Pressure point

Will traditionalists and statheads ever agree on whether clutch exists?

Originally Published: February 19, 2014
By Peter Keating | ESPN The Magazine

peter keatingJason Schneider for ESPNThe debates over clutch are as tedious as they are endless.

NOTHING IN THE world of analytics agitates folks quite like the question of whether some athletes can turn up their game in critical situations. Traditionalists believe Tom Brady has clutch in his DNA, statheads think they can simulate clutch by crunching numbers, and frankly, I'm tired of their talking past each other. So for this column, I'm trying something different. Instead of building toward one inexorable conclusion, I'll show what we know about clutch, playing no favorites. Trust me, by the end of this, we'll find some common ground.

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.