James Leroy Wilson's blog

Monday, February 05, 2007

Power of Perception

Over the weekend, ESPN Classic ran a program on the Five Reasons You Can't Blame Scott Norwood for losing Super Bowl XXV.

Buffalo lost that game, 20-19 to the New York Giants, and Scott Norwood was the Bills kicker who missed the game-winning field goal at the end. His name is now part of Super Bowl lore.

But it's funny how the legend grows. Few people at the time blamed Norwood for the loss. He was asked to make a 47-yard field goal on grass, something he'd never done before and at the time it was a less-than-50% shot for even the best kickers. Norwood was an accurate kicker at close range but had the shortest range among all kickers.
To the extent that the game was Norwood's fault, it was because he just wasn't good enough to do what he was asked to do, which is far different from "choking" or folding under pressure.

All of this was known sixteen years ago. The Bills would have been lucky if Norwood made the kick, so much so that he would have deserved MVP honors if he had made it.

So why, now, is the perception that Norwood blew it so prevalent that ESPN puts together a program to debunk this view? Why does something so obviously and demonstrably false become common knowledge?

Perhaps for the same reason that an error in a tied game six of the 1986 World Series is blamed for the Red Sox losing the entire series, or a dropped touchdown pass in the third quarter is blamed for the Cowboys losing Super Bowl XIII. Mistakes and failure make the events even more dramatic.

The worst play in Super Bowl history was John Kasay kicking the ball out of bounds with a minute left, giving Tom Brady the ball at the 40 yard-line with a minute left in Super Bowl XXXVIII. That was overshadowed that year, however, by Janet Jackson's boobie.

Today, much of the media is doing a pretty good job blaming the Bears' loss yesterday on their quarterback Rex Grossman, even though the Colt's defense made more experienced quarterbacks look ordinary in this year's play-offs. The perceptions could run Grossman out of Chicago.

If this is the way the sports media can influence people, it's scary what the news media can do, on issues that are actually important.

1 comment:

  1. James, please correct me if I'm wrong, but the initial blame was placed on the holder for not rotating the laces correctly for Norwood to make the kick. It certainly was long enough, but a straight place might have changed history.

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