I have lived my whole sports life by this principle and I believe it to be the best way to judge an athlete. Certainly not the only way, but the best.
Simply put, the eye test is a way to judge an athlete as they compete within their sport based upon your own observations. Not by statistics, but by the media or any other means other than your own two eyes.
You can never assume someone is what you hear they are. Instead, you must see it for yourself.
This is the main reason why I have always been so hesitant to listen to anything regarding high school athletes entering college or the professional ranks. Just because someone is dubbed the next “superstar” does not mean they are any good.
It does not mean they are bad either.
Every year in almost every sport, you hear about the next Michael Jordan, the next Dan Marino, the next Alex Rodriguez, or the next whoever. I often wonder where these people get their sources.
It is all so subjective, which brings me to my first amendment to the eye test. It is not a one time deal. You can’t judge a book by its cover. You cannot tell whether Randy Moss is as good as he is just by watching one play, or one game for that matter. It is a process.
One of my biggest pet peeves is those who pass judgment on an athlete without actually watching a game.
For example, I have a friend who is very critical of LeBron James and claims he is not a good basketball player. Disregarding the fact that statement alone is its own article, he does this without having watched him play two, maybe three times on television, which he watches sparingly anyway.
My problem is whether the statement is true or not, it is not something he should be commenting on in the first place. You can site statistics all you want, you can quote the media all you want, and you can even claim you have seen a dunk on youtube. But all those things are different than actually sitting down to watch him compete.
How could you possibly critique him?
I know all of you have had that moment as a sports fan when someone just says something you know is wrong, or, at the very least, something you vehemently disagree with.
Inevitably, it is because that person has not seen them play or compete, it is clear they have no idea what they are talking about. They did not watch a game and they have never seem them do anything.
They are spewing something they heard on a radio show or read in a newspaper. That is not to suggest that what they are hearing or reading is necessarily wrong, but they should not be assuming anything.
By no means do I claim myself as an “expert”, but if I watch every single game of the 2006 World Cup and have not missed a shot of this years’ March Madness, I say with two TV's and two laptops later.
I feel comfortable that I can make knowledgeable claims like the referring in this years tournament has been way below average. It has significantly impacted the games, so much so that it may have cost a few teams a game.
I should preface this by saying I am a die-hard Italian fan. Italy was not the best team in 2006. They won the tournament deservedly so, but were not the team playing the best soccer throughout the tournament.
Germany, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Argentina, and the Netherlands all these teams played great soccer. The group draw was very difficult and teams beat up on each other throughout.
If someone wants to debate my comments, I feel comfortable enough with my statements and my knowledge that I can defend them.
The comfort factor is a product of the eye test. Simply watching events unfold as they happen gives you the, for lack of a better term, right to speak efficiently about said contest or athlete.
I will leave you with this. If you want to know how good a player is, watch them compete for yourself. Decide whether they really are as good as advertised.
Here are few conclusions I have made recently with my own two eyes.
Chris Paul is easily one of the best players in the NBA. He should be ahead of Dwayne Wade and behind (maybe) only LeBron and Kobe for MVP. Paul controls everything on the court, statistics aside. He knows exactly what he is doing before he does it and can basically get anywhere on the court he wants, which is reminiscent of Nash a few years ago.
The Butler Bulldogs along with USC will be two of the better teams in college basketball next year, assuming all juniors come back.
Percy Harvin will be an excellent NFL wide reciever.
Some people will disagree with this editorial.