Recently a friend (wishdafishwasme) introduced me to the work of American sports journalist Bill Simmons (aka Sports Guy) and in particular his interpretation of some fairly unexpected results in US sports around the turn of the millenium, which came to be known as “Ewing Theory” in honour of the former New York Knicks star Patrick Ewing
The basic theory goes something like this: underachieving/struggling team loses outstanding star player (in some case cited by Simmons, 2 or 3 stars) for an entire season or at least an extended portion of it, leaving them expected to fail miserably, only to rally round and perform even better than they had previously with said star(s).
The name “Ewing Theory” is inspired by the feeling between Simmons and a friend of his in the mid 90s that Ewing’s teams fared better without him, despite Ewing’s outstanding personal achievements. A few years later, an Achilles injury early in the NBA playoffs provided a chance to test the theory. Without Ewing, the Knicks defied all predictions to reach the finals, going down honourably against the Spurs.
In this article Simmons gives many other examples from that side of the pond (no doubt neglecting numerous counterexamples of teams lifting trophies and reaching finals despite the irritating presence of their best players) and it got me thinking about whether or not this theory could be applied to my areas of focus, namely football and cricket. Initially I couldn’t think of any overwhelmingly clear cases, but was inspired to delve deeper by a tweet from The Guardian’s Matt Scott saying that Arsenal have not won a trophy since Dennis Bergkamp retired.
Look out for the findings soon- I have a few good ideas germinating now, other suggestions are welcome. Remember, football or cricket only