Winning a big time championship is awfully hard. Especially these days, with all the leagues stretched so thin these days. Go ahead and throw college in there, too. Championship seasons are awfully rare, even for “powerhouse” teams. They are truly something to treasure to bask in. Which is why I can’t really understand why Peyton Manning gets such a knock against him for his playoff numbers. The fact of the matter is this is his third Super Bowl, which is pretty damned impressive without looking at what he’s done over his career. Or what defenses he’s been given to do it with.
Just the fact that Peyton Manning has won one should have been enough to quiet the doubters. I mean, out of 32 NFL teams, only 18 have even won a Super Bowl. Only twelve have won more than one. Four teams have never been to a Super Bowl at all. Just to finish out the math, that means ten teams know nothing but heartbreak in the big finale. In a sport that many term “The Ultimate Team Game,” you’re going to look at those numbers and decide that Peyton Manning doesn’t add up because he could potentially go 1-2 in Super Bowls? That’s just poor analysis.
It’s not just football, either. Basketball is also bad about this. There is more of an argument for this line of thinking in basketball, though. That is one game where one player can influence the outcome more than any other. That is probably why you see teams win multiple titles more often in the NBA than other major sports. But it’s still a bit ludicrous. Sure, Michael Jordan won six titles when he was the best player in basketball. But you have to remember, his supporting cast wasn’t too bad. Scottie Pippen was a hell of a player, too. Would the Bulls have won all those championships with Pippen as the centerpiece? No. But I’ll bet they wouldn’t have won them without his help, either. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade couldn’t win a title on their own.* Magic Johnson and Larry Bird had supporting casts that teams would die for nowadays. Yes, you may need a star to win a title in the NBA, but you still have to give him enough help if you want to win the whole thing.
*Don’t forget, Wade had Shaq for that first title in Miami.
Championships just don’t happen all that often. Even the Yankees can’t win every year. Sure, they are 27-time World Champions. That is certainly impressive. But that still means there are 82 years where they did not win. That’s good for a .329 winning percentage. And that’s for the winningest team in all of North American professional sports!* It really is hard to win a title, even when there are only 30 or so teams in a league. That’s why I just can’t wrap my head around saying guys haven’t won enough championships. Winning one should be more than impressive enough.
*Possibly European, too, but I don’t have the data on that, nor do I have any desire to try to parse that out.
I’m 27 now, and I’ve been glued to sports more or less since I got out of the womb. Actually, you could probably make the argument that it was before I was born, since my mom spent most of her pregnancy with me watching the Braves. None of the teams I would claim as my own reached a finals until 2000, when the Pacers put up a better-than-you-remember fight against the Lakers. I would have turned 14 during those finals. They haven’t been back since, though they have had some awfully close calls.* The Colts, as somewhat discussed earlier, have taken me to two Super Bowls, splitting them. They beat the Bears in 2007,** and lost to the Saints three years later. I picked up the Blackhawks later in life, which has rewarded me with two Stanley Cup appearances and wins in 2010 and 2013, both six gamers over the Flyers and Bruins respectively. That means, over all four major sports leagues, my teams have made five appearances in championships and won three of them. I consider myself pretty darned lucky, even if I’m still waiting on the Cubs and Purdue to make their big move.
*I’m expecting that to change this year. Though I was expecting that last year, too.
**Or Super Bowl XLI, because the NFL just can’t help itself with the Roman numerals.
I’m as guilty as anybody about getting too invested and too emotional when it comes to sports disappointment. I’m sure it doesn’t help when I swear three of the teams I root for are absolutely cursed (Cubs, Pacers, Purdue). But, after thinking about it for a moment, a championship season is something we should all cherish. Forget about all the talk about failing in the postseason. The fact of the matter is that failure in the post-season is the default state. It gets harder at that point, which is absolutely the point. You are expected to fail when the difficulty level gets ramped up from “toughest league in the world” to “the best of the best of the toughest league in the world.” Just because somebody is crowned a champion every season is no reason to trivialize it. It may be frustrating and maddening, but the fact that any given team succeeds at all in that environment is something that should be treated with the utmost respect and wonder at the accomplishment.