This season’s title race is thrilling because all the contenders are imperfect. Sport is nothing without a sense of jeopardy

In Chad Harbach’s 2011 novel The Art of Fielding, the shortstop Henry Skrimshander is approaching the US college record for the most consecutive errorless baseball games when a throw inexplicably goes awry and hits a teammate in the dugout. At that, his confidence evaporates to the point that he can no longer execute the most basic skills; he gets the yips. What lingers from the novel, for me, is the crushing sense of pressure of having errors recorded like that, appearing even on the scoreboard, as though the sport had become less about the achievement of glory than about the avoidance of mistakes.

Avoiding mistakes is good. Some people should be judged on the avoidance of mistakes. Postal workers, bus drivers, indexers, especially surgeons and air-traffic controllers, should carry on not getting things wrong. But sport? Shouldn’t sport be about actively creating something?

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