Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

Bobby Lu

11

I just finished reading Michael Shermers “The Believing Brain“, an examination of the science behind our beliefs. The following passage sets out the subject of the book. When I read it I immediately thought of Roberto Luongo and his relationship with a significant portion of the Vancouver fanbase:

“We form our beliefs for a wide variety of subjective, personal, emotional, and psychological reasons in the context of environments created by family, friends, colleagues, culture, and society at large; after forming our beliefs we then defend, justify, and rationalize them with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations. Beliefs come first, explanations for beliefs follow. …[O]ur perceptions about reality are dependent on the beliefs that we hold about it. Reality exists independent of human minds, but our understanding of it depends upon the beliefs we hold at any given moment.”

Unfortunately for Luongo, some number of Canuck fans believe that Vancouver will never win as long as he is between the pipes and those views are unlikely to change. If the Canucks had won the Cup last spring, the Anti-Luongo fans would have declared that the Canucks won despite Luongo, and certainly not because of him. If Luongo gives up a bad goal, it’s his fault. If Luongo is beaten on a good chance, heads shake while detractors mutter, “He’s got to make a big save once in a while.” If Luongo is brilliant, we hear “See! He should play like that all the time. He isn’t consistently brilliant.”

It is my belief – and I wish I could tell you that it was the product of reasoned analysis, but I can’t claim my brain works any differently than anyone else’s – that Luongo is an excellent goaltender who for the past decade has been one of the best in the league. Last season was probably the greatest of his career on both a team and individual level. (I won’t bother to “defend, justify, and rationalize that belief with a host of intellectual reasons, cogent arguments, and rational explanations.”) It is enough to say that the idea that someone can be good enough to get to a seventh game of a SCF but not good enough to win it all seems to me to be absurd on the face of it.

Even if Mike Gillis wanted to do something about it, Luongo’s contract is very likely untradeable. He is probably going to be here for years and if Shermer is correct, the anti-Luongo feelings aren’t going to go away either. It is disturbing that so many fans have given up on Luongo, but does it really make a difference?

Probably not. The players will rally around the goaltender. One of the enduring memories from Jim Bouton’s book “Ball Four” was the attitude basball players had toward the fans. In private moments we were referred to as know-nothing “clucks” by the athletes. As far as the Canucks are concerned, our cluckitude is being confirmed. This is a very good hockey team that’s going to win a lot of games whether there is an ongoing Luongo controversy or not.

Still, it’s suddenly beginning to feel like it is going to be a long season.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments

11 Responses to “Bobby Lu”
  1. beingbobbyorr says:

    The fan-athlete relationship is also disturbingly confounded by sales & marketing, who, in an effort to extract more and more dollars, encourages the fan to think of themselves as, not merely an observer, but more a participant / stakeholder in the enterprise, further amplifying the delusion that their expertise & opinions are more informed / valuable than they really are . . . which is to say, not at all.

    • Tom says:

      No doubt. Chris Jones had a piece in Grantland about this very subject. I think it is a big part of the story. Teams definitely want fans to feel like participants and lots of fans buy that as the product.

      This means that Luongo cost us the Cup. (Not that he did or anything.) He disappointed us. It is intensely personal. He disappointed us and that is enough to condemn him. Thereafter, the perception of every play he makes is filtered through the belief that he’s disappointed us before and will surely disappoint us again.

      It’s ironic that a marketing campaign to make the fans part of the team actually serves to increase the separation between players and fans.

  2. beingbobbyorr says:

    It is intensely personal.

    Personal, and yet, viscously impersonal.

    When LA acquired Dan Cloutier circa 2006, every Kings fan knew that he (a) had a substantial injury history, (b) was on the wrong side of 30, (c) was merely a stop-gap gamble until Lombardi could secure younger goaltending prospects, and (d) would be surrounded by Dmen like Kevin Dallman, Oleg Tverdovsky, & Mike Weaver.

    So, when the Dam burst and DC started letting in enough to resurrect the 2002 BeachBall photoshop jpeg, did Kings fans grasp the fragility of the human body and resign themselves to the inexorable truth of gambling (‘win some, lose some . . . mostly lose some’)? No. DC was vilified up the ying-yang for every goal allowed, soft or not. Even his wife was dragged into the crucifixion a year later, when a MINOR dispute about some billet expenses during his (and his family’s) time in the AHL came to light.

    I couldn’t believe I was conversing (at Staples Center or on Kings message boards) with adults; people to whom jobs and mortgages had allegedly been bestowed.

  3. JDS says:

    I see goaltending as a stats game. You’re going to get scored on somewhere around 10% of shots. If you can consistently bring this down to 8%, you’re a hall of famer. If you’re at 12% of above, you’re on the way out. Just like that speech in Bull Durham about what separates a career minor leaguer from a pro, the margin is so very slim … maybe 1 extra save every 25 shots makes a career.

    We have a Vezina finalist who backstopped the team to within 1 game of the holy grail. Let’s be honest, probably the first elite goalie the team has ever had, in NHL and world terms. And still the “yeah but” crew want to throw him out on his ear. Reminds me of the Pavel Bure fiasco all over again, where our insanely fickle fanbase makes it impossible for these guys to survive here. Your conclusion seems pretty likely to me … where the players must think the fans are mostly a bunch of morons.

    For your “despite” comment, I had to laugh, as I had just read about 5 minutes before a comment on the Canucks usenet forum: “They may win a Cup with him in goal but it will be in spite not because of him”. Couldn’t have pegged that attitude any closer!

    • E says:

      i’m never sure whether to root for or against stupidity in other fanbases. i mean, you’re utterly right about luongo, but the more abusive and unappreciative vancouver fans are, the more chance the rest of us get a crack at him. not that i’m really in the market for a goalie right now.

      but i am curious about this book. surely it isn’t entirely a unidirectional process, where beliefs formed through personal experience are later intellectualized? i mean, it seems almost self-evident to me that beliefs are formed and tested and reformed again by both emotion and reason. sure, the lessons you get from living life always sit the deepest, but they’re not necessarily impervious to modifications from reasonable argumentation and conflicting evidence. the fact that they don’t do this with sports might be a function of not taking sports beliefs particularly seriously, no?

      • Tom says:

        but i am curious about this book. surely it isn’t entirely a unidirectional process, where beliefs formed through personal experience are later intellectualized?

        It isn’t. Beliefs can be changed. One of the early stories in the book relates how the author himself went from being a theist to an atheist. But there are significant barriers to change. A few people might reconsider their Anti-Luongo stance in the face of a reasonable argument, but most will not.

        i mean, it seems almost self-evident to me that beliefs are formed and tested and reformed again by both emotion and reason. sure, the lessons you get from living life always sit the deepest, but they’re not necessarily impervious to modifications from reasonable argumentation and conflicting evidence.

        True, but my beliefs frame what is to me a reasonable argument. Once a belief is formed we actively seek information and evidence that confirms it, while minimizing, dismissing or ignoring conflicting evidence. We hang around people with similar beliefs. Our existing beliefs deliver up what amounts to a powerful bias.

        The fact that they don’t do this with sports might be a function of not taking sports beliefs particularly seriously, no?

        The book is not specifically about sports beliefs. It is about beliefs about anything. Why do we hold them? How do we construct them? How are those who hold irrational (to me, I guess) beliefs – birthers, 9/11 truthers, JFK assassination groupies, UFOs are aliens, – come to hold these ideas and reinforce them as truths? I just happened to be reading the book when the Luongo stuff started this season, so I made the connection.

        The book is a pretty good read, but it is sort of disturbing. I like to think that I have learned things about the world by observing things and then taking time to understand them. It turns out that I just come to believe things and then make the world fit my perceptions.

  4. Hop says:

    It is enough to say that the idea that someone can be good enough to get to a seventh game of a SCF but not good enough to win it all seems to me to be absurd on the face of it.

    Totally agree as far as the fact-aversion and (for lack of a better word) wrongful fan investment from the Luongo haters. Two words came to mind when I read the above, though: “Michael Leighton” (give or take a SCF game). I think the takeaway point here, though, isn’t that you can reach a Game Six or Seven and still not be good enough to win it all– Tom is right that that’s ridiculous– but that goaltending is a crapshoot to begin with, and the playoffs are a crapshoot to begin with, and there’s no reason a Leighton or an Osgood (who was admittedly pretty good in the playoffs every year he won the Cup) won’t get hot enough at the right time vs. the right opponents to win it all, or come pretty close. Kirk McLean’s 1993-94 regular season was nothing special, but he played well when it mattered.

    (Any post-1987 Cup run by the Flyers demonstrates this pretty well. Before the recent Leighton run, the two-headed monster of Snow and Hextall made it to the 1997 finals, and rookie Brian Boucher was arguably a Scott Stevens body check away from the 2001 finals. Which, of course, makes the 9yr/$51M contract to Ilya Bryzgalov all the more inexplicable.)

    • Tom says:

      …[But that goaltending is a crapshoot to begin with, and the playoffs are a crapshoot to begin with, and there’s no reason a Leighton or an Osgood (who was admittedly pretty good in the playoffs every year he won the Cup) won’t get hot enough at the right time vs. the right opponents to win it all, or come pretty close. Kirk McLean’s 1993-94 regular season was nothing special, but he played well when it mattered.

      Absolutely. I think the whole thing starts with the need to find a reason the Canucks lost when there is no reason. It is not good enough to say that by the Final the Canucks did not have enough healthy bodies to really compete. (That may be the best reason, but who knows whether a healthier Canuck team would have won?)

      Luongo is the most popular scapegoat.

  5. Roberto says:

    Pass it to Bulis has a great article on Luongo’s “poor” performance against the Rangers. They dissect each goal, and it’s pretty clear Luongo’s role in them is fairly small. The defensive breakdowns (a result of being one natural right-side defenseman short due to the loss of Edler, according to PITB) were egregious and gave him little chance.

    Of course, you wouldn’t know that by reading the local papers. Nope, in them, Luogo’s performances have been sub-par, and fans are justifiably angry.

    • Tom says:

      Doesn’t matter, Roberto. It is easy for a true believer to knock PITB aside and fit the game into the Anti-Luongo vision of reality. The Ranger game is a perfect example.

      “The Canucks were stomping the Rangers everywhere but the scoreboard when Luongo served the rebound up on a platter for Rupp. If that hadn’t happened, Bieksa wouldn’t have made that stupid pinch that set up the second goal. Canucks sag. Game over.”

      I agree that the media plays a role.

Trackbacks

Check out what others are saying about this post...
  1. [...] TOM BENJAMIN’S NHL BLOG: offers up terrific, accurate defense of Vancouver Canucks maligned goalie Roberto Luongo. [...]



Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!