Are Players Better Off Being Unemotional After Losses?

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May 21, 2010

Are Players Better Off Being Unemotional After Losses? It seems obvious, but the perspective of a fan is drastically different from that of a player.

Fans are heartbroken when their teams lose. Take the Bruins’ Game 7 loss to the Flyers, for example. Many fans took personal offense to the fact that their beloved Black and Gold had become just the fourth team in the history of professional sports to lose a best-of-seven series after taking a 3-0 lead. They felt sick, confused, infuriated after watching Boston race out to a 3-0 lead during Game 7 before allowing four unanswered goals and blowing the series — on home ice, no less.

For months — probably until next October, when the next step in the journey begins — fans will continue to be heartbroken. But as a fan, would you really want players to react the same way? Would you be offended if the players on the team that just broke your heart showed little, if any, emotion in the face of defeat?

Just because the players don?t show emotion doesn?t mean they don?t feel it; it just means that they?re better off if they keep that stuff internalized, then let it go as soon as possible. Sometimes, it?s best for players to keep their emotional distance, especially if they have any hope of bouncing back from defeat. Case in point? Jonathan Papelbon.

The Red Sox closer is certainly not a prime example of an unemotional player; nobody who dances on the mound wearing spandex following a World Series win could possibly be considered stoic. But when it comes to losing — and recovering from even the most devastating of blown saves — Papelbon seems to have perfected the art of just moving on.

Papelbon took the mound in the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night after his team had improbably battled its way back from a 6-1 deficit. To the shock of the pinstripes, Boston held a 9-7 lead entering the bottom of the ninth — but after two-run homers by Alex Rodriguez and Marcus Thames, the Red Sox? stirring comeback was rendered obsolete. Too add insult to injury, Thames? bomb was the first-ever walkoff home run Papelbon had allowed in his career.

Twenty-four hours later, the Red Sox had once again battled back from a 5-1 deficit; they entered the ninth with a 7-5 lead, and Terry Francona called upon Papelbon once again. The closer wasn?t flawless — he made things interesting, allowing a run to make it 7-6 — but he struck out Randy Winn to end the game and put his personal demons to rest.

Think about how terrible it would have been this week if Papelbon, less than 24 hours removed from handing his team its most devastating loss of the season, was still dealing with scattered emotions following a blown save. Imagine if he was so distraught after Tuesday?s game that it interfered with his ability to perform effectively the next evening.

Sometimes, it?s best for athletes to just forget — even if fans can?t do the same.

What do you think? Are you offended when athletes seem far more unaffected by losing than their fans? Or should athletes just let it go, no matter how much losing hurts?

Share your thoughts below. The best comments will be read on NESN’s Red Sox GameDay Live or Red Sox Final.

May 20: How does the 2005 Hanley Ramirez trade look now for Red Sox fans?

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