Don’t Get Upset

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“It couldn’t be… This is sport! You must know how to celebrate wins and assume defeats! Congratulations to Lukas for his great match!”

In the exclamation-point language of Facebook, that is how the invariably sweet, massive-bicep-wielding tennis champion Rafael Nadal conceded his defeat to the 100th-ranked unknown Lukas Rosol in only the second round of Wimbledon last month.

Upsets are bound to happen. Just like it goes in countless Hollywood scripts, the guy who’s on top gets knocked out by the underdog. Sometimes it’s a fluke, and sometimes heroes are made in front of a stunned crowd.

The distinctions between a legitimate championship performance and a freak incident of trophy taking are numerous, but in the interest of appeasing a fan base eager for speculation, the metrics are becoming more numerous. Unlike many other sports, where the statistics are fast and thick, the data on tennis is still fairly fuzzy. Even though the age of speed cameras and court-covering shot-tracker systems is very much upon us, the accuracy of these technologies is still very much in dispute. In fact, stroke and serve speed is not recognized by professional tennis as a measure of merit—the radar-based velocity capture is just too inconsistent.

Still, the public demands a method of comparison, even if it’s inaccurate. A pecking order must be established. And as the sport becomes dominated by massive serves delivered from well behind the baseline, speed has become a much-discussed measurement.

Listening to top-level tennis commentators, you’ll hear less emphasis on serve speed and more focus on accuracy of shots. Tennis, after all, is a game dependent on precise positioning of racket face against a tiny contact point whirring around a rapidly spinning ball. When and where you stop that ball’s trajectory and send it roiling through the air back toward your opponent (or away from him, ideally) is the skill that matters.

In a world where perception is everything, it can often be difficult to shift the conversation away from attention-grabbing numbers and back to the composite image of integrity, historical consistency, and downright etiquette. When AV business owners and managers are volleying budget requirements, labor costs, and design fees back and forth with clients sitting across the table, the metrics that grab the most attention are not always the most pertinent. Too often, the flashiest number is cost. But just like the speed of a serve, this number is ever fluctuating depending upon the method of determination.

That’s why sometimes, when the ball keeps landing outside the lines of reasonable business objectives, it’s best to follow Nadal’s advice and know how celebrate wins and assume defeats. Your fans will still love you, and there’s always another tournament down the road.

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