In any sporting event, there are so many things beyond an athlete or team's control. We'll focus here on basketball. What type of officiating will there be that night? Will the countless hours and thousands of practice shots yield the right results in the game, or will everything be just askew enough for the ball to more often than not bounce harmlessly off the rim? Every specific move you make on the court brings a counter-move. It's not so much a flowing symphony but free-form jazz. Nothing is predetermined or entirely in your control.
Among the few things that it seems like a team or player could harness, however, is this: energy. Call it effort, call it attitude, call it whatever. It is the mental focus that constantly reminds an athlete to perform with a sense of urgency -- to give 100 percent in all circumstances.
And yet energy -- or lack of it -- is the very thing commonly cited as being missing, lacking, suddenly appearing or disappearing as if by magic. Some of it is as simple as momentum. But sometimes it defies logic. A team and its players KNOW they will play better at maximum energy/effort level, yet somehow they come out flat and let the other team's greater energy overtake them. The Wolves last night are a perfect example. One would think that after falling behind bigtime in recent games, there would be a 48-minute focus from the start. But that simply wasn't the case.
Said point guard Ricky Rubio, who seems to understand all this and yet is still mystified by it: "We didn't learn the lesson from the games before. It's hard, hard to figure out. We have to start harder if we want to win the game. We showed that we can do that in the fourth quarter. I don't know; we're going to try and figure out how to play 48 minutes. I think we know we are capable to do it. The only thing we have to do is bring the energy. Sometimes it seems -- like today, it was awful. In the first quarter, nobody put any energy, me first. We have to play more aggressive if we want any chance to be in the playoffs."
It's just that simple. Yet it's somehow so difficult. In real life, at least, there are built-in excuses of time demands to explain why everyone doesn't give 100 percent maximum effort on every discernible task. Every time you "clean" your house, you don't get on your hands and knees and scrub every last crevice. You do the general area because that's "good enough" and you have other things to do. But in a finite game with 48 minutes of clock time (or 60 minutes or 9 innings, to stretch this out a bit), there is really no explanation except for lack of concentration. Either that, or "lack of energy" is just a code for "the other team/player is better."
You be the judge.