Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Winning Grim

After reading my post on Victoria Azarenka's clever use of the injury timeout, Rowland Jack writes to point me to a blog post of his on "winning grim." Rowland captures the concept nicely, here is an excerpt from his post:
Winning grim refers to teams and occasionally individual athletes plus their management who take a more holistic view of sport and seek to influence all the factors which can determine the result of a match. The masters of winning grim are often the leading contenders in their sport. Exponents of winning grim will have a strategy for considerations such as these off the field of play:
  • -The structure of competitions (method of qualification, schedules, the way the draw is done etc.)
  • Legal challenges before, during and after competition (on issues such as player eligibility, suspensions etc.)
  • The priorities of broadcasters and sponsors (what final they would ideally like to see, style of commentary, length of agreements etc.)
  • Pre-match PR (putting psychological pressure on opponents, match officials, spreading rumours)
They will also be expert at the use of specific tactics on the field which go a step beyond the requirements of winning ugly:
  • Pressurising match officials for maximum impact
  • Time-wasting when in a potentially winning position or to disrupt the opponent’s momentum
  • Tactical use of injuries (exaggerating injuries to give team-mates a rest or influence the referee)
  • Choosing ultra low-risk tactics when a normal tactic would probably suffice (think of a rugby team repeatedly kicking long when leading or a football team substituting an attacker for a defender when 2-0 up)
  • Selecting players who are consistent but limited in place of others who are more talented but unpredictable
Winning grim is the logical end-point when fans, financial backers and political stakeholders demand results. It is a strategy motivated by fear which is perfectly focused on the bigger prize. For this reason winning grim is better suited to league competition and major tournaments rather than to individual matches.

Winning grim should not be equated with cheating. Winning grim is legal and sometimes necessary, especially after a series of disappointments in big events. Eventually, however, winning grim will leave fans joyless and frustrated, alienating federations and other stakeholders along the way. You can’t afford to win grim all the time.


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