Playoff JWIB! The Myth of Momentum

This morning, I want to talk for a moment about the treasured newspaper sports columnist. There used to be so many more of us. When I was 21 years old, becoming a newspaper columnist was the biggest thing I could imagine — for a time, the word “column” was my go-to password for whatever we needed passwords for back in the 1990s.*

*Ah, remember those days when you could have one, simple all-encompassing password that was unforgettable because the word mattered in your life? I do remember those days, even if I don’t remember any of the 1,200 passwords I need to know because my wife or one of our daughters texts or calls at least three times every day with a panicked, “What’s the password for …?” question. A simpler life.

In any case, I was lucky enough to become a sports columnist at 24 in Augusta, Ga., and then I was a columnist in Cincinnati, and finally — and for the longest time — I was a columnist in Kansas City, and I thoroughly loved it for maybe 10 million reasons. And one of those reasons was this: I felt like the voice of my town. When the Royals or Chiefs played … or, earlier, when it was the Reds or Bengals … or even earlier, when it was the second round of the Masters … I felt this pressure to write something that would speak to my city, something that would capture their joy or their frustration, something to laugh about at the office or get mad about at the plant or talk about at the dinner table.

I loved that pressure. That pressure pushed me to take chances and try things and make predictions and boldly go wherever the emotions of the moment took me.

So, yes, this all leads to the newspaper column that my friend Bill Plaschke wrote on Tuesday night after the Dodgers came back from oblivion to beat the Braves. Bill is one of the last big-city columnists in America; there are still a few thrashing around, and they’re still out there trying to capture the mood.

“The Braves still lead the seven-game series two games to one …” Bill wrote after recounting the extraordinary comeback, the fledgling rally, the titanic Bellinger homer, the Mookie Betts double that won the game.

“… but,” he continued, “it feels as if they’re on the ropes. The Braves still would be considered statistical favorites, but it feels like they’re doomed.”

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