“To view the potency of narrative, consider the following statement: “The king died and the queen died.” Compare it to “The king died, and then then queen died of grief.” This exercise, presented by the novelist E. M. Forster, shows the distinction between mere succession of information and a plot. But notice the hitch here: although we added information to the second statement, we effectively reduced the dimension of the total. The second sentence is, in a way, much lighter to carry and easier to remember; we now have one single piece of information in place of two. As we can remember it with less effort, we can also sell it to others, that is, market it better as a packaged idea. This, in a nutshell, is the definition and function of a narrative.”
-Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan
As we saw in Molly Brooks’ excellent comic that came out this past week, it’s easy as a fan to reduce hockey to theatre. It’s not just hockey: political reporters love to attribute slight increases or decreases in poll support to the public’s reaction on a promised policy change or event on the campaign trail.
It’s easy and satisfying to attach reason to everything, but part of the beauty of sports is that things happen without regard of logic or good sense. Not each outcome is determined, and the best team doesn’t win every game in every sport. If they did that, nobody would watch.