Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Great Blowouts in Sports History

Maybe it was because I was bored and distracted by an overtime game, or maybe it’s because I’ve been watching Stanford do more than its fair share of lopsided wins, but I’ve begun to reconsider the virtues of the blowout recently. There are so many routine blowouts, where both teams just want the game to end, but then I suppose there are quite a few routine regular season games in which the attitudes of players can be described as “mildly interested.” Meanwhile there exists the category of inspired blowouts, and as I’ve said I’ve come to appreciate the virtues of watching and being entertained by these blowouts more recently.

Maybe it comes from watching Stanford win, but a few of those blowouts—I’m thinking, in particular, of the 68-24 thrashing of Wake Forest that lost its zest after the 41-10 first half. But that first half had a quality that all inspired blowouts have: a feeling of near-perfection in which the winning team seems truly irresistible, with the force of logic, which gets basically everyone thinking “No way”, with just pure disbelief at how perfect it all is. Usually these blowouts seem like the teams are ambassadors of a philosophy or ideology; thus Stanford football’s blowouts seem like the pure articulation of professional complexity and physicality; thus Oregon’s blowouts—Oregon, by the way, leads college football in inspiring blowouts—seem like the Platonic form of speed, perfectly organized for Oregon, frenzied for all opponents. Then there was the performance last Monday—in soccer—that really inspired this:

For context: realize that this is one of the most heated rivalries in the world, any sport; realize that Real—the team that was so humiliated—had not lost all year up to the point; realize that Barcelona—the team that did the humiliating—is probably the pure expression of a soccer philosophy that involves keeping the ball from you…for forever, if possible. They are like a python squeezing you with the precision and choreography of dance moves. And that game was basically perfect.

So many blowouts happen because one team is playing poorly, but if a blowout happens because one team is playing purely—well, aren’t we interested in artistry under pressure? Since that’s the case, isn’t producing a masterpiece so powerful that your opponent can’t offer anything against it, under the most pressure, the most impressive and hence entertaining thing of all? That’s what a great blowout is.


  1. Damn, great game and great announcing, thanks for bringing that to my attention. The color guy makes Gus Johnson sound like a churchmouse - I believe he even called the passing "orgasmic" at one point.

  2. He did. It's the hilarious Ray Hudson. He also described Lionel Messi: “He could follow you into a revolving door and he’d still come out first.”