“Is momentum real?”

I tell you what — this is some rabbit hole David Hale fell into.

This is why disproving momentum is so difficult. Ask 100 people to define it and you’ll likely get 100 different answers, but absolutely everyone who has spent any time around sports innately understands the sensation. Show people all the data you want — and there is a lot of it (here, here and here, for example) — and it won’t compare with that tingling sensation in their gut, that adrenaline rush as a team marches down the field for a winning TD, that absolute certainty that destiny is on their side. To paraphrase Justice Potter Stewart, you know momentum when you feel it.

“There’s an electricity to the thing,” Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach said. “And guys are so tuned in on the sideline, it’s like everybody can finish everybody else’s sentences.”

In the end, he’s no closer to an answer than when he started, but it’s a fun read along the way.



Filed under Science Marches Onward

15 responses to ““Is momentum real?”

  1. Skeptic Dawg

    What I can tell you is who has momentum and who does not. Alabama has momentum whereas Georgia does not. Can momentum be defined as hope, belief, or renewed faith? Example…Following a crushing loss in the 2021 SECCG, the Georgia Bulldogs have zero momentum (hope, belief, faith) and find themselves back at square one.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Derek

      The bitchy, negative fans control the mood in the locker room?

      The team is in much better shape than many commenters here. Of that I have no doubt.

      Liked by 5 people

      • originaluglydawg

        I hope so.
        There are some miserable SOB’s in the commenter community.
        They’ll be the same ones toasting the team and saying, “We knew you could do it” if the Dawgs win out.


        • Derek

          Don’t remind me….I know….

          They’ll either cheer like they always believed OR they will spew the “i told you so’s” they had ready before kickoff before the buzzer even sounds.

          They should be permanently purged.


    • Russ

      Possibly. I actually think Bama still has a large hill to climb and if we beat Michigan, we’ll have the advantage over Bama (yes, even with Stetson). Hard to beat the same team twice, and I think the team will be completely locked in and focused, knowing they have a difficult task at hand. I think the players went to Atlanta for the SECCG looking for a coronation, plus Kirby’s defensive game plan was shit.

      Anyway, fun article, and I absolutely believe in the Big Mo. I think it has to do with brain chemistry and getting the entire group to start feeling the same way, and suddenly everyone plays to their full potential (which is very hard to maintain).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Down Island Way

    Can speak to this on multiple levels of life, athletically, personally, professionally, when you have “mo” on your side, more often then not you’ll get the trophy, that feeling of success and the “prom queen”…(don’t know shit about completing your sentence unless I’m ready your que card)…


  3. Derek

    Momentum in sports is the feeling that what one team is doing is working and what the other team is doing is not. One team is frustrated. The other is gathering speed like a boulder going downhill.

    But it can all change and flip with one play. And flip back again.

    The 2006 UT game is one that I remember turning horribly. Up 24-6 (i think). UT has a long td drive at the end if the half. JT3 immediately throws a pick at the beginning of the third and it was over. Even TB’s ko return td couldn’t turn it for us.

    Trusting that your qb can either win the game or won’t fuck it all up is huge for the mental well being of a football team btw.

    Tom Brady’s team always seems to have momentum. They know if they can keep it within 1 score and get him the ball last, about 95% of the time its a W. If they get him the lead, he won’t give it away with a late mistake.


  4. Nil Butron is a Pud

    SECG still hurts, but I’m coming around to “it’s halftime at the 2018 Rose Bowl.” Nobody saw that 2nd half happening, but it did.

    To quote my good friend and DGD Andy Dufresne “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Russ

      I remember sitting in the Rose Bowl stands cheering when we actually made OU punt the first time. I was just hoping for a mercy killing at that point. But after that TD drive to open the second half, everyone could suddenly feel the MO.


      • Comin' Down The Track

        Every time in the 2nd half when Maker Bayfield had his back to the Redcoats blasting Dies Irae with the barking crazies in that endzone, he was legit shook… and he never got unshook. It was the Dark Arts down there.


  5. BA Baracus

    RE: Hale’s original question, I think 2 things are true at the same time: momentum is totally in your head, and momentum is absolutely real and impacts outcomes. It really is just a reflection of the collective mental states of the 2 teams — i.e. 1 team believes, collectively, that they’re going win while simultaneously the other team, collectively, is thinking, “oh, shit.” It takes tremendous psychological strength to set aside negative events in a competition and not let it impact your confidence moving forward. It’s a rare trait, that you find in elite athletes. It’s even more rare to not only have that psychological edge for yourself, but also have the ability to convey that to teammates. That’s why teams with not only exceptional players, but exceptional players who are also exceptional leaders always seem better able to weather “momentum shifts”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • 81Dog

      Just because it’s in your head, it doesn’t mean it isn’t real. 🙂

      Being in the zone is like magic. Everything feels effortless, focused, on target. It’s so perfect you don’t even want to think about, you just want to let it flow. Where does it come from? Talent, hard work, maybe a little luck. Where does it go? Nobody really knows. But while it’s coursing through you, you feel immortal.


  6. Waycross High School football, 1981. We were rolling, just running through teams. Until we played Fitzgerald. They ran over us like a, well, Purple Hurricane. Waycross went on to win the state championship. How a team handles adversity is more important than momentum. I guess we’ll see how this Georgia team handles the adversity. I think they will handle it fine.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    “In the end, he’s no closer to an answer than when he started…’
    Yes, but he said he didn’t an answer to start with – he has 100 answers from 100 people. But that what makes it a fun read.


  8. uga97

    Momentum doesn’t last long especially when refs take 10 minutes to review plays now. Or when u go up by 2 scores on Bama and they quick strike you in less than 1 min.