Keys to the game

I watch a great deal of sports. I love watching sports for a host of reasons. To me, it is more than mindless entertainment. I enjoy seeing the competition, wondering about the preparation that goes into each competition, watching who rises to the top during tense moments. I also observe the sports media, most often with a sense of amusement at the cliches, the air of self-importance, but sometimes you do get a bit of thoughtfulness, unique insight, nostalgia, etc.

One of the more comical episodes of any pregame show, regardless of the sport, is called “keys to the game.” This is where analysts give the viewers two or three things each team has to do in order to win. Usually, this is just a statement of the obvious. In football, one team’s keys to the game might be to limit the other team’s long plays from scrimmage, or limit their own turnovers. In basketball, it might be scoring in the paint or avoiding foul trouble. In baseball, it might be first-pitch strikes or working the count as a hitter. My favorite line of all is “don’t let (usually the other team’s best player) beat you.” Great! Let’s say you spend all your energy neutralizing the one player you’re not supposed to let beat you, and in the process, someone else beats you. In the end, you’re still beat.

At any rate, in almost all cases, the “keys to the game” are the keys to every game, things every team tries to do every game. There’s no real insight ever given.

As a jest, I’d love to do a spoof on “keys to the game.” It would be perfect for a Saturday Night Live skit, where you get someone to impersonate a sports analyst, and with great gusto and sincerity, proclaim that “In order to win this game, Team A is going to have to maximize their own scoring while minimizing Team B’s scoring.” Or you could say “Team A is going to have to score first, and then score every time Team B scores.”

You have to shake your head at those who state the obvious with all the seriousness of a mystery writer, as though they’ve just uncovered something no one else has ever thought of.

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