More than just X’s and O’s

As I sat there and watched the back-up QB for the team I support toss a long ball down the field into the hands of a streaking receiver, I wondered about the communication underpinnings that made that thing of sports beauty possible.

If you follow the NFL religiously, or even if you’re just a casual fan, you’ve probably heard that quarterbacks need to feel comfortable and trusting of their receivers, otherwise they won’t throw them the ball all that often. Instead, the QB will look to someone he trusts to deposit the ball (this is often called a “check down.” Bills fans are keenly aware of this, especially this year). There is a reason for this, and I think a lot of it has to do with communication.

Take Peyton Manning, for example. He had a good relationship with his receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne. He could throw up the ball with the faith that one of the two would be there to catch it when it came down. They worked at this, but the simple act of trusting the guy will be there where you put the ball takes communication, too.

On the opposite end, you can see when a quarterback and receiver don’t have good communication. Take T.O. and Buffalo’s Trent Edwards. It is painful to watch. There’s just no chemistry between the two, which is a direct result of the fact that there (more than likely) isn’t good communication between them.

This isn’t just the case in football, though. Communication is at the core of every sport. In baseball there is the nonverbal communication between pitcher and catcher. In NASCAR it’s interesting to listen to the radio communications between driver and crew chief.

So, the next time your favorite team has a big play, take a moment to think about how much communication went in to making it a success, or how a lack of communication caused the other team to collapse in that instant.

What is your favorite example of communication in sports?