The HBO smash-hit TV show Game of Thrones ended earlier this week. Even if you don’t watch the show you probably are aware that the final season was not exactly celebrated by fans. In fact, season eight was the only season of Game of Thrones to receive a lower than 90% composite score on review aggregating site Rotten Tomatoes. Only a single episode in the entire seven-season run prior to this had been deemed “Rotten”. This season saw half the episodes reach that mark for a composite total of 58% positive.
Why do I bring this up? Prior to the season even airing Jon Snow actor Kit Harington declared during an interview that he didn’t care for people who criticized the show.
“How I feel about the show right now is quite defiant,” he told Esquire. “I think no matter what anyone thinks about this season – and I don’t mean to sound mean about critics here – but whatever critic spends half an hour writing about this season and makes their [negative] judgement on it, in my head they can go f**k themselves,” he said.
”Because I know how much work was put into this. I know how much people cared about this.
Sophie Turner, the actor who played Sansa Stark, declared that people who disliked the show were “disrespectful” in a separate interview after the season for similar reasons.
“So many people worked so, so hard on it, and for people to just rubbish it because it’s not what they want to see is just disrespectful,” she said.
There is an interesting phenomenon at play here that goes beyond Game of Thrones. There seems to be an idea that hard work equals success. People assume that if you are working hard you will be successful, if you are successful it is because you worked hard, and conversely if you fail that you must not have worked hard enough. While success is often derived from hard work there seems to be a misconception that just because a person works hard they will meet - or have met - with success.
I hope, once this subject is removed from the darkness of our unspoken assumptions, that we can all admit this is hogwash. Success at the highest levels of any endeavor often does require hard work. But people work extremely hard and fail all the time. Still this perception continues among many people.
As the Royals struggled last year some in the front office questioned whether Ned Yost had “the same fire” he had had before. When Alex Gordon struggled after signing the largest contract in franchise history the internet was full of #hottaeks about how he maybe wasn’t really trying anymore. This, of course, isn’t unique to Alex Gordon. It happens to almost every baseball player who fails more than fans are willing to accept. And what they’re willing to accept varies based on the overall quality of the team. Which is to say that Alcides Escobar’s struggles as a baseball player were largely ignored while the team was playing well but became a focal point of complaint when the team began to perform poorly, again.
The reality is that it’s likely pointless for those of us on the outside to question the work ethic of the players or coaches. We aren’t in a position to see how hard they’re working, just what the results are. It’s up to their managers and bosses to ensure they’re working hard enough, just as it for those of us in more mundane jobs, and just because the results aren’t good doesn’t mean they aren’t trying their absolute hardest. There are more valid questions to ask such as, “Does a particular player achieve results to the degree that justify continuing to employ him on a major league baseball team?” or, “Is there anyone we should expect to produce significantly better results than this player who could be obtained easily by the team?”
It’s silly of the Game of Thrones actors to insist that because they worked hard people shouldn’t be critical of their results. But it’s equally silly of fans to question the work ethics of the people on a TV show or on a baseball team. Just because they’re not producing as well as we hoped doesn’t mean they aren’t trying their hardest and we need to remember to judge the results, not the effort.