General Question

LostInParadise's avatar

Are there athletes in team sports who consistently rise to the occasion, or do they just follow statistical profiles?

Asked by LostInParadise (17673 points ) December 23rd, 2013

When the game is on the line, are there some athletes who year in and year out dig deep inside themselves and manage to get the crucial hit or get the needed yardage? Is there such a thing as a clutch hitter or the equivalent in other sports? It sure makes games more interesting to believe this is so. The alternative would be to say that an individual’s athletic performance more or less follows some normal distribution independent of circumstances. One complicating factor would be that for every offensive player on one side who wants to make a crucial scoring play, there are players on the defense who want to make a key play to prevent it.

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9 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

I’ve always said that one of the reasons I consider Joe Montana the greatest quarterback ever is because when he was in his prime, if the 49ers were losing by a touchdown or less, and he got the ball with 2 minutes to go, he would win the game. He had an incredible presence and determination when under pressure.

And I have always criticized Steve Young, Montana’s successor, because in the same situation, the 49ers would lose. Young was a very gifted athlete, but did not have the same ability to overcome a tough situation.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

The name Peyton Manning comes to mind. I guess it’s because I watched the game only yesterday. He has been consistently breaking records this season. I think the fact that his father, Archie Manning, was an NFL player for many years had some influence on him!

@zenvelo GA for Joe Montana.

dabbler's avatar

@zenvelo beat me to it. I don’t know of any athlete who consistently demonstrated more grace under pressure than Joe Montana.

Another fellow who still pulls a rabbit out of his hat occasionally is Dave Wright of the Mets. I recall seeing him make a diving catch to make the out on a line drive, and while he was still in the air flick the ball to first base for the double-play. The Mets aren’t the most winning team in sports but in my limited experience they will surprise you with a brilliant moment more than most.

JimTurner's avatar

With only six seconds left in the game some basketball players like Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson wanted to be the ones to take the last shot.

When the two minute warning was sounded Joe Namath, Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw worked to get their teams close enough for a field goal.

A number of athletes have proven that they want to be at bat in a clutch situation like Reggie Jackson and hit one out of Fenway or win by a nose at the Kentucky Derby like Laffit Pincay.

Katniss's avatar

Pavel Datsyuk is the NHL equivalent of Joe Montana.

Rarebear's avatar

No. It’s called the hot hand fallacy

JimTurner's avatar

@Rarebear very interesting.

Michael Jordan may have made a lot of “at the buzzer shots” but he also missed just as many.

Rarebear's avatar

@JimTurner People return to their statistical means. It doesn’t mean that a player can’t get better. Clearly Barry Bonds, for instance, got a lot better at hitting a ball fartger once he started taking steroids. But overall, a player will play will regress to their mean.

funkdaddy's avatar

I don’t think a “hot hand” is the same as what’s being asked about and discussed here.

The question could be stated differently as “are there players who perform consistently better in stressful situations?” Moments and games that mean more will tend to carry more stress than whatever “normal” is. I think we could agree we all know people who perform poorly under stress, and there are some who perform at least as well or better in those situations.

You could apply the same thinking to almost any skill. Some very skilled people are not as skilled under pressure, for whatever reason. Some people don’t perceive pressure the same. Whatever the cause there are definitely people that handle those situations better and given a large enough sample their performance would play that out.

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