Luke Graham's column appears periodically in the Steamboat Today. Contact him at 970-871-4229 or lgraham@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs It's what makes Tiger Woods so great.
It's what makes Roger Federer nearly impossible to beat.
It's what made the Celtics, Lakers and Bulls dynasties of years past so good.
It is - in it's purest form - intimidation.
Yogi Berra once said, "Baseball's 90 percent mental - the other half is physical." Despite a gaff in math, Berra's right on about sports. Most professional golfers already are beaten before they play Woods. Same with the opponents for Federer, the Celtics, Lakers and Bulls.
Friday and Saturday in Grand Junction, I witnessed this phenomenon first hand.
The Steamboat Springs girls tennis team utterly intimidated the competition. It helped the Sailors have won two regional titles in a row and that they were clearly the premium cut of the competition, but the most important thing was Steamboat players didn't just want to win, they knew they were going to win.
Anytime the word "Steamboat" appeared in the bracket, the competition already had lost. Anytime a Steamboat player took the court, the opponent knew defeat was imminent.
How do I know this?
When you hear players from opposing schools sigh before they play, you know. When you see players excited they lost only 6-1, 6-0, you know. When you see players with their heads down before the match has started, you know.
But maybe the most telling sign happened Friday in Steamboat Springs junior Lisa Floyd's second round match. Floyd - who is intimidating in her own right with a stone cold game face and a heck of a tennis game to back it up - was playing against what probably was the second best player in the No. 1 singles bracket. In the end, Floyd's demeanor and swagger won the game.
Ahead, 5-3, in the second set and up, 40-15, in the game, Floyd hit a forehand winner her competitor didn't try to get to. The shot looked as if it was out and it was Floyd's opponent's call on whether the shot was in.
Instead of calling it out, her opponent put her head down and just said, "I'm done."
"My goal," Floyd said, "is to get in the finals and win a state title."
Floyd wasn't the only Sailor to beat the competition before the game even started. Every other player for Steamboat either had their opponent beat or a distinct advantage before the match started.
Credit should go to coaches Don Toy and John Aragon who have their players believing they'll win every time they take the court.
Now, with state scheduled to start Thursday, the Sailors face their toughest competition of the year.
This time they won't be the favorite with powerhouses Mullen and Cheyenne Mountain to deal with.
Still, don't tell Steamboat the team doesn't have a shot.
Like against the competition, they might just intimidate you.
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