Word on the Street

Talent Redistribution (tal’-uhnt re’-dis-trib’-yoo-shun’) noun. When one or more players have to be switched from one team to another so that the level of competition will be (roughly) more equal.

Usage example:Damn. That team lost 21-4. Looks like they need some serious Talent Redistribution.”

Word trivia: In my experience, most pickup leagues have anywhere from two to four teams competing on any given night. (The number of teams can be and often is greater than that during the prime times at local health clubs and open gyms.) Because teams are often chosen by shooting free throws – the first five to make it comprise team one, the second five team two, and so on – the actual distribution of talent per team can vary greatly.

Generally speaking, the talent distribution is usually “top heavy,” in that the better players tend to hit their free thows, and therefore the first one or two teams end up with better players than the other team or teams.

Of course, there are always situations that can alter this paradigm. For instance, a very good player who typically hits his free throw might miss on his first and even second attempt (assuming it takes that many rounds to shoot up the teams). Or, and this happens a lot in my league, either a very good or remarkably bad player will show up five minutes or so after the games have started. Most of the time, the honor system will kick in and the good player will go to the worst team and the bad player will go to the best team.

Now obviously all teams are not created equal. But sometimes a team sucks so badly that they can’t even come close to competing. Like, they will lose every game by a minimum of 10 or more points no matter what they do (and this is using the traditional “1s and 2s” scoring system).

Once it has become clear that one team is going to be haplessly beaten time and again over the course of the night, someone will suggest Talent Redistribution. Sometimes this happens after their first game, but more often than not it happens after they have played at least twice to ensure that the first beating wasn’t an aberration. It’s standard procedure for members of the bad team to give members of a better team the opportunity to make a Talent Redistribution offer. However, if no offer is made, one or more members of the bad team will probably suggest or even demand it.

In leagues where most of the people know and like each other, Talent Redistribution is usually quick and fair. But nobody likes making their team worse, and Talent Redistribution can result in heated debate and bitter feelings in even the friendliest of leagues.

For instance, there’s a player in my pickup league known as Super Mario (because he looks like Mario from the Super Mario Bros. video game). Several years back, Super Mario contracted a case of bacterial meningitis. It almost killed him. He survived, obviously, but the illness left him partially handicapped. Super Mario still plays basketball, but he’s so physically limited that he’s a liability on both offense and defense. For this reason, the team he’s on almost always loses because they’re forced to basically play four-on-five.

Some times, Talent Redistribution consists of switching Super Mario from team to team. This can be tricky, however, since he can transform a good team into an awful team. Not surprisingly, nobody wants to play with him, and some people (*cough* Robban *cough*) get really pissy when Super Mario is “gifted” to their team. This has caused many “day after” arguments. (You know, when you and your buddies discuss the events of the previous night’s games over e-mail or in person.)

Talent Redistribution can hit a snag when nobody can agree on a fair and equal switch. In these cases, a trusted league “veteran” will usually step up and act as a sort of Talent Manager. In general, the Talent Manager must have the same basic attributes as a Points Negotiator.

One last note: pickup ballers get pretty upset when Talent Distribution upsets the balance so much that they are unable to win another game (and especially when they’re beaten badly after the switchup). This inequity won’t be forgotten and can be used in future Talent Distribution debates (e.g., “We got stuck with Super Mario last time and we sucked afterward. Give us Paul instead.”)

Note from Robban: Some players have a lack of talent so galling that it can actually eliminate the possibility of fair Talent Redistribution altogether. Instead of just being a “poor player,” this person is actually a negative player (a.k.a. Nugatory, Minus Man, Captain Entropy, Anti-game, Boat Anchor, Vaporware). For example, a Super Mario has been known to take a dominant force of a team and turn it into a sad-sack loser. In such cases, said dominant team may actually need to have two players replaced in such a way as to actually strengthen the remaining four.

The Equation works thusly. The dominant team as it begins (with “1” being an average player):

1.2 + 1.3 +1.5 + 1.1 +1 = 6.1

The team with an overall strength of 6.1 can now be decimated by removing any one player and adding Captain Entropy, a fellow who plays no defense and pretty much can’t run or do anything competant on the court:

1.2 + 1.3 + 1.5 + (-1) +1 = 4

Note how far the mighty have fallen. This team is getting it’s ass kicked, not only because it’s overall team strength is just 4, but additionally because the talent is no longer evenly distributed amongst the five players (A neg 1 is throwing the ball away, standing at half court on offense and defense, etc., where even a bunch of .8 guys are getting a hand in the face and the ball around the horn).

Ergo, we must actually bolster the supporting cast for the Minus Man by replacing the worst of the remaining group (Mr. 1) with someone better. The new team is as follows:

1.2 + 1.3 + 1.5 +(-1) + 1.4 = 4.4

This team is now competitive, and may become more so IF they force the Boat Anchor out of the offensive scheme and play help defense. If, however, the good players get dejected and lose their will, this team may still get it’s collective ass handed to it repeatedly. This two-for-one paradigm shift may require the institution of a future word on the street: The Mario Rule.

A sure sign that you need a Talent Redistribution, is when one of the players ain’t bigger than the ball you’re using.

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Labels: Word on the Street

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