Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Simulated Games, Real Emotions

TigerBlog saw a story yesterday about a NASCAR racer named Bubba Wallace and how he lost one of his sponsors after he quit on a virtual race.

The point of the story was that this is something that was supposed to be for fun and it ended up having some actual implications. Also, a professional race car driver who finished second at the Daytona 500 two years ago could get so annoyed about a virtual race that he quit in the middle.

How annoying can it be?

Well, if you ever saw "Rocky Balboa" you could understand a bit. Or you could be doing what TB was doing two days earlier.

There is a website that is doing computer simulations of every men's lacrosse game during this season. Each week since the season was postponed, TB has gone through the following pattern: 1) forget that the computer simulations are happening, 2) remember that they're happening, 3) check the score of Princeton's game, 4) follow it the rest of the way as it were real, 5) get annoyed when things don't go the Tigers' way and then finally 6) be mad at himself for doing it.

Yes, he's smart enough to know that the stats don't really match up with the kinds of stats you could expect from a regular Princeton game and that the scores don't necessarily reflect what would have actually happened. Oh, and mostly, you know - they're not real games.

Still, there he was Saturday afternoon, hitting refresh to get updates on Princeton-Stony Brook. Princeton was ahead big in the first half and then, when he came back to see what was going on, saw the Tigers were down 15-14 with a little more than a minute left.

Ah, but there was hope. The last stat was a successful clear for Princeton.

Refresh. Refresh. Seven seconds left. Refresh. Still seven seconds left.

Refresh again. Goal. Tie game. Michael Sowers as time expired. And then overtime.

Stony Brook then won the face-off. Oh no. What next? But then Princeton got it back. And cleared it. And then it was Chris Brown from Alex Slusher. Goal. Princeton wins 16-15.

Oh wait. None of it was real.

TB knew that the whole time. He was angry at himself each time he hit refresh. But still, he did it.

Worse than that, he even considered what stories he would have written had Princeton lost 15-14 or won 16-15. 

He's not sure if it makes him feel any better, but he's spoken to several Division I coaches and athletic communications people who are doing the same thing and are just as annoyed at themselves for doing it.

The question is why does a simulated game or a simulated car race bring out real emotions?

He hasn't really been able to figure out why. Is it that he misses the season and is happy that there is anything at all that passes for lacrosse news these days? Is it because of all of the sports movies that he's watched that have blurred the line a bit between what's real and what isn't?

Is it that he - and the others he's spoken to - are so invested in their teams that any loss, even a fictional one, is bothersome?

It's not just simulated games.

The good people at US Lacrosse have a virtual NCAA tournament bracket and competition that is starting. You can vote today for the Princeton men and the Princeton women, in fact, by going HERE.

When TB first saw the link, he clicked on it hoping to see the Tigers in both fields. Again, why?

And why was he happy to see the men seeded fifth (taking on UMass, with a possible game against Penn State after that). In fact, he wondered where the quarterfinal round would have been.

Seriously. That was his first thought.

As for the women, they would have been in Syracuse to play Penn State, with the winner to face the Orange. Both Princeton teams were at-large selections, meaning neither "won" the league tournament.

The regular season? No way to know.

Then again, a reminder - none of this is real.

But it still gets the emotions going in everyone who sees it, and nobody seems to be able to look away.

Why? Does it matter?

Whatever it is, he will be just as annoyed this afternoon, when he checks on the simulated Princeton-Siena game that he otherwise would have been at today in Loudonville. Face-off would have been at 4.

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