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Cold Hard Rants

Cold Hard Rants: Under Sell and Over Perform

One of the great lessons I learned in my time spent as a politico in Ottawa was the importance of tempering expectations. (For more about my bio, and to see a great picture of me—seriously that’s about as good as it gets pour moi—click here.) I don’t know who first coined the term, but it was perfected by former Liberal Prime Minister Jean Chretien, he of the three straight electoral majorities, when he would constantly under sell and over perform. (A more cynical person would say that refusing to aim high would always ensure that you are never disappointed with the result.) Both individuals, Messers. Chretien and (hypothetical) Cynic, are technically correct. The reason I got on this rambling, semi-incoherent, tangent was because of the news earlier this week that Bob Gainey and the Montreal Canadians organization had relieved Guy Carbonneau of his duties as head coach.

The year began with such optimism in Montreal (read: high expectations). On the centennial anniversary of the most storied franchise in hockey (and arguably sports), the season began with the thought process being Stanley Cup or bust. (Whether or not these expectations were realistic, based on the skill set of the players assembled in Montreal, I will leave for someone more informed to explore.) My point is that from the moment this was the mindset in Montreal, they were doomed to fail (relative to their expectations.)

In sports, the worst role to play is that of the favourite. The front runner. No one ever roots for the front runner. It’s always the underdog who wins the adoration of the crowd. Who wins the accolades. Often times, they receive these even if they lose. We expect that the favourite should win, and take care of business. The praise handed to them is rarely as boisterous as the praise handed to the scrappy underdog who keeps the game/match/series close. Sports are littered with these examples. That’s why NCAA March Madness and the concept of the Cinderella team are so appealing. In the NFL, the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants were Cinderellas competing against heavily favoured teams who were expected to win. In Major League Baseball it was the sad-sack Tampa Bay Rays who were everyone’s favourite underdog. At no time does the bandwagon of the favourite grow—that’s like cheering for the government to win. It just doesn’t happen.

In Montreal, at the beginning of this year, Bob Gainey and the rest of the organization should have been doing everything in their power to lessen expectations. The card best played by professional athletes is the “nobody believed in us card.” In Montreal, they played the “take care of business/unfinished business card.” It’s no surprise then, that by playing the wrong card from the outset of the season, they have had to pink slip the dealer of the card’s Guy Carbonneau. Expectations were just too high, and unreasonable, in Montreal all season.

For Illegal Curve, I am Drew Mindell. Please note that you can now get more Cold Hard Rants all week long, as I am now Twittering. User name is ColdHardRanter.

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