Shutdown Corner - NFL

You know what I've found strange about every team in sports that's won a championship since around 2001? They have all been the victims of heaps upon heaps of disrespect. No one thought they could do it!

Imagine that. All these hundreds of champion athletes, and all these millions of fans, and never once did one fan think one athlete was capable of a championship. It's crazy! It's truly a statistical anomaly. Especially since there are only 30 or so teams per league, and one of them has to win the championship. You'd think at least one of these tens of millions of fans would catch on.

It's an odd coincidence, isn't it? That every championship team has also been demeaned by the public and the target of unprecedented insolence?

It could be a coincidence. Or it could also be that every single team in sports today somehow gets the notion that the world hates them. It's one of the two. I don't know.

As a fan, you might think you're doing important work to help your team by buying their tickets, buying their merchandise, attending games, screaming at the top of your lungs and adding to a home field advantage. And hey, maybe you are.

But the most important sports fan of today is the one who hates. He's the one who gets mentioned in interviews. He's the one voting in on-line polls and then seeing his vote referenced in a makeshift sign by indignant players after they've proved all the haters wrong. Hate is the fuel on which today's athlete runs.

You want to help your team? Stick your foam finger up your nose. The more effective approach would be to purchase a billboard directly across the street from your favorite player's home, and spray paint it with the message, "Hey, [insert player name here], you are a worthless bucket of rhinoceros urine and we all wish you were dead."

Why is it like that, and how did we get there? I'm not sure. Perhaps today's athlete is so handsomely paid that there's no positive motivation left that means anything. Not everyone has a competitive drive. Not everyone needs to be the best. A lot of players, as long as the millions are being direct-deposited, will probably live happily ever after whether or not they ever get to wear a championship ring.

So if a reward of notoriety and success isn't enough, maybe the motivation has to be fighting off a negative perception. No one likes to be told they're not good enough to do something, especially if what they're doing is something to which they've dedicated their life.

Maybe it's the grand sense of entitlement that we've given athletes over the years. Maybe some athletes are so spoiled that anytime it's even suggested that they might fail at winning one of the hundreds or thousands of games they'll play in their career, they bristle.

It's often an analyst's job to predict who he or she thinks will win a game. Boomer Esiason, for example, sometime before Saturday afternoon, will go on record with a prediction of who he thinks will win the Ravens vs. Titans game. He's only got two options. He can't pick both. And yet, when he does make a pick, players on the team he didn't pick will think, "What? He didn't pick ME? How could he not pick ME?! How could he disrespect me like that?"

And after the game, if that player wins, he won't be able to wait to tell the world what a jerk Boomer Esiason is.

Oddly, though, you'll never hear the loser of a game say, "Yeah, we were disrespected. No one thought we could do it ... and they were absolutely right. People showed a great deal of insight by believing us incapable. We deserved no respect. That Boomer Esiason fellow was right on the money. His hate was well-justified."

What you will hear, though, is a claim of disrespect from whoever does win the Super Bowl. That's pretty much a lock. And here's a preview of what that disrespect claim might look like for each team still alive, should they go on to win the ultimate prize.

Arizona Cardinals. They said we only went 9-7 in a terrible division! They said our quarterback was too old! They said our defense wasn't good enough! They said we just weren't very good! No one thought we could do it!

Baltimore Ravens. They said before the season started that we wouldn't even make the playoffs! They said we'd struggle with a rookie quarterback and rookie head coach! They said Ray Lewis was past his prime! No one thought we could do it!

Carolina Panthers. They said, "Giants, Giants, Giants!" all year long! They said Jake Delhomme wasn't good enough to win a championship! They said Steve Smith should stop punching teammates! No one thought we could do it!

New York Giants. They said our championship last year was a fluke! They said there's no way we could repeat! They said Eli Manning wasn't a leader! No one thought we could do it!

Philadelphia Eagles. They said Donovan McNabb was washed up! After we tied Cincinnati and then Baltimore destroyed us, they said we were finished! They said Andy Reid was a terrible coach! No one thought we could do it!

Pittsburgh Steelers. They said our offensive line was weak! They said our quarterback held on to the ball too long! They said we didn't have a power running game! No one thought we could do it!

San Diego Chargers. They said an 8-8 team shouldn't even be allowed in the playoffs! They said we were only here because Denver gagged! They said LaDainian Tomlinson was finished! They said Norv Turner was a terrible coach! No one thought we could do it!

Tennessee Titans. They said we weren't as good as our record! They said we couldn't win a championship with Kerry Collins at quarterback! No one thought we could do it!

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