All right. I’ve tried to hold my tongue…er, fingers on this, but with the recent rash of wholesale dissent squashing (didn’t we learn anything from Desert Storm?), I can’t remain silent any longer. I must go against the grain. In the way I do best, of course.
With that in mind, here are a few sports figures that I believe are grossly overrated, and it’s about time someone admitted it:
Michael “Greatest team player of all time” Jordan
I hoped that his struggles with the Wizards would open everyone’s eyes, but it appears that some of you still have trouble putting your strange new feelings about the man into words. So here it is: Michael Jordan may have been a great player (he’s definitely slipped a few notches now), and he’s definitely one of the hardest working players the NBA has ever seen, but he did nothing, repeat, NOTHING by himself. In his first few years, he was practically a nonentity. Only after Scottie Pippen, and later Horace Grant, BJ Armstrong, Toni Kukoc, Dennis Rodman, and several other fine teammates joined the team did he have free rein to really strut his stuff. Except for a persistent weakness at center, he had by far some of the most complete NBA teams of the 90’s under him, and he never, repeat, never had to carry the team on his back. Contrast his supporting casts to the ones Alonzo Mourning, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, or even Shaquille O’Neal had. He was also helped by Phil Jackson, one of the smartest coaches the league has seen, who developed an offensive scheme (the triangle) which was perfectly suited to the Bulls’ strengths.
It’s true that Jordan’s explosiveness and fantastic ability won the Bulls a lot of games they otherwise would have lost. However, it’s also true that the team won him many games he would otherwise have lost. Jordan is no different from John Elway, Mark Messier, or Mariano Rivera in this regard.
If he takes a struggling, incomplete, or mediocre team (say, the Wizards) to the championship, I will acknowledge his status as the greatest of all time. No sooner.
Now that the Jets are doing just fine without him, are we ready to finally disavow any notions of his godlike transformative ability? Especially since the Jets should never be used as a benchmark for anything. That team makes the stock market look stable.
I don’t doubt for a second that he’s a good old-school, hardnosed coach and someone who can benefit almost any team. But there’s nothing astonishing about the Jets’ “miracle” transformation. It’s clear to me that Parcells success was based on four things: 1. He reenergized and refocused a team that was practically throwing games under Rich Kotite. 2. He made some terrific moves on draft day, parlaying the #1 pick into a string of picks that addressed many problem areas. 3. He was willing to sacrifice future salary cap space to sign quality free agents for immediate gain. 4. He got butt-lucky with Vinny Testaverde, one of the streakiest, flukiest, wildest NFL QBs ever, and, in a sense, a man who perfectly encapsulates the fortunes of the Jets.
Now, a coach or owner that’s not afraid to gamble and does what it takes to win is nothing to sneeze at (ask any Lions or Cardinals fan). Parcells is a fine coach. He is not a miracle worker who turns everything he touches to gold.
The author of The Dark Side of the Game (damn, I wish I remembered who…former Atlanta defensive end) has, IMHO, the best indictment of Montana I’ve ever read. Practically the moment he arrived in 49ers camp, he was plugged into an offensive scheme, the West Coast Offense, which played perfectly to his strengths (great field vision, accurate, can make quick judgments) and minimized his weaknesses (not very mobile, can’t throw long). He also had a powerful offensive line in front of him. Like Jordan, just because he’s one of the greats of the game doesn’t mean that he did anything by himself. Most knowledgeable sports fans would agree that he would’ve been absolutely destroyed in a place like Denver.
Pro: Tremendous distance off the tee. Master of the “impossible shot”; has escaped from all kinds of trouble situations that would have doomed most golfers. Phenomenal clutch player; almost never fails to win a tournament he’s in a position to win. Never loses his nerve even under the worst pressure. When he’s on a roll, can rack up birdies and eagles as easily as most players shoot pars. Risk-taker with the ability to make his gambles pay off. Iron will; gives his all from start to finish and never gives up.
Con: Error-prone, especially in early rounds. All-or-nothing mentality often knocks him out of the running before he gets in a position to win. Has been known to flub shots and miss putts when things aren’t going his way. Often “chases” his mistakes by taking even more risks, usually falling behind further. Feeds off the crowd a lot and actually does worse at smaller, quieter events.
His record speaks for himself…regarding both his strengths and weaknesses. If you gush over the former and completely ignore the latter, you don’t understand Woods.
“The man who’s going to save baseball”, Esquire? Ha! He barely made a dent in the Rangers’ hopes! Boy, does he feel like a complete idiot right now! A-Rod? More like A-Clod! He was nothing without the Mariners! Nothing! And now those Mariners, the team he so foolishly spurned for empty cash, not only tied the record for the most wins in a season, they also won…ah…that is to say, they made the playoffs and…uh…
Actually, you know what, I think the jury’s still out on him. Maybe I can comment more on him in a year or so…
Well, that feels good to have gotten off my chest, despite the torrent of flames I know is about to come my way (ah, sports…). Anyone I missed?