Expectations are funny
March 8, 2017. The NFL offseason underway, the New York Giants signed veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall to a two-year contract. About a month later, they drafted tight end Evan Engram out of Ole Miss, he of the 4.42 40-yard dash. Then the hype started. Playoffs for the Giants? Super Bowl favorites out of the NFC? I even read one article comparing this Giants team to the one that won the 1986 Super Bowl.
I read articles about Ereck Flowers, the Giants much-maligned offensive lineman, taking up boxing and how it would translate to improved hand technique. I even wrote an article for my sports writing internship about how the Giants’ offense would improve. I saw a ranking of the league’s best wide receiver trios – and the Giants were first. At the time, they hadn’t even played one game together.
That’s a ton of hype to live up to. And guess what? They didn’t live up to it.
We are nearly halfway through the NFL season and the Giants sit at 1-6. That’s more like the 1986 Buccaneers than the 1986 Giants if you ask me.
So, what happened to the Giants? People, maybe even the Giants players themselves, bought into the hype. And what does the hype have to do with anything?
It tricked us into overlooking an obvious weakness on a team with championship-aspirations. The Giants offensive line can’t block. They couldn’t in 2015. They couldn’t last year. And unsurprisingly, they can’t block this year. Because of this, their offense stinks.
Yes, the additions of Brandon Marshall and Evan Engram were sexy. But they weren’t enough to cover up the ugliness that is the Giants’ offensive line.
Now let’s switch sports, to baseball. It’s March 30. Aaron Judge just won the starting right-fielder job over Aaron Hicks. Yes, you read that correctly. Aaron Judge almost came off the bench. That’s how low the bar was for the 2017 Yankees.
Clearly, there was some hype about Judge and the rest of the Baby Bombers in New York. But the rest of baseball was skeptical. I read articles saying the Yankees would be lucky to win 80 games. I read articles penciling the Yankees into fourth place in their division. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from the Yankees this year.
Those are pretty low expectations. In fact, they are so low that I don’t even know if they can be called expectations.
Look at where we are now. The Yankees won 91 games, battled the Red Sox to the very end of the regular season for the division and came within a game of reaching the World Series. Oh, and Aaron Judge? The near fourth-outfielder for the Yankees won the Rookie of the Year Award, hit 52 home runs and is currently a talking point in the MVP discussion
In this case, hype and expectations worked in the opposite way they did for the Giants. The expectations were so low for the Yankees that people overlooked one key fact. The Yankees may be young, but their young players can play. The low expectations, or lack thereof, masked the fact that the Yankees actually had good players.
Every season in every sport, a team that was supposed to be good flops and a team that wasn’t impressing many people, turns out to be great. It’s scenarios like these that make sports truly fun to watch. You must play the games. You never know what is going to happen. Expectations in sports are funny.