Monday, August 13, 2012

Hop, Skip, and Jump

What is now called the triple jump in Olympic competition was often called the hop, skip, and jump when I was a kid.

Yesterday at the conclusion of the men's basketball gold medal game I saw an Olympic hop, skip and jump of a different sort.  Near the end of the game, with the Americans up by nine points, Chris Paul made a nifty move to the basket leaving his defender behind him.  Paul drove and sank a spinning shot to put the US up by 11 with less than a minute to play.

At that point, Coach Mike Krzyzewski, hopped, skipped, and jumped into the air.  He knew that the Spaniards would be unable to come back from an eleven point deficit in the remaining time and his team had won the gold medal.

Coach Krzyzewski is often a subdued sort.  He has won four NCAA national titles. He began coaching at Duke more than thirty years ago and since then has earned a winning average close to .700 competing in the extraordinarily competitive Atlantic Coast Conference.    Most recently his Duke team won the national championship in 2010 holding off Cinderella Butler University.  Fans of college basketball will remember that  an earlier Duke team defeated a heavily talented and favored UNLV team in a semi final game before going on to win a national championship.  In 2008 Coach Krzyzewski led the Olympic team to a gold in Beijing as well.

If you have read this blog, you will see that I thought that the US team in this Olympics was outcoached in a number of games. What the hell do I know?  All Krzyzewski does is win.

So, you might think if a man just wins and wins and wins, he will not get excited about winning.  The hop, skip, and jump after Chris Paul's shot on Sunday suggests otherwise.  I think in these games, the pressure to win was enormous.  We were so talented that anything short of a gold medal would be a blemish on his record.  Yet, I think that the dance Krzyzewski did on Sunday reflects the excitement and importance of athletic competition.

After winning the games the US players hugged like long lost lovers..  The celebration had nothing to do with money. These players are all millionaires. There is no meaningful monetary incentive for winning the gold medal games.

Those who watched the games across the country probably did a hop, skip, and jump as well when Chris Paul made that shot.  Nothing tangible on the line for the spectators.  I have written before in this blog that our emotional energy fuels our enterprise.  When you start assessing behavior on the basis of what makes sense (often what makes dollars and cents) you are following the wrong track.  If you want to understand behavior, start with examining why the hop, skip, and jump is a natural reaction to winning a game for which there is no monetary compensation.

No comments:

Post a Comment