“My motivation is this ghost I’m chasing. The ghost played in Chicago.”
LeBron James has, in one sense, done the impossible. He has made the GOAT discussion a national discussion. If the greatness of Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Bill Russell, et. al., wasn’t enough to keep Jordan from being the consensus choice among knowledgeable NBA fans, I didn’t think anyone ever could. But according to what I read on sports media and Twitter, the discussion is real. It’s happening right now. REO’s very own Michael Lytle dealt with it back in June.
My take will be distinct from Mike’s, even if my conclusion is the same. Let me be absolutely clear about one thing from the outset: I am going to broach this with my opinion about how the debate is viewed nationally, NOT what my opinion is. I’ve already written about it before and it is that Larry Bird is the greatest. I do have an opinion on these two players and where they rank, but I think it will be more beneficial at this point to see it through the eyes of the nation at large and not just my own.
There is one huge reason why I think LeBron, given his age and time left to play, will almost certainly not catch Jordan in the public eye. Before I get to it, let me comment on how funny it is to observe debate when you have no horse in the race. I do not love nor hate LBJ or MJ and can see it more objectively. And this is common:
Dude 1: LeBron never lost in the 1st round.
Dude 2: Yeah, but he didn’t have to play the 86 Celtics.
(same two people later)
Dude 2: Jordan never lost in the Finals.
Dude 1: Yeah, but he never had to play the 16 Warriors.
But my main point isn’t to make these types of claims but to speak to something that absolutely matters to the USA public conscience, more than anything else when it comes to sports: What is the perception of the athlete when it comes to the Championship game or round? And in this area, Michael is so far ahead of James I don’t know if he can catch him.
Note that I am NOT saying that Jordan is better than LeBron because 6 > 3. Mike dealt with that and dismissed it completely. Neither is it the brother of that argument that Jordan was 6-0 and LeBron is 3-6 in the NBA Finals.
What I am speaking to is a bit different.
You see, Michael Jeffrey Jordan didn’t just win six championships and go 6-0 while doing it. MJ dominated those series at times and, more importantly for my point here, he left us with lasting images of how he dominated. That, in my opinion, is the biggest reason Michael Jordan remains a ghost that cannot be caught.
What do I mean exactly? Well, for one, can you see in your mind’s eye Jordan being assisted off the court by Scottie Pippen after making a crucial shot at the end of Game 5 in the 1997 Finals? How many times have you seen the highlight of Jordan shrugging after making his 6th first half three in Game 1 vs. Portland in 1992? Or of him switching hands on a layup vs. the Lakers in 1991, complete with Marv Albert saying “A spectacular move!”?
Beyond these iconic images that manifested how Jordan saved his best plays for the Finals, Michael Jordan did something twice that LeBron has never done: he made a game-winning shot in the final seconds of a Finals game. Almost any NBA fan knows he made the series clincher vs. Utah in 1998, his last game ever with Chicago. But true fans know he did the same thing in Game 1 vs. Utah in 1997. The former is also an image and one that is burned in the brain of people like me, in huge part because he posed after he shot it. Though I do remember him pumping his fist after the latter shot as well, that image will never compare to one in 98.
There is little doubt that for most of these moments, MJ’s image-producing highlight swings the game and possibly the series. If he doesn’t score every one of those 38 points in the Flulike Symptoms Game, Chicago likely doesn’t win. If he misses that jumper over Russell in 98, they probably have to go to Game 7. If he doesn’t demoralize Portland in Game 1 that year, maybe Chicago doesn’t win in six. But what I’m communicating is that these truths aren’t nearly as important as the images themselves. People’s memories tell them Jordan was incredible and whether or not those moments were crucial sort of takes a backseat. I mean why is the image of him switching hands more famous than the buzzer beater to win Game 1 in 97?
LeBron just does not have this in his arsenal. He has the block vs. Golden State in 2016 and that’s about it. Most other images people have of LeBron in the Finals are negative: the grimace and pointing at JR Smith last year, playing hot potato vs. Dallas in 2011, etc. Remember, I’m not saying this is fair. You can bring out all sorts of stats and facts and data to convince people that LeBron is more clutch than Jordan (and he has made more shots in the playoffs late in games to put his team ahead than Jordan did and has made them at a higher percentage) but for people over 30, generally speaking, it won’t matter as much as the images. That is the disease of the video age.
James has a chance with this next generation who grew up with Twitter more than with highlight videos. But in my humble opinion it will be a while before he catches him, probably long after I’m dead. Unless before he retires, he produces a plethora of Finals-defining images that can compete with Jordan. Which seems doubtful.
And so the ghost remains out of reach.
Five Sports’ Moments We Wish We Could Experience for the First Time
Not every sporting event is an instant classic. Most have their share of good and bad moments. A few are filled with so much bad that we wish we could forever wipe them from our memories. But then there are those special games, those special moments that keep us coming back again and again. The championship won on a last shot. The huge play that completely turned the game around. These games and moments become a part of us. Those memories will always be there but every now and then, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could relive them for the first time? Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could somehow go back in time and experience the excitement, tension, and overwhelming joy all over again? If we did have that ability, these are a few of the games and moments we would like to see again…for the first time.
March 28, 1992 Duke vs. Kentucky
by Steve Lytle
My most memorable basketball game, and probably the most memorable sports event for me was Duke-Kentucky, March 28, 1992. I was traveling for the Mission (Free Will Baptist International Missions), and staying with a pastor in the mountains of Western North Carolina, probably less than 30 miles from Johnson City, Tennessee. The pastor and his wife graciously allowed me to watch the game, even as we conversed and fellowshipped. I knew my boys were watching it in Kingsport, TN where we lived that year home from Panama on stateside assignment.
Wilkipedia sums up the game like this: The 1992 NCAA Tournament was highlighted by a game between Duke and Kentucky in the East Regional Final to determine the final spot in the Final Four. With 2.1 seconds remaining in overtime, defending national champion Duke trailed 103–102. Grant Hill threw a pass the length of the court to Christian Laettner, who faked right, dribbled once, turned, and hit a jumper as time expired for the 104–103 win. In 2004 Sports Illustrated deemed it the greatest college basketball game of all time, and ESPN included it as number 17 on its list of top 100 sports moments of the past 25 years (see ESPN25). It is ranked number one on the list of the greatest NCAA tournament games of all time compiled by USA Today in 2002.
The game had everything: drama, history (two of the most storied schools in the history of NCAA basketball), importance (the right to go to the Final Four), great coaches (Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino), and a huge television audience. I don’t think there has ever been a more dramatic ending. (NC State – Houston, 1983 when Lorenzo Charles dunked the winning basket against the highly favored Cougars comes close; I jumped up and broke a couch in Panama that day!) My reaction in the Duke-Kentucky had to be subdued; I was a guest, they weren’t basketball fans, it was late, but I immediately went to where the landline phone was and called my boys! They had had to celebrate in silence as well; Judy was in bed with a migraine!
It had everything: an underdog KY team that played well throughout, featuring 4 players who had hung in even though the school had just come off academic probation, and future NBA star Jamal Mashburn. Duke had outstanding point guard Bobby Hurley, the great Grant Hill, and Christian Laettner. Laettner would go on to the NBA where his game didn’t quite translate to all-star status at that level (only once in his career), but at the college level he was versatile, intelligent, talented, and dominant. In this game for all time, he scored 31 points, shooting 10-10 from the field, and 10-10 from the free throw line.
In short, one of the most entertaining games ever, and one of the most emotional, but neither my sons or I could express our emotions!
The fact this was ten years ago is as good an example of any of how fast time flies because it feels like it was yesterday. The buzz around Michael Phelps potentially winning 8 golds was electric. We had seen this type of buzz in years prior with people failing to do it [1.I’m thinking of Matt Biondi in 1988, though let it be noted that he still had an incredible Olympics, and earned a mention in the book Emotional Intelligence for his grit in coming back to win 5 golds after he failed to win his first couple of events.]. And when you have events where you have to rely on others to help you win, as Phelps did for a couple of relay races that year, it makes it even more tenuous.
The one of the 8 that I will never ever forget was one of those relays, the 4×100 freestyle. Phelps swam the lead leg and did his part by setting an American record for 100 meters in the freestyle and putting the U.S. in first. But by the last leg, Jason Lezak found himself more than half a body length behind Frenchman Alain Bernard in the last half of the last lap. I remember thinking, “It’s over. He’s not going to get to 8.” I knew very little about swimming races but it seemed obvious that it was too big a deficit to overcome. I was devastated for Phelps and our country. A repeat of 1988 was unfolding before our eyes.
But then, like a superhero moment in a movie, Lezak began to catch him. Yet time and distance were running out. He couldn’t do it, could he? Swimming like they both were on fire, they rapidly approached the wall and touched it. It looked live like Lezak won by a finger tip, or maybe a fingernail. There was a second of anticipation for the official result…and he did it! He came from behind and won! I jumped around my apartment like a maniac, high-fiving and hugging people without a trace of inhibition. The official margin was .08 seconds. But Phelps earned his 2nd gold and kept the dream of 8 alive.
We love the Olympics for a million reasons and endings like this one are one of them. Phelps’ 8 golds were not won in a vacuum. They were won with the help of teammates and that makes it feel like the were won by the whole nation.
Click the image above to watch the video of the race.
Vince Young’s 99 yard Walk Off Drive
by Phill Lytle
2009 is not a season that most Titans’ fans remember fondly. The team finished the season 8-8. (A Jeff Fisher team finished 8-8? Whaaaaa?!?) Let’s back up a bit to understand why that 8-8 finish was so disappointing.
The Tennessee Titans were one of the best teams in the NFL in 2008, finishing with a 13-3 record. They started that season 10-0. They lost in the playoffs to the eventual Super Bowl champs – the Baltimore Ravens. After a depressing early exit from the post-season, every Titans’ fan just knew that 2009 was going to be another chance to watch their team make a run for a championship. Things worked out a little differently.
The Titans opened the season by losing their first 6 games. They lost their sixth straight game, falling to the New England Patriots 59-0. Yes, 59 to ZERO. Starting QB Kerry Collins was benched and Vince Young replaced him. What happened after that further solidified Young’s place as one of the most enigmatic and confounding players to ever step on the field.
The Titans proceeded to reel off four straight wins. On November 29th, they faced the Matt Leinart led Arizona Cardinals. The game itself was nothing spectacular. It was two mediocre teams playing mostly mediocre football. But the final minute of the game was the stuff legends are made of.
With a little over two minutes to play and no timeouts, Vince Young led the Titans on a completely improbable 99 yard drive. (They needed a touchdown to win the game. A field goal would have done them no good.) Young ran, threw, and willed his team down the field, getting a little help by one favorable bounce, and converting multiple fourth down throws. Finally, with seconds left, on 4th down from the ten yard line, Young, scrambled around hoping to find an open receiver, spotted Kenny Britt racing across the back of the end zone. Young threw the ball to an open spot and Britt flew through the air to make the catch.
I sat there in disbelief. While Young’s professional career was never as good as people hoped, it was moments like this that proved that when the moment called for it, he seemed to come up with just the right play. To this day, it is one of the best performances I have ever seen and I would love to sit down and see it again for the first time.
Jadaveon Clowney’s Hit vs. Michigan in the 2013 Outback Bowl
by Gowdy Cannon
South Carolina football has fallen on mediocre times recently, right where the program was for most of my life pre-Steve Spurrier. But for several years earlier this decade, the Gamecocks were a Top 10 team. The highlight of the run was a hit that got replayed over and over on sports highlight shows and to this day still fills people with a sense of awe.
The Gamecocks were battling the Wolverines in a January 1st Bowl in Tampa, FL. Ahead 22-21 midway through the 4th quarter, Michigan faked a punt but appeared to fail to convert the first down. A measurement seemed to confirm this—they were 2-3 chain lengths short. But the officials awarded the first down to Michigan, despite screams of protests from Spurrier.
The very next play it happened. Taylor Lewan had shut the All-American Clowney down all afternoon. But somehow someone missed a block on this play and as soon as Michigan QB Devin Garnder handed the ball Vincent Smith, Clowney was right there to blow him up, knocking his helmet off and forcing a fumble which he himself recovered. It was a play that earned the Gamecocks justice but also just looked incredible as it unfolded, like this monster defensive end took matters into his own hands and would not be denied. Clowney may as well have been Chuck Norris for that moment.
I was at the game with my brothers and dad and were behind the play in the end zone. I would not trade seeing it live for anything but if I could watch it for the first time again I would love to see it from the 50 yard line or on TV because seeing it from left to right shows how visually spectacular it was.
2014 NBA Finals
by Phill Lytle
Sometimes I feel like I am more defined by which teams I hate than the teams I love. Mainly, because the teams I hate win a lot. The Chicago Bulls. The New England Patriots. 2014 provided a wonderful convergence between the team I hated the most in the NBA at that time – the Miami Heat – and my favorite basketball team of the last 15 years or so – the San Antonio Spurs. The previous year, the Heat had made an impressive (and annoying) comeback and defeated the Spurs for the NBA championship. 2014 had no time for comebacks or heroics by the Heat. The Spurs put on a clinic, winning the series 4 games to 1. Every win for the Spurs was a blowout. To the casual fan, I’m sure it was not a very interesting series. To me, it was impossible to stop smiling as I watched my favorite team completely dismantle LeBron James and his band of front-running losers. Watching Kawhi Leonard win the Finals MVP while his team celebrated was the perfect conclusion to a perfect series. There are few times in my life as a sports’ fan that have brought me more happiness. I could live in that moment again and again.
Those are ours. What about you? What sports’ moment do you wish you could see again for the first time? What game, play, or even series would you want to relive? Let us know in the comment section below. And please, if you enjoy this or any other of our articles, share them with your friends on social media. We are entirely dependent on word of mouth for advertising.
Five Sports-Related Words and Phrases That Need to Go Away
Outside of church, there is probably no area in life that has more phrases, terminology, idioms, or figures of speech that get overused more than the world of sports. In almost every sporting event, an announcer, coach, or player will say something that we just accept even though it really makes very little sense. We need to stop accepting these things. We will begin the great purge with these five major offenders.
“In his wheelhouse.”
What is a wheelhouse? Why is it a good thing that something be in a wheelhouse? Baseball was the first sport to run with this phrase and we are all dumber for it. Originally, a wheelhouse was a boating term for the part of a boat or ship serving as a shelter for the person at the wheel. It has since become a way to show expertise in an area or something in which someone excels.
Why? Who was the first person to see an athlete performing at the top of their game and think to themselves, “Such and such skill is in his wheelhouse”? I would like to have a few words with that forward thinker.
Maybe I’m weird, but when I hear the word “wheelhouse,” I think of a house full of wheels. A house to store wheels of various sizes and purposes. I’m not sensing any real expertise here. Most people that I know that would have a house full of wheels are not experts at anything.
Or I think of a house that is a literal “wheel house.” Still not getting any expertise from this phrase.
“They ran into a buzzsaw.”
You hear this all the time from commentators when one team is completely overmatched by their opponent. “They ran into a buzzsaw.” First, that sounds unbelievably painful. Second, who is dumb enough to actually run into a buzzsaw? Finally, is this a common enough occurrence that an entire phrase has been built around it? Are there thousands of poor souls out there that have literally run into buzzsaws, thereby giving us this visually striking phrase?
More from REO!
“We went out there and gave 110%.”
No. You didn’t. If we are being as literal as possible, you probably didn’t even give close to 100% either. Even if you are one of those athletes that go “all out”, you are most likely still holding a small amount in reserve because you would collapse in complete exhaustion if you actually gave 100% of your effort each play. Of course, there are the nerds out there that will site baselines, 800% growth in certain markets, and things like that to prove that athletes that say this know exactly what they are talking about. I guarantee that the athletes that say this are not thinking about those things at all – instead they are trying to pick a number greater than 100 to show how hard they played. I get it and I don’t hold it against them too much, but they could and should find better ways of describing their effort instead of this worn out phrase.
Below, you will see The Effort Chart. It is a comprehensive analysis that has taken years of research, time, and not ironically, effort, to put together. It is self-explanatory.
As you can see from the chart above, there is nowhere else to go after 100%. What you may not notice is the detail included in this chart. Based on the mountains of data we had to sort through to develop it, it is necessary to magnify it nearly 500% to truly appreciate the full extent of our findings. That line below the 100% Effort is not actually a line. It is an invisible barrier that cannot be crossed. It is literally impossible to give effort above 100%. As you can see below, the line is formed by those attempting to expend more than 100% effort.
“There is no “I” in team.”
I get it. I really do. When coaches or players use this worn out phrase, they are making a point about how important teamwork is. I just wish we had smarter ways of making that point. First, it is true that there is no “I” in the word team. Conversely, there are 21 other letters that don’t make an appearance in the word team. It’s not like the word “team” is just full of letters and the “I” got left out because it was being a jerk. There are a lot of words without the letter “I.” In fact, most words don’t have “I” in them. Why are we picking on “I” anyway? “I” is a great letter. I have two “I’s” in my name.
And if we are being really specific here, a team is made up of a bunch of individual players. So, technically, there are a bunch of “I’s” on any given team. “I’s” that are hopefully working together for a common goal. Without those “I’s” there is no team. Stew on that!
I’ve saved the worst for last. Discussions about the greatest athlete of all time are ubiquitous. We’ve had a few of those ourselves at REO. I have no issue with the conversation or even the title, “Greatest of All Time.” But can we promise to each other, swear in the most sacred words we can summon, to never again use the term “G.O.A.T.”? The best at anything should not be associated with goats.
This is a goat.
This is another goat.
This is not a goat. It’s a rabbit. And Michael Jordan.
To make matters worse, we used to use the term “goat” to describe someone that blew the game for his team – someone that failed. When did we decide that it was okay to change that? Did I miss the vote on this because I am not okay with it at all. Michael Jordan might be the greatest of all time. Tom Brady might be the greatest of all time. Neither is the G.O.A.T. because that sounds dumb. Let’s stop being dumb.
So there they are. These might not be the worst phrases out there. There are probably many others that I could have written about. I picked these five because they annoy me the most. I would love to hear what some of your least favorite sports-related phrases are. Tell us about them in the comment section below.
Jurrell Casey Has the Right to Protest and Tennessee Titans’ Fans Have the Right to Make Fools of Themselves
During an interview in London, at an NFL sponsored event, Tennessee Titans’ defensive lineman, Jurrell Casey, made some controversial statements regarding the new NFL anthem protest policy. “I’m going to take a fine this year, why not? I’m going to protest during the flag. That’s what I’m going to say now.” He further commented that he will continue to protest just as he has for the last few seasons – by standing for the anthem and then raising his fist as the anthem ends. He chose this protest because he did not want to disrespect the flag, anthem, or military.
Evidently, that is not enough for a certain segment of the Tennessee Titans’ fan-base. Social media blew up last night in Titans’ land. Some fans want him cut from the team. Some fans are announcing that if he goes through with this they will no longer support the team.
Conservative talk radio in Nashville has been just as over-the-top in its response. Popular radio Host Phil Valentine tweeted out that if Casey, or “bozo” as he decided to label him, carries out this protest, then he is done with the team. On Nashville Morning News with Brian Wilson, caller after caller lambasted Casey for his disrespect to the flag, anthem, and everything we hold dear.
The problem with all of this should be obvious to anyone paying any attention at all. Granted, paying attention is difficult for some. Nearly every person that I heard call in the radio show this morning was angry that Casey was going to kneel for the anthem. He is not. He stands for the anthem. He stands because he “wanted to be respectful.” He stands and when the anthem ends, he raises one fist in the air. He will continue doing just that. Clearly, that part of his statement and his track record has escaped many Titans’ fans (and radio personalities).
Even worse, many of the callers took cheap shots at the way Casey spoke, with not-so-subtle shades of bigotry and even racism. Look, I am loathe to accuse anyone of being a racist. I think that accusation is hurled about way too often in our society. Sadly, what I heard today reinforced in my mind that it plays a role in this debate. Casey did not choose his words perfectly. It was clearly off-the-cuff and not a prepared statement, and when one speaks that way, there is a tendency to say things less clearly than intended. I won’t say he misspoke, but his message was not delivered as concisely and effectively as it could have been. I am willing to give him a pass on this due to everything he has done in his career and the man he has shown himself to be. Casey’s actions in the past, his off-the field actions, and his overall track-record of integrity should inform everyone of what his intentions truly are.
There were also the cries from fans about how Casey is making nearly $15 million a season to play a game and he should be grateful for that and just shut up, stand up, and play football. It’s amazing to me that those who are ostensibly the most pro-capitalism people in the world would begrudge athletes for making millions in what is one of the most capitalist ventures in the world. Mocking NFL players because they make a lot of money is about the most self-defeating argument available to the conservative capitalist. Playing a sport for a living does not mean you lose your rights to speak your mind.
I have gone on record on my feelings about the anthem protests. You can read those here. To sum up my views: while I agree that players have the right to protest, choosing to do so during the anthem is not productive. It paints them as villains and unpatriotic to too many people. Coupled with the fact that Colin Kaepernick, the player who started all this anthem protest discussion, made incredibly negative comments about the flag after his early protests and from that point on, many fans were going to view any anthem protests in the same light. This remains an incredibly complex and difficult topic. Unfortunately, the loudest voices seem to be doing their best to reduce it to the level where you are forced to pick one of two sides – and both sides are flawed and their arguments are problematic. Frankly, that is irrelevant to this Casey/Tennessee Titans situation. Casey is not disrespecting the flag or anthem. He stands and shows respect during the anthem. His protest is the best possible version of any of these protests because he is still able to express his opinion but he is doing it in a way that cannot be perceived as a slight to the country, the military, the flag, or the anthem. Well, it can be perceived that way, but only by people that are either ignorant or willfully deceptive. Neither of those options are good.
Titans’ fans, be smart. Look at Casey’s career. He has been a model citizen, on and off the field. He has been involved in the community. He has done nothing to deserve mockery or attacks. These types of responses make the fan-base look stupid. They drive a further wedge between players that feel that there are injustices in the country that need to be addressed and the fans that cheer on the team who feel the matter is overblown. As fans, we need to be better than this.
The Great Debate: Jordan vs. LeBron
James or Jordan? LeBron or Michael? LBJ or MJ? This topic has been debated to death on talk radio, on podcasts, and in print. Michal Jordan is considered by many to be the best basketball player of all time. LeBron is the one current player who some think could challenge MJ for G.O.A.T. status. I believe the debate itself is a bit short-sighted since it completely dismisses other all-time greats like Kareem, Bird, Magic, Russell, and Chamberlain. Each of the guys mentioned in the last sentence, as well as MJ and LeBron, could lay claim to best-ever status. They all have countless great moments and statistical accomplishments that would bolster their case. They also have minor flaws that we could point out if we wanted to get nitpicky.
The Time Is Right
This article is about LeBron and Jordan though, and I think now is the right time to compare them. They both completed 15 seasons in the NBA so LeBron is at the same place in his career as Jordan was at his third and final retirement. They have each had 15 chances to win a championship, be the MVP, be an all-star, lead the league in scoring, or do whatever else great players do during the course of their career.
Let’s Keep It Real
I will do my best to lay out the case for each guy and point out any factors that I think are important in this discussion. I have been watching basketball since 1982 so I have been a witness to both of their careers in their entirety. I can’t stand hot takes so you won’t find any here. If you are looking for an article that takes an EXTREME position or ignores all facts that go against a predetermined narrative you are in the wrong place. There are plenty of “experts” on Facebook and Twitter (not to mention Fox Sports, ESPN, or sports talk radio) that can provide that for you. I will also attempt to avoid any recency bias and getting swept up with what is happening now while forgetting about the past. That is never a good thing and too many are guilty of it. At the same time, I am not a “get off my lawn” type person. We tend to idealize the past and overlook its flaws. The sport of basketball did not magically peak in 1986 and then go downhill from there. So if you are looking for someone who will say that everything and everybody was better in the 1980s you need to keep looking.
With that out of the way, let the comparison begin.
Rings Matter, But They Don’t Tell the Whole Story
The more simple-minded among us would say that Jordan won six titles and LeBron won three, therefore Jordan is better. Case closed. It should be obvious that this is a very incomplete way to judge greatness in a team sport. Bill Russell won 11 titles. He is clearly the greatest if all we are doing is counting championships. Some may argue that Russell played in a different era so it is not fair to include him in this discussion. Robert Horry (a contemporary of both James and Jordan) won seven titles. I guess that makes him the greatest player of the modern (post-merger) era. No, no it doesn’t. Titles are important and are definitely part of the equation, but they should NEVER be the single overriding factor when determining individual greatness in a team sport. This is not golf or tennis so let’s stop pretending that it is.
Others argue that the fact that MJ was 6-0 in his finals appearances while James was 3-6 should settle the argument. This group is even dumber than the “championship counters” discussed in the previous paragraph. On what planet is making the championship round of your sport and losing somehow a lesser accomplishment than not making it at all? Continuing this flawed line of thinking it is better to be swept in the first round of the playoffs (in order to preserve a perfect finals record) than to lose in game 7 of the finals! This makes absolutely no sense and I reject it out of hand.
You Play To Win the Game!
Winning does matter though, and great individual players in a sport like basketball should contribute to their team’s success. To that end and because so many people are confused by this issue I have developed a simple scoring system to help inform our thinking on these types of debates. I call it the REO Winning Scale™. Jordan and LeBron are the ideal candidates to compare because they were both undeniably great and because both played 15 seasons (to this point). They also played their entire careers with a four-round playoff format which was introduced in the 1983-1984 season. Here is how the system works:
A player is awarded points for how far his team advances in the playoffs each season. Missing the playoffs altogether is worth zero points. In the NBA where 53.3% (this % was higher when Jordan played because there were fewer teams) of teams make the playoffs it is not a great accomplishment simply to make the postseason, so for a great player to miss out altogether is something of a failure. Losing in the first round is worth 1 point. Losing in the second round is worth 2 points. Losing in the conference finals is worth 3 points. Losing in the finals is worth 4 points. Finally, winning the title is worth 6 points. Titles do matter so a bonus point is awarded for that accomplishment.
Let’s see how each player did in his career. First up is Jordan:
Let’s look at James now:
By this measure, LeBron has a slight edge in terms of his impact on his team winning over the years. His REO Winning Scale™ point totals will only go up as his career continues since he appears to not be slowing down or conceding anything to age. We must also acknowledge that Jordan retired briefly during his absolute peak and retired again at the very end of his prime. Those lost seasons would have almost certainly produced more playoff success and possibly even more titles.
Another factor to consider is that each of these players played in at least two different eras of basketball. Jordan entered the league when scoring was high and the pace of play was fast. His rookie year the average NBA team scored 110.8 points per game. That season (1984-85) every single team in the league averaged over 100 points per game. By the time he retired the game had slowed down considerably and become more physical. Scoring was way down across the league. During his final season with the Bulls league-wide scoring was at 95.6 points per game and his final season with the Wizards saw scoring drop to 95.1 per game. LeBron came into a very slow paced and physical league, but the pace of play has increased dramatically in the last decade and scoring has as well. Watching a game from LeBron’s rookie year compared to a game now is almost like watching a different sport. LeBron’s rooking year saw team scoring at a near-record low of 93.4 points per game (the second lowest total in 60 years!). There were only two teams in the entire league that averaged over 100 points per game and four teams averaged less than 90. This season scoring reached a nearly 30 year high of 106.3 points per game.
We should also note that when Jordan played hard fouls were not discouraged the way they are now so players were physically more beat up. On the other hand, Jordan never had to deal with constant switching on defense or with zone defenses which were illegal at the time. LeBron has faced legal zones and much more sophisticated analytic based defenses for his entire career. I say all that to point out that one guy did not “have it easy” while the other had to “work for everything he got.” Those who say such things are either very biased or willfully ignorant.
Competition Is Fierce, Until It Isn’t
This analysis would be incomplete if we didn’t compare the level of competition. Jordan entered a very deep and stacked league. With a 16 team playoff field in a 23 team league it was easier to make the playoffs then, but harder to advance. For this reason, MJ went 1-9 in his first 10 playoff games and lost three series before he ever won one. As his career went on and his teammates got better he started winning more. The arrival of Jordan’s prime coincided with the decline of the Lakers, Celtics, and Pistons dynasties that dominated the early part of his career. As those teams and players got older the Bulls took advantage. The league also expanded very rapidly in the late 80s and early 90s going from 23 to 29 teams. The talent pool was spread out and the league was watered down. In addition, many young players were going off the rails as the absence of a salary cap for rookies killed the incentive to get better. The mid-90s through early 2000s when Jordan did much of his winning was not a good time for the NBA in terms of style or quality of play. Jordan’s Bulls were the primary beneficiaries of these events.
LeBron never was able to take advantage of excessive expansion as only one new team has been added in the last 20 plus years. He also played during the massive influx of excellent international players that was just getting started when MJ played. These international players increased the depth and level of competition around the league. Perhaps the biggest thing working against LeBron is that he had the misfortune of playing the latter part of his prime during the Warriors dynasty. He was able to beat them once in the finals, but one team with four of the top 20 players in the league is unheard of and considerably more difficult than anything Jordan ever faced in the finals. One benefit for LeBron is that he has been aided by playing in the weaker conference for his entire career so making repeated trips to the finals has been easier for him that it was for MJ.
Another way of to look at this is that Jordan faced tougher competition on his way to the finals, while LeBron has faced tougher competition in the finals. This would help explain why one guy has more finals appearances, but the other has more finals victories.
Numbers Never Lie, But Do They Settle Anything?
I haven’t spent a lot of time on individual stats because I don’t think we will find any answers there. Look at these regular season numbers and you will see what I mean:
In most categories, both guys got better in the postseason, which is not always the case even for all-star players. Their improved playoff statistics are just another testament to their greatness. Here are those numbers:
Jordan was a better scorer. LeBron a better rebounder and passer. This is true both in the regular and postseason. As he ages, LeBron’s per game numbers will almost certainly go down (assuming he is human) while his name will climb higher on the all-time record book. After 15 seasons each though, the statistics for both the regular season and playoffs are incredibly close.
Haters Gonna Hate
As we wrap up this article I should be forthcoming and admit that I never really rooted for either guy. I was never a Jordan fan during his career. While I did root for him to finally win a title when they played the Lakers in 1991 (a lot of that was due to how much I hated the Lakers), I did not enjoy seeing him win throughout the 90s. I have never rooted for LeBron in any of his 9 trips to the finals. I don’t hate his teams nearly as much as I did Jordan’s Bulls, but I have always pulled for whoever his opponent was. I do recognize that both are all-time great players, so hopefully, my lack of fandom for either player will make me unbiased in this analysis.
Are We There Yet?
So where does this leave us? Each guy had a similar impact on their team winning as evidenced by their REO Winning Scale™ scores. Both guys dealt with and conquered whatever the league threw at them in terms of style of play, pace of play, defensive rules, and physicality. They were both beneficiaries of certain peculiarities that were happening in the NBA during their careers, but they also had some bad luck in running up against all-time great teams that prevented them from winning as much as they could have otherwise.
My take is that at his peak Jordan is still the slightly better player. His ability to seize the moment and his more consistent shooting touch gives him the edge. It also helps that he has no black marks on his resume like James has from the 2010 and 2011 playoffs. Even when Jordan lost in a playoff series he still played well.
LeBron doesn’t seem to be slowing down one bit though. He is now 33 years old and has been playing a full NBA schedule since he jumped straight from high school 15 years ago. Somehow he seems to be getting better as he ages. If he can continue to put up comparable numbers to what he has done so far in his career and make a couple more title runs this debate will need to be revisited.
Five More Sports Movies We Love
The best movies tell unforgettable stories and introduce us to legendary characters and performances. So it is no surprise that in a culture obsessed with sports, some of the best films of all time are about them. Sports prove that truth is indeed better than fiction quite often–you will notice below and on any list of sports movies how many are based on or inspired by true stories. Movies, for their part, make us interested in sports we as Americans often are not obsessed with, like boxing, karate and hockey. The two together have given us exceptional entertainment.
Today our staff discusses five more sports films that we love. You can read our first article in this series here. This is not a Top Five list; just five selections that impacted us deeply…as sports fans (most of us), moviegoers and human beings that love to be inspired.
Remember the Titans by Phill Lytle
Maybe this one is too obvious. I’m not sure that matters that much to me. I love this movie. I love the story – even if the filmmakers took liberties in telling it. I love the performances, with Denzel doing what he does best, the young cast of football players/students bringing life and personality to the team, and to the unsung heroes of the film like Will Patton as the assistant coach. Everyone brings their A-game to the movie and it shows. The music by Trevor Rabin is earnest and epic which only serves to help everything mean a little bit more.
This is a movie that calls its shot from the very beginning and unless you have never seen a sports movie before, you will know where it is headed. You anticipate the beats, the dramatic flourishes, and the building climax. None of that matters. This was Disney firing on all cylinders, perfectly delivering on their tried and true method. That might sound cynical of me. Trust me, it’s not. I unapologetically love this film even if it does pretty much exactly what you expect it to from the opening frame.
It’s a movie built on moments, speeches, emotions, and inspiration. It sets out to tell a heartwarming and uplifting film and it pulls it off without a hitch. Remember the Titans is a Titan in the world of sports movies and deserves to be on everyone’s favorites list.
A League of Their Own by Gowdy Cannon
“There’s No Crying In Baseball!” put this film on the map so to speak, but after about 10 viewings I can say that it is so much more than Tom Hanks at his comedic finest. It’s a perfect storm of untold history, tense family drama, riveting sports action and timeless storytelling that joins a pantheon of exceptional American screenplays. To me it is not just one of the best sports movies of all time, but one of the best films of any genre of all time.
Hanks is his typical scene-stealing self. Gina Davis is great. Lori Petty is perfect as the insecure younger sibling (as the 4th of 5 children, I am fully qualified to make that call). Unheard of Megan Cavanagh, who doesn’t even have a picture on her wikipedia page, is unforgettable. Even modern punching bags Madonna and Rosie O’Donnell are good in their support roles. And they all have tremendous chemistry.
Not to be lost is without of doubt my favorite Jon Lovitz performance ever, as the scout Ernie Capadino. Essentially 100% of what he says makes me and my mom laugh out loud, even after repeated viewings. To this day I can look at her and say “You see the way it works is that the train moves and not the station” and we will crack up.
If a litmus test for movie grade is how rewatchable it is, A League of Their Own gets an A.
Space Jam by D.A. Speer
Everybody get up, it’s time to slam now! A few years back, shortly after my wife Kate and I were married, we thought it would be great fun on a whim to hold a Space Jam party. We invited friends over, had some snacks, and watched the movie. You never really know just how well a movie will hold up over the years, because over time, a movie can seem so much better in your mind than it actually was. We took the gamble…and it held up well!
At lunch today, I asked my wife, “What is it that made Space Jam such a good movie?” She looked at me for a second and said, “What about it isn’t a good movie?” I had a hard time answering. On paper, I’d have expected the movie to be a failure. MJ teams up with the Looney Toons to challenge aliens for their fates over a theme park. What could possibly go wrong with an idea like that?
Well, somehow director Joe Pytka was able to pull off movie magic. The story is compelling enough to make it fun. The music inspired everything from couple’s skates at the local roller rink (I Believe I Can Fly), to endless current-day internet remixes of the theme song by Quad City DJ’s. The star power is perfect for the time. This is right in the height of Jordan mania, after his first return to the NBA. As a teenager, I had a poster of him on my wall, slamming in it with his tongue out. Would I want to see him play against cartoon monsters? Psh, I could have watched him shoot free throws in practice and would have been enthralled. Bill Murray is there. Charles Barkley is there. Larry Bird is there. Heck, even Newman shows up.
Yeah, it’s not the most epic movie by today’s standards, but it will forever be a classic in my mind, half court dunks and all.
Warrior by Phill Lytle
I hate MMA, or mixed martial arts. It’s one tiny step up from to-the-death, gladiatorial combat, and I honestly don’t understand or appreciate its appeal in the least. Which makes my reaction to Warrior, a movie about two brothers who are MMA fighters, so perplexing. I never thought I would love a movie about MMA fighting, let alone like a movie like that, but Warrior defied my expectations and had me from very early on. The story is nothing groundbreaking – if you have seen any boxing movie or many sports movies for that matter, you can sort of guess where everything is going – but the execution of the story is what makes this film work so well. Nick Nolte, Tom Hardy, and Joel Edgerton give amazing performances as a father and his two estranged sons. I’ve never been a huge Nolte fan but he is incredible in this film playing a very damaged and broken father. Hardy is just pure intensity and he brings a real menace and danger to his character, but with just enough cracks in his facade to show that there is a lot more to him than just anger and passion. Edgerton plays the most “normal” role, but he gives his character so much depth that I hate to classify it as normal. The fight sequences are well shot – they are brutal and very effective. The film is shot low budget style which lends the film more realism and immediacy. The music is great as well, with a song by The National that closes the film perfectly.
Warrior is first and foremost a movie about a broken family trying to find healing. That is what drew me in and what knocked down my walls. I was prepared to hate this movie due to my hatred of the sport it showcases. I was not prepared to fall completely for it.
Over the Top by Gowdy Cannon
Millions know Sly Stallone from the Rocky and Rambo series. Far less remember him in this movie about an estranged father, his spoiled son and….arm wrestling? How many movies about arm wrestling are there? I don’t know, but when you’ve conquered the world as Rocky and Rambo, you get to take these risks. And while I may be in the minority, I think it yielded a reward. The superbly named Lincoln Hawk (Stallone) has the lovable humility of Balboa yet is still very much a unique character. And the journey he embarks on to earn back the love of his only son and to win an arm wrestling tournament (Really! It’s about arm wrestling!) is one I have enjoyed numerous times.
A few years ago I began a tradition of having a “Man Movie Night” with other men at my church and this was the first one I showed. Because most people have seen Stallone’s other work and this is a hidden treasure to me. Yet despite its manliness, I think the heart of father-son reconciliation can appeal to most people.
The movie has some faults for sure, like the arm wresting (arm wrestling!) tournament format of double elimination is not consistent, and the drama is at times pretty contrived, but Lincoln’s secret finger re-positioning weapon vs. Bull Harley in the final and all the memories he makes with with his son son along the way render all the flaws forgotten. Complete with a fantastic antagonist role by Robert Loggia and some of the best terrible wonderful cheesy 80s sports montage music ever, I adore this movie.
There you have it. Five more sports movies we love. Our last list got some pretty strong feedback – both positive and negative. Hopefully this one will as well as we always enjoy a good back-and-forth with our readers. Use the comment section below to post your praise or ridicule of our selections today.
You Don’t Know Who Ty Cobb Was?
A baseball great. Record holder. In the first class of Hall of Fame players inducted in 1936. Lifetime batting average of .366 – the highest of all time. Three times batted over .400 for a season. Possibly the greatest player of the early 1900s.
Violent temper with a reputation for viciousness and thought to be a racist.
Some recent studies seem to indicate that some of the things thought to be true about him may not have been factual. (This may have been due to an inept and extremely biased biographer.)
Earlier biographers depicted Cobb as extremely violent, sharpening his spikes and endeavoring to slide into other players and cut them. He is said to have attacked blacks and sought to inflict bodily harm on them. Even Ken Burns of the famous video series Baseball, presented that picture of Ty Cobb. In the movie “Field of Dreams,” the ghost player Shoeless Joe Jackson talks about not inviting Cobb to come to the magical field because “we hated the ____.”
More recent studies seem to show that he was not hatefully racist, was respected by teammates and opponents alike and tried to graciously reach out to fans. He was, according to Charles Leershen, in “Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty,” an extremely complex man, far from perfect, but not guilty of many of the things alleged in earlier biographies.
Ty Cobb was born in Georgia in 1886, just 21 years after the Civil War ended. He played for the Detroit Tigers, and because of his attitudes and actions, and being a Southerner, he may have created more problems for himself than he should have.
Interestingly enough, Jackie Robinson, who broke the color barrier in 1947, was also born in Georgia, 33 years after Ty Cobb. And recent information would seem to show that Cobb was not against African Americans playing in the major leagues. “The Negro should be accepted wholeheartedly, and not grudgingly,” he said. “The Negro has the right to play professional baseball and whose [sic] to say he has not?” And he was proved correct in the years that followed as African Americans reshaped the all-time baseball statistics from that point forward.
Now while I am sure there are those who do, it is likely that most people in China, India, or the heart of Africa would not know who Ty Cobb really was; in fact, he or she would never have even heard of him. Fame is not only fleeting, it’s also limited by time and place. In this case, the real and total truth about Tyrus Raymond Cobb is known only to God.
Historical facts, anecdotes, trivia and the like, are interesting, at least to some people, at certain times, and in at least a few places. They do serve as good attention grabbers, make for memorable illustrations, and help transition us to consider more important things. But only one bit of information and only one Individual makes any real difference.
It’s not Ty Cobb who must be known – it’s Jesus! Jesus, Name above all names. Jesus, who said of Himself “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the father but by me.” Jesus, supernatural birth, sinless life, sacrificial death, and glorious, bodily resurrection, all to save people from their sins. Jesus, of whom it was said: “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
If Ty Cobb remains unknown except for a small group of baseball aficionados and historians, it will make virtually no difference. But if Jesus is not known – and received – there are eternal consequences. He tells us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. His name is to be proclaimed in all the earth.
Last, but certainly not least: we must clearly and accurately communicate the message. If indeed historians have missed the boat on what kind of person Ty Cobb was – intentionally or accidentally – that is sad, to be sure. However to miss the message of Jesus, or to transmit or receive a distorted message, is tragic.
There are still hundreds of millions of people who are not only unreached with the gospel – the only message that can save them, remember – but are still unengaged in the sense that no believer or group of believers is plotting a strategy to engage them with the gospel. There remain some 1,600 languages and dialects that do not have even a portion of the Bible. Thankfully, major efforts are underway to change that and get the Word to them in their tongue.
Ty Cobb was a great baseball player and a complicated person and while it is interesting to know who he really was and what he accomplished, that knowledge holds temporal importance. The same cannot be said about the most significant person to walk the face of the earth – Jesus Christ. We are to know Him and to make Him known to the uttermost ends of the earth. We should proclaim the Good News about Jesus with clarity, accuracy, and consistency. There is nothing more eternally significant than this.
Thank God for the Nashville Predators
First, the bad news.
The world seems all sorts of messed up right now. If you spend any time on social media, or online for that matter, you will encounter examples of people doing horrible things. Everyone seems angry, offended, or worse. Navigating the turbulent waters of modern society is a supremely depressing task. Sure, there are good stories from time to time. And yes, in the grand scheme of things, many of the loudest complainers, whiners, and antagonizers are in a pathetically small minority, but that doesn’t make them any less annoying.
That is why I am so thankful for the Nashville Predators.
Don’t roll your eyes. I realize that a hockey team and its success will not fix any real-world problems. And I’m not advocating an escapist mentality. What I do know, though, is that every night the Nashville Predators play is a little better – a little brighter. Win or lose (and let’s be honest – it’s mostly win) watching the Preds play is an inspiring thing.
Case in point: Last night’s game was a clunker for nearly 50 minutes. The Predators were awful in the 2nd period and for half of the 3rd. They were down 3-0, at home, to a good St. Louis Blues team that clearly wanted the win more than our Nashville guys. I watched the game with my two oldest boys, who are 100% die-hard fans at this point. (That is what a deep, magical run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs will do for you.) Even down 3-0, my boys were not going to give up. Even watching the team sleepwalk through the 2nd period didn’t cause them to lose interest. This is the Preds we are talking about here and we all know that it doesn’t take much to swing the momentum in their favor. Calle Yarnkrok was the momentum swinger last night. His goal at the 9:06 mark was all it took. The home crowd got loud. The team decided it wanted to win the game. So they won the game.
It was awesome.
I realize that this sort of thing is rare in life and as a sports’ fan. I completely understand that my favorite teams are not always going to be this good or this exciting to watch – I am a Tennessee Titans’ fan after all. But for this moment in time, I am going to savor everything. Every goal. Every win. I am going to watch as many games as possible with my family and shout at every bad penalty, cheer for every crazy slap shot, and lose my mind at every moment of overtime magic. (Forsberg was the magician last night with his overtime, penalty shot goal.) I am going to watch the Nashville Predators and be grateful. This hockey team doesn’t fix all the problems in the world, but they bring a smile to my face and help me end most of my days on a high note. If that is not something to be thankful for, I don’t know what is.
Wild Card Round Preview (The NFL on REO)
Tennessee at Kansas City
The Tennessee Titans are big underdogs in the Wild Card match up with the Kansas City Chiefs. This is not surprising. The Titans are without their starting running back, they have played poorly on offense for most of the season, and they are short on playoff experience. The Chiefs, on the other hand, have an explosive offense, a very successful head coach, and are playing at home. Even as a Titans fan I admit that it makes sense that the Chiefs are a 9 point favorite.
Maybe it is the homer in me, but I expect this game to be close. The Chiefs have not won a home playoff game since 1993. This will be their sixth try and my sources are telling me their fans are nervous. On the Titans side QB Marcus Mariota is looking healthier than he has most of this season. In their playoff clinching victory last week he ran the ball several times with a good amount of success. Something he has not done most of this season due to injury. The Titans defense has also played well, especially against the run, in the majority of games this season.
The Chiefs are a streaky team. They started off 5-0 and looked to be the best team in the NFL. They went into a 1-6 tailspin and appeared to be choking away their playoff spot. Then they rebounded and finished 4-0 to win their division and get a home game in the playoffs. Unfortunately for the Titans they Chiefs are on a hot streak right now and should win a tightly contested game. Final score prediction – KC over TN 24-20.
– Mike Lytle
Atlanta at Los Angeles (Rams)
Last year at this time we would have all been surprised to find that the LA Rams were even in the playoffs. The fact is, they are not only in the playoffs, but are expected to beat the reigning-NFC-champion Falcons by a touchdown. The new-in-town Rams have taken the NFL by storm and are trying to recreate the greatest show on turf. The Rams offense has been able to put up over 30 points in 8 games this year and over 25 points in 12 games. They average a league-high 29.9 points per game. They are a well-balanced offense that has only failed to execute a handful of time. Jared Golf has proven to be a quality quarterback and as long as Todd Gurley gets plenty of touches, the Rams should be able to put up points on Atlanta. Their defense, for the most part, has gotten the job done. With defensive genius Wade Phillips calling the shots, there is reason to have confidence that they can keep the Rams in the game.
Despite being the underdogs, I am picking the Falcons to with this game. The Falcons struggled early in the year, but they seemed to turn it around starting with week 10 against the cowboys. They have only lost two games since that time and both to strong teams. When push comes to shove, I have more confidence in Matt Ryan than Jared Golf. Ryan’s experience in the playoffs will be invaluable in picking apart the Wade Phillips’ defense. Perhaps more importantly, I trust Julio Jones to make big catches for his team. Sure, he has struggled to find the end zone this season, but big players live for big games. Julio was made for this moment.
Regardless of who wins, I expect this one to be a shootout. Falcons over Rams 35-30.
– David Lytle
Buffalo at Jacksonville
The Buffalo Bills enter the playoffs as the darlings of the NFL. For this storied franchise, it has been a long time (1999 season) since they have played postseason football, and it took a number of seemingly miraculous things to happen for them to finally break through this season. It is a great story and while I am happy for the team and their fans, great stories do not equal great teams, and the Bills are not a great team. They were a bottom half of the league team in both offensive and defensive statistics. They don’t do any one thing really well, and do most things just good enough to get by. And LeSean McCoy being less than 100% is a back breaker.
On the other side, the Jacksonville Jaguars have been objectively good this season. They are one of the top two defenses in the league by any measurements that matter. And not to be outdone, they are the number five scoring team in the league. Their weaknesses are inexperience and Blake Bortles. While Bortles has been mostly solid this season, is there anyone out there that has any real confidence that Bad Bortles won’t rear its ugly head at a critical moment?
Bortles will Bortle, the Bills are average, but the unit with the most talent on the field, the Jags defense, will dominate. Jags 30 Bills 10.
– Phill Lytle
Carolina at New Orleans
In my humble opinion this is the most crucial game of the weekend. Simply because a strong case can be made for the winner being the NFC favorite even if they will not have home field. Many people would look at Philly, Minnesota and the L.A. Rams and point to either struggles or playoff inexperience at QB as cause for concern. As is well documented on REO by now, not me. I have less faith in the Top 3 NFC seeds mainly because none of them have won a playoff game literally since George W. Bush lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
That is not the case for the Panthers and Saints. On the road side you have a team that just went to the Super Bowl two years ago and were steamrolled by one of the more impressive defensive efforts by Denver we have ever seen in a game that significant. Carolina isn’t as good an offense as their Super Bowl year but they do have Christian McCaffrey now, and Cam Newton still plays with a swagger that belies his less-than-elite stats and it makes a difference.
On the home side, you have a team with a very unique weapon in former-SEC two-headed monster RB Mark Alvin Ingram Kamara (combined 1850 yards rushing, 139 receptions and 25 total TDs). And also for only the third time in Drew Brees’ 12 years with the franchise, the defense finished in the Top 10 in fewest points given up. It’s uncanny how Brees has played with a Top 13 defense by this criteria five times in New Orleans and has made the playoffs every time and has played with a 25th or worse defense by this criteria six times and missed the playoffs every time. The one exception to this trend was the year NO won the Super Bowl with the 20th ranked defense.
In addition to being at home, I give New Orleans the advantage because of Brees. He has exceptional playoff stats in his career (320 YPG, a 4:1 TD:Int ratio) and has lost numerous times because his D could not get a stop, most notoriously against San Fransisco in 2011 when he led them to 18 fourth quarter points and still lost (Let it be noted that Drew Brees has far and away the most 4th TD passes in NFL history to give his team the lead in a game his teams would lose, nearly twice as many as the #2 guy). Their D is nowhere close to Denver in 2015 or even Minnesota this year, but they will be good enough to help New Orleans win this game and probably at least two more. I’ll say New Orleans 31, Carolina 20.
– Gowdy Cannon
The Inevitable Letdown of Being a Fan (The NFL on REO)
Perhaps the defining attribute of being a sports’ fan is the ever-present feeling of being let down. As fans, it is our burden to bear. We cheer on our teams, year after year, and most of the time, walk away disappointed. Of course, there are the occasional high points: The big win against a rival. The post-season run. Even, a championship if we are really fortunate. The truth is though, we are rarely fortunate in our fandom.
Two times in the past five years, Aaron Rodgers has been injured and unable to complete the season. This year, his Green Bay Packers were 4-1 when he got hurt early in the game against the Minnesota Vikings. You could argue that with a healthy Rodgers, the Packers had as much of a chance to make it to the Super Bowl as any other team in the NFC. Now, the team is done – looking at another season down the drain due to an injury to their star quarterback. Before you feel too sorry for the Packers’ fans, it is good to remember that they have had great success for the past few decades and have won multiple championships in that time. Even so, that fan base feels the letdown. They feel as if they are cursed. It is the natural state for the majority of fans across the globe.
Or, you could take a look at the Cowboys. They spent a decade with a legitimately great quarterback and were never able to advance at all come playoff time. Then, a rookie quarterback and a rookie running back led them to a 13-3 record and the future looked bright. Turn the page to 2017 and their star running back gets suspended for off the field problems and the team is fighting for a playoff spot. Where would they be in that playoff picture if Ezekiel Elliott had not missed any games this season? Even if the Cowboys win out, they still need all sorts of things to happen to make the playoffs. Their chances are slim. I’m sure Cowboys fans feel let down after an amazing ride last season that only looked like the beginning of a great run.
And what about the fan base of the Philadelphia Eagles who are without a doubt, some of the most passionate and loyal fans in the league. This season was like something out of a dream. The second-year quarterback, Carson Wentz, had the offensive humming along. The defense was improved. The team was clearly the team to beat in the NFC. Then Wentz got hurt a few weeks ago and now the team will have to try to carry on with Nick Foles at QB. Foles is good, probably the best backup QB in the league, but he is not Wentz. The loss of Wentz has jeopardized a potential Super Bowl run. Eagles’ fans know this feeling all too well. They have been so close so many times, I’m sure there were many of them that just knew something bad was hiding in the shadows. That is the curse of being a fan.
Being a fan of the NFL in general, and the Titans, in particular, has provided its fair share of disappointments. My boys are big fans of the Titans. Sadly, they have no detailed memories of the Titans making the playoffs. The two oldest are both teenagers if that gives you any indication how long it has been. A few weeks ago, the Titans were 8-4 and looked like a lock for the postseason. Now, after two bad losses to below average teams, they are on the outside looking in. Yes, they are technically still in the playoffs if they were to start today, but they need help to make it to the NFL’s second season. I’ve mentioned before that my oldest son will not celebrate a good play by the Titans until a few minutes have passed because he is sure there will be a flag thrown that will wipe the whole thing off the board. That is how this entire season has felt to me. I’ve been waiting to fully celebrate. I’ve enjoyed the wins for sure, but there has always been the nagging feeling in the back of my mind that something bad was waiting around the corner. We are feeling the letdown. Hopefully, the Titans can give their fans a better Christmas than last year and make a surprise push to the playoffs. Miracles do happen.
So, what letdown have you experienced as a sports’ fan? Let us commiserate with one another. Share your stories and your pain. We want to read it all and experience the crushing weight of disappointment with you.