Brian Tan | Now Serving
The clutch factor
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 00:10
It’s a two−point Sacramento lead, we’re down to seven seconds, Bryant is putting a move on Christie, rebound O’Neal, coming up short, tipped out to Horry from downtown for the win... Yes! Lakers Win!”
Robert Horry, nicknamed “Big Shot Rob,” is famous for hitting big shots in crucial moments of basketball games, such as the game−winning three−pointer in game four against the Kings in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. His ability to perform under crunch time earned him his nickname and praise from others for being “clutch.”
What does it mean to be “clutch?” Being clutch means coming through or raising your game in a close or high−pressure situation. Being clutch is Reggie Miller scoring eight points in the last nine seconds to beat the Knicks in the playoffs. Being clutch is David Freese hitting a game−tying two−run triple, one strike away from losing the World Series, and then hitting a walk−off dinger later. Being clutch is Olympic swimmer Jason Lezak’s improbable come−from−behind win to earn a gold medal for the US in 2008, keeping Michael Phelps’ famous gold medal pursuit alive. Larry Bird sinking the last money ball to win the 1988 three−point contest is clutch. Him sticking up his finger as soon as the ball left his hand is even more clutch. Being clutch is an art, a lifestyle and an attitude.
The difference between being clutch and being lucky is often overlooked. Being clutch involves consistently raising your game in big moments. Being lucky is a once−in−a−blue−moon type of thing. Tim Tebow was lucky when the Broncos miraculously beat the Bears last year. Eli Manning was clutch for having eight 4th quarter comebacks or game−winning drives in 2011. You wouldn’t call someone who does well from guessing on a multiple−choice test “clutch.” He or she would be considered lucky. The definition has extended more and more into daily scenarios to describe a favorable occurrence.
Finding a $20 bill in the back pocket a pair of old jeans can be very clutch. Going to Moe’s on a Saturday night is most definitely clutch.
Some statisticians in sports claim that the clutch factor, in fact, does not exist. They write that great players will perform well under clutch circumstances just as often as they do in the regular season. They argue that the theory of having a clutch ability is not possible. In other words, a baseball player who has a career batting average of .280, given enough at−bats, will eventually hit around .280 in clutch moments or in the postseason. He will not automatically become a .330 hitter with more power all of a sudden in an important situation. For example, Robert Horry has shot 34.1 percent from three throughout his career and actually has had a very similar three−point percentage in the postseason as the regular season.
Personally, I understand where this argument stands, but I disagree, because everyone who has played sports competitively knows what it’s like to be in a clutch moment. There is no denying that nerves do get the better of some people when people choke and lose sight of the finish line. But there are other people that love the pressure−packed situations. There is going to be a difference between the player about to kick a game−winning field goal who loves the pressure and rush of adrenaline, and the kicker who is wetting himself before the kick.
Being clutch is stepping up to the line and having confidence in executing your game plan. Maybe some day, if you exhibit your clutch gene and step up your game when it matters most, your nickname can have the words “Big Shot” in front of it too.