Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Intangibles, what are they? Can they be documented?

Intangibles. I don't think I can watch a full quarter or inning or a sporting event without hearing this word.

Before we begin let's take a look at what the word 'intangibles' actually means

in·tan·gi·ble (n-tnj-bl)
1. Incapable of being perceived by the senses.
2. Incapable of being realized or defined.
3. Incorporeal.

So why all the fuss over something that can't be touched, heard, or felt, or defined?

At first I had an indifferent feeling towards it as it seemed to be just a phase where people talked about these said intangibles. Then as I started to hear about this word at a somewhat nauseating rate, I realized something. The word "intangibles" is mostly used to talk up a player who lacks statistically or physically. The "scrappy" role players who do the little things that are required to win games and have sustained success. Do you ever hear the word intangibles when it comes to discussing Alex Rodriguez or Peyton Manning? No.

During the Lakers-Spurs Game 2, about 4 minutes into the game Doug Collins made reference to the word 'intangibles' when talking about Spurs center Fabricio Oberto. He made reference to his rebounding and defense as the source of this wealth of intangibles that Oberto has. That leads me to ask how are rebounding and defense intangibles? You play good defense on someone and if it limits someone's scoring production then is that not a tangible result? You take someone out of their comfort zone offensively while making them work hard for what they get or just flat out render them ineffective, how is that intangible? That can be documented. As far as rebounding, there is a statistic that keeps track of it. Also, offensive rebounds lead to second chance points which are also tangible, and defensive rebounds end offensive possessions for the other team.

I wonder why the use of this word is so prevalent nowadays among journalists, other media members and fans alike. Is it so that the lesser talented, harder working players can have their own category so to speak, such as Wayne Chrebet and Wes Welker? What about the guys who struggle producing on the field but happen to play for winning teams like Vince Young. With Wes Welker, his blocking skills as well as his route running are considered to be his intangibles. If he blocks well, the running back springs a big run, it is documented. It can be seen, the direct result of good blocks is good runs. If Wes runs a good route and gets open, he catches the ball. That goes towards the "rec'' section in the statistics. It is a documented number. It is a statistic you can recognize and realize. With Young, his poise and leadership is often cited. If guys play harder for a certain quarterback, then does that not affect their production as a whole in a positive manner? If the defense plays noticeably better for Vince Young than for Kerry Collins, how is that intangible?

I don't know where the overuse of the word intangibles started or why it did, but all I know is that they don't exist and cannot be realized. If this is the case, why are they talked about? Are we going to start talking about the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Seven Dwarfs as well?

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