A prime currency in modern sports media is the scenario game: Things that might happen are more valuable to us (and fans) than things that have already happened or will happen for sure in the future.
This explains the countless clicks that go to recruiting coverage, draft speculation and breathless free agency/trade reports. Someone with a list of five potential teams is far more powerful than one.
We can deal in these hypotheticals because A) It is in our own selfish interests and B) We aren't the ones who actually make the decisions or determine the outcomes. Those with more skin in the game — particularly players — are wise to block out all the noise.
But it can't be easy when they keep getting asked about what-ifs.
Gophers football players seem particularly good at it, buying into head coach P.J. Fleck's broad message of controlling what they can control.
Further evidence arrived Tuesday. The Gophers can win the Big Ten West, but three things need to happen — the first of which is Iowa losing to Nebraska on Friday, a day before the Gophers will need to defeat Wisconsin while Purdue defeats Indiana.
In talking to defensive end Boye Mafe for the Daily Delivery podcast, I was struck by just little he and his teammates are paying heed to that Iowa outcome. And I wanted to know how Fleck keeps them so centered on the present.
"I mean, the biggest thing I've realized throughout the years of being here is if you do focus on the external and look outside of what you need to focus on, it brings a lot of stress and pressure onto yourself that you can't control," Mafe said. "So the biggest thing we talk about are the controllables and uncontrollables. The things you can't control you don't really focus on. Regardless of you focusing and worrying or thinking about those all the time, you can't change anything about it. The things you can control and can worry about like our game Saturday, those are the things you can control and take precautions and go through your process of preparing for those types of games — those are the things you focus on."
Mafe, a redshirt senior who starred at Hopkins, speaks with the wisdom of someone twice my age — not half my age, as he actually is. When I jokingly informed him that such a centered approach is not good for the media's story lines, he laughed.
"I hear you, I definitely hear you," he said. "It's something I think that helps us out as a team to make sure we're on the right track. I feel as if you have your players distracted and focused on other things, that defeats the purpose and steals away from your end goal as a team."