Watching the Jets/Patriots on Monday night along with LeBron James’ return to Cleveland made me think. LeBron has thought it, and Rex Ryan clearly thinks it. So why do people assume a championship is a birthright? My theory after the jump.
I can’t help but relate this to my own life as a sports fan. As a White Sox fan, the heartbreaking playoff losses and the near misses made that moment when we finally won the whole thing sweeter. I knew that the team, its owners, and the franchise had suffered greatly and tremendously to get to that point. Every playoff victory was better because it was the removal of one more torturous bit of our old history. Whether it was getting hammered by the Dodgers in our last world series, those heartbreaking bridesmaid years in the late 60′s and early 70′s, and the White Flag trade, all of us fans who knew that Good Guys wear Black were finally going to get what we had waited for.
LeBron James and Rex Ryan have nothing in common…physically. But based on their decisions and their actions it would appear that they want the glory without the pain - to hold the trophy without sacrificing fully and completely of themselves to make it work.
Think about what LeBron did (I promise, this is the last time I mention LeBron). He took a team that won 60 games in back-to-back seasons - teams that clawed their way deeper into the playoffs than any Cavs team had EVER been – and left it. He could have finished the job, could have stayed after being humiliated by a Celtics team that he was better than and come to the decision that “I want to win a championship here, and the Celtics aren’t going to stop me.”
Like Michael Jordan did.
People forget this, but we remember the Jordan who won 6 championships and changed the game forever. But early in his career he was cursed with the same tag LeBron now wears: “Great player - but can you win with him?” Jordan heard it, and set out to prove that he could. The Pistons whipped him – he learned from it and would eventually beat them to go to his first of six NBA Finals. It was because he, and perhaps only Kobe Bryant of the modern day stars understands this as much - understands that being a true champion is about the sacrifice, about the almost getting there as much as it is about the finally getting there.
I await your response in the comments below.