A contemporary word that is neither sound nor fury, signifying less than nothing
When John Wayne shoots someone, the target clutches his chest and falls off a rooftop, barstool or horse. There is no after-shooting presser to talk about his death. John Wayne is off, shooting, or more likely talking in that drawl that American conservatives like so much. The victim is dead. There is no blood on him, but if you see him at all again, he is still. Silently berating himself for entering that tavern, town or territory in the first place.
Sport is not like that. In sport we post-mortem better than practically anyone else on earth. When a musician's album flops, he isn't dragged through a press conference to explain why there weren't enough catchy singles. If a janitor fails to clean up a pile of prepubescent puke properly, he is simply told to clean it again, not explain to a handful of eager journalists who have never cleaned vomit at that level why he didn't sweep well enough.
This is sport, we need our losers right there. Right in front of us. We need the schadenfreude, we need to see they are hurt, we need to know what they think went wrong. Because we already know what went wrong. We need their version of it so we can feel superior, or smug, or whatever feeling it is we need to get us through another pointless week in our lives. The loss hurt, and now we need to know someone is angry, someone is fixing this, that the idiotic reverse-sweeping middle-order player with the questionable work ethic is currently being slapped with a sock full of pennies until he can't remember what a reverse sweep is.
We want answers. And when you demand answers, you rarely get answers. You get media-planned rhetoric and empty phraseology. Nothing in cricket is emptier than a losing captain talking about processes.
How do you throw a ball? It starts with your fingers gripping the ball and your hand being in the right place. Then the wrist and elbow, the arm and shoulder. You might also need your eyes to aim. But it's deeper than that. How did the muscles work? How did the tendons work? How was the energy processed at the cellular level? What were the synapses doing? How did your mind know what a ball was? How did it know what to do with the ball? What were your neural systems doing? How could you possibly throw the ball well with all that happening, and your mind also wondering if your agent is sleeping with your partner?
Don't stress over the outcome. In the end, the processes will win the day
© Getty Images
Don't stress over the outcome. In the end, the processes will win the day © Getty Images
That is just part of the science of throwing a ball.
But when you throw to the wrong end, and stuff up a bloody easy run-out, no one cares if it's your fingers, tendons, neural processing, faulty synapses, or that tramp. They care that you made a mistake. That you failed. That you are not good enough. That is what they will say on Twitter, Facebook, barstools and couches across the globe.
But the coaches, psychologists, analysts and players tell us they are not concentrating on the results, they are concentrating on how to perform skills under pressure, not the occasional failure of success of that process. We should not judge by the result, they say, we should believe that they have the processes in place to improve the result in their next performance. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Eventually their processes will win the day.
That these processes are hidden behind locked doors, or in computer systems with random alphanumeric passwords, doesn't matter. Their process is in place.
They might even be right. It is their job to know what processes will lead to good results. They have planned the processes. They have stuck by the processes, and even when their team loses by an innings and a trillion runs, they have to believe in their processes, because otherwise they will sit in the corner listening to Antony and the Johnsons songs while running a warm bath and sharpening razor blades.
Sports teams have a similar attitude to self-help systems. It's about positive outlooks, believing in the system, and explaining away the bad things as unfortunate events that will be overcome by positive attitude and smart planning. But whether it's self-help or sports, very rarely do you hear the powers that be say that it might, in fact, be the processes that are causing the problems. The Secret, a self-help book that Andrew Strauss once used, advises you to write down your dreams, and then that will help you work towards them. That is the process, but if you're a 4ft 3in disabled female, you can write down that you want to be a centre in the National Basketball Association all you want, it's not going to happen.
They have planned the processes. They have stuck by the processes, and even when their team loses by an innings and a trillion runs, they have to believe in their processes
Processes, as wonderful and important as they are, can be wrong. You need the right processes in place to ensure you have the right processes.
India can't tour. South Africa can't win major tournaments. Australia can't play spin away. They all have processes. Intelligent people have mapped out plans. Psychologists, coaches, analysts, former greats, commentators and even assistant coaches have been involved in complex matrix decision-implementing pyramids focused on success to overcome these major obstacles.
And then India lose on their next tour. South Africa get embarrassed in another world tournament. And some Australian bloke runs at a spinner like it's his first-ever look at a rotating ball.
They lose. They front up at the press conference. And they talk processes.
They might as well talk about organised prayers or group hugs. Every single team in the world has a process. They are all actively trying to win matches with processes. If you look after the processes, the results look after themselves. If you don't, you fall off the roof of the local tavern clutching your chest.
It's also worth pointing out that even though this piece wasn't good enough, the team behind it is sure it has the processes in place to write a better piece shortly.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.