot of random noise to it that is unrelated to the actual talents of the pitcher). This type of thinking also makes the media devalue certain players' careers a bit if they never won the championship. Players like Karl Malone and Jim Kelly should not be looked at all that differently even if they did win one championship in their careers.

The problem with this type of thinking is that the hurdle is a made-up round number. Its similar to thinking of winning or losing a game, which only has a binary result. Whether it is 500 HRs, 20 wins, 1 championship or 1 come-from-behind win on Sunday. For some reason, the media can't seem to figure out that the difference between 19 and 20 wins for a pitcher is not a pertinent difference.

So while I would have accepted Lupica's opinion on Nicklaus vs Woods if I didn't hear his reasoning (I don't even know if I disagree with him), I find fault in his reasoning behind his opinion which was based on an arbitrary cutoff.