Choke, the Worst Word in Sports

June 1, 2016

1.       To choke – to become too tense or nervous to perform well:

2.       Our team began to choke up in the last inning


I’ve been hearing this word a lot lately and personally the word is getting cheapened and over used.   If your team or the team you bet on loses, choking gets thrown about.  If you are tagged as a choker, then you also get called a loser, the double whammy. You then have to live with this moniker the rest of life while the rest of world will always remember that time when you didn’t bring home the trophy, the blue ribbon or the big award. Such is life, such is sports.

The Oklahoma City Thunder, The Washington Capitals, Cam Newton, Jordan Spieth have all been tagged lately and have to wear the big dunce cap for a long time. Some will be tagged forever, and others may find redemption when they finally win something special. It can be a brutal lesson or an unfair comment because some of these are team sports but once you get branded it’s hard to shake.  Phil Michelson and Greg Norman whom have had their share of tribulations in their storied careers can tell you all about the heaps of criticism they have had to live with by coming up a little short in a handful of big golf tournaments.

As I have aged and been somewhat able to separate being a good fan from a live and die fanatic of sports. Sure, it hurts when your team comes up short in the big game, but when you throw the television out the window after they lose, then you really must consider some form of therapy.  All one has to do is look at the fans of the Chicago Cubs or any team in Cleveland and see how they have handled it. I find Cub fans as some of the most loyal in sports considering over a hundred years of coming of short. Even when they have a good team and may have a chance to advance into the playoffs, they stay grounded and hope for the best.  When they or any Cleveland franchise finally does win, watch out, those cities will have some serious pandemonium running amok.

The way I like to think about choking is that if it wasn’t for unexpected comebacks or surprising finishes then why anybody would bother to watch unless your team was the favorite. If someone is called a choker then someone choked them or forced them to choke. Take for instance, the OKC Thunder, they are being hammered in the media and by fans for losing to the best team in basketball, the Warriors after having a 3-1 series lead.  They were beaten by the best team in basketball team in history on record.  I have seen plenty of Warrior games and they are riding on the talent of great shooters that are also the best of all time. The Thunder got beat by the best so let’s not throw the “C” word around so cheaply, it’s not fair to either to the Thunder and it diminishes the Warriors efforts.

Lastly, the words choke, choker and choking are used as a pacifier to help fans cope with a disparaging loss.   If they can somewhat shift the disappointment, they feel onto those who inflicted this pain, then it somehow justifies their behavior. I can’t imagine being in the shoes of Jordan Spieth who held the lead at the Masters this year for the majority of the tournament.  He had two awful holes on the back nine that costs him the tournament. Spieth, failing to win this tournament was called a choke by many. I cringed and felt bad for him. Fortunately, Jordan Spieth, who is only 22, handled his demise with grace and humility and did not shy away from reporters’ questions.   He handled the tough defeat like a master that we all could learn from.