Heather Wilhelm (here she is at NRO) is the Happy Warrior in NRODT. She quotes Thoreau approvingly, “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.” We approve too. It might be a characteristic of expertise in general and sports in particular. For the sports we are most active in, golf, handball, bridge, it rings true.
Sidebar: OK, bridge might not be be classified as a sport: “An activity involving physical exertion and skill in which an individual or team competes against another or others for entertainment.” Of the five bold words or phrases it surely meets four but would have trouble with physical exertion. On the other hand, playing 26 hands in three hours has some exertion. End Sidebar.
Expertise lies in deciding that doing the same thing and expecting different results is crazy but finding something else that isn’t crazy or desperate. It is a fine line between a calculated risk and desperation. In golf, a low percentage shot over the water is likely to be desperation in stroke play but a calculated risk in match play. In handball trying a shot as a return (the second shot of the point) might be desperation but on the 14th shot when both players are tired it could be a good risk. Bridge with its long events almost always rewards avoiding desperation. Wisdom is knowing that a bottom score is a bottom score. We are on board with avoiding desperation.