I disagree with this statement. I feel that in sports photography is capturing the action.
I think we're on a similar page, but I may not have been clear. IMO, sports photography is about capturing the action and emotion.
Good sports shooting isn't done by watching the game, seeing the play and taking the photo. It's done by knowing the game and planning. For instance, let's say the team you're shooting gets down inside the 10 yard line. You could pick a spot and react to the action, or you could understand the type of team it is: are they a power running team (probably up the middle) - speed running team , option team or have a stud tight end. Knowing these things and planning ahead and picking your location and your subject all add up to some much better keepers in the end. Just like knowing which receivers to follow. Or in baseball, deciding to ignore the batter and focus on the runner at first because he's likely to try a steal. If you plan for it, you'll likely get the shot. If you just react to it happening you'll likely miss the shot.
Planning leads to capturing the peak action and crisp shots. Reacting typically leads to misfocus and 'a second too late' shots. Absolutely you need to be able to react because you never know what is going to happen. And, sometimes sitting on a particular thing (like following a receiver or following the baserunner if you think he's going to steal) doesn't pay off. But the odds are in your favor that if you plan you'll end up with better shots in the end. You may have FEWER shots but they'll be of a higher quality.
Much of this is do, IMO, to your field of view as a person. To get good action shots you need to be close to the field of play. The guy in the stands can see a larger portion of the field than you can so he sees both the QB and the receivers at the same time - you can't. Hesees both the batter and the baserunner at the same time - you can't. So, if you rely on just "sensing" the action and reacting rather than predicting it and positioning yourself to capture it you'll either be off in your timing or have the wrong angle to make it a good shot.
Again, it comes down to priorities: do you want 10 OK shots or 1 great one? Not saying there's one right answer. In my experience, most of those 'WOW' photos come because you correctly anticipated the action. And, a 'Wow' photo could very easily be something other than the primary ball handler in a given sport.
A guy I shot football with last year used to post about 350 shots from a game. He was competent to have the shots in focus, but many were boring - timing was off, angles were bad. Simply because he watched and when he saw something interesting he took photos - and a lot of them. He didn't position himself in an advantagious spot, he didn't get low and he didn't anticipate - he just reacted.
So yes, I agree it's about the action - and the emotion (that's very important) my only point was in most sports you need to anticipate and, if you have a specific type of shot in mind you can be the most prepared for it. Just like a nature photographer doesn't just walk around until he sees the "perfect shot" as it's happening. More often than not those successful shots are planned. He/she has a vision and determines what is the likely time/place for his vision and reality to meet. Then he positions himself there with the right setup and gets the shot he envisioned.
Again, it's a matter of goals. If your goal is simply to get the 8 keepers you need to submit to an editor you really might not care - after all they might not want the shot you spent half the game trying to get.
But if you take Dunner's approach and dedicate a half to getting that perfect check shot, you end up with a truly great shot and you still have another half to get whatever action comes along.
Good discussion by the way.