All competitive sports are, well…. competitive, requiring considerable athletic talent, exceptional displays of specific skills.  Still, as any fan knows, at the professional level, some plays are so elementary and routine that:  1.  Only on the rarest of occasions are they misplayed, and 2.  As a consequence, the outcome is  usually predictable.  Consider the following situations.

Hockey – The goalie has been pulled.  There is an open net.  An opposing player gains control of the puck, crosses the blue line and slides the puck through the goal mouth.  Easy score.

Basketball – There are no guarantees, but rarely will a player miss an uncontested layup.  Same is true of a dunk.  With one hand or two, the player usually succeeds in slamming it through the hoop.  Also, the odds of someone scoring on a shot from the outside increases measurably when that player is unguarded.

Tennis – Overheads, especially when attempted near the net, are practically “gimmies”.  The better pros rarely, if ever, miss.  Also, double faults happen infrequently.  Of course, they have two shots at getting the serve in.

Football – Everyone knows that the extra point is virtually automatic.  So much so that the NFL may decide to introduce some uncertainty into the “point after” try.  Speedy backs who get past the secondary rarely are caught.  Expect them to continue on into the end zone.  No guarantees here, but similar to basketball, a quarterback, if unobstructed, and given time, will complete a very high percentage of his passes.

Baseball – Unless there’s a gale wind howling, infield pop-ups and lazy fly balls to the outfield will be caught almost every time.  Unless it collides with a pebble, slow grounders hit right at infielders become “outs” on a regular bases.  And how many times does a pitcher who runs the count to 3-0 throw a strike on the 4th pitch?  Quite often.

All sporting contests will feature spectacular plays that defy expectations.  Such instances are truly memorable; and a major reason why we watch games.  Far more common, however, are those instances in which there are no surprises, where execution is almost automatic.  The seasoned fan recognizes this, having witnessed these same plays time and again.

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