Why it is too early to crown an NFL or NBA season MVP
The dawn of a new year is upon us. As a matter of fact, it probably hit you in the head like the effects of that fifth glass of sparkling wine you drank right at 12 a.m. on Thursday morning – either way, we are here on the cusp of a new year, 2015. With that come the ever-present rumblings, musings and speculations from bloggers, fans and sports writers alike about the status and standing of their favourite teams and athletes. While it might be early to crown the perennial kings in some sports, like basketball and hockey, it is definitely the time to debate the best of the best on the gridiron.
“The devil, the haters, the bloggers, the papers, the labels, they labeled me.” – Jay Electronica “We Made It (Freestyle)”
If you’ve followed this year’s NFL season, you’ve no doubt realized that this has been a year with no shortage of surprises, as well as drama-filled on and off-field issues. For me, the clear cut MVP for the 2014 season is a tight race between two individuals, the Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers and the Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo.
Romo has consistently been a great regular season performer, with well-documented mishaps and let-downs late in the season or early in the playoffs that have probably relegated him to scheduling earlier than anticipated fishing trips and golfing vacations. Well, as Biggie would have said, things done changed. This season Romo has emerged as a clear-cut frontrunner for the Most Valuable Player in the league, finally seizing the opportunities provided to him, quieting his naysayers, and most importantly, winning meaningful games in the month of December. His quarterback rating has never been higher in his career (113.2), and his touchdown total (34) is the second highest of his career.
Then there is Rodgers. After emerging buoyantly from the shadows of his predecessor Brett Favre, he has typified the type of career only written about in storybooks and told in NFL folklore. To his credit, he has only won one world championship, however, Rodgers consistently has been a force to be reckoned with and weapon reviled by defenders. This season has proven to be no different. Rodgers personifies excellence not only in his statistics (38 touchdowns, with a mere five interceptions), but also in his manner of play, which Ndamakong Suh can attest will make you want to “accidentally” step on his calf to slow him down.
Both Romo and Rodgers do indeed deserve heavy consideration for the league’s top award, however I’m sure that both quarterbacks will be the first to tell you that these regular-season accolades mean nothing if they aren’t playing in January at a pace that would dictate a shot at the Vince Lombardi trophy in early February. The public, in general, tends to place these heroes on pedestals before real accomplishments take centre stage – accomplishments like multiple playoff victories and subsequent championships that ultimately transcend any type of regular season prize and catapult the athletes into the realm of legendary status known to the likes of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
“I’m light years ahead of my peers / want some, you can come bring it right here / Can’t clown me, don’t come ’round me / Bow down, I was crowned when they found me.” – Tech N9ne “Worldwide Choppers”
Winning the regular season MVP award can be likened to a great rapper or lyricist putting out solid collaborations with fellow artists that produce immensely popular radio hits and club bangers, however when it comes to his/her own album that greatness never quite emerges. Rappers like Cassidy, AZ, Cormega, and to a lesser extent, Fabolous, have all suffered this fate. This brings me to the NBA and Canada’s beloved and much beleaguered team, the Toronto Raptors, and its newly anointed saviour, point guard Kyle Lowry.
With the recent meteoric success of Canada’s only franchise, it is now commonplace to hear the chants of “M-V-P” when Lowry steps to the free throw line at the Air Canada Centre. Lowry has elevated his entire game to unprecedented levels, with charismatic leadership on the court and eyebrow-raising slashes and dashes to the bucket, all while averaging 20 points a game and dishing out over seven assists per contest. The MVP talk is warranted, but where I’m from, talk is cheap. To accomplish these feats in an albeit paltry and sub-standard Eastern Conference is definitely something to highlight and worthy of conversation, nonetheless it stands as an empty promise if these regular season statistics and highlights don’t transcend to some type of extended playoff run come April and May. Last season’s unlikely playoff run was one for the ages for the Raptors’ faithful, but fell short of glory with seconds remaining in Game 7 of the first round against the veteran Brooklyn Nets.
Gregory Isaacs, and more recently, Sean Paul (“Like Glue”), said it right: “A promise is comfort to a fool.”
My mama ain’t raise no fool. As a matter of fact, she taught me to read between the lines and recognize the real from the fake. Now, don’t get me wrong, Lowry is no fake, but to crown him the MVP so early in the season is preposterously ill timed and premature. Steve Nash had consecutive MVP awards in ’05 and ’06 and bowed out gracefully both years in the Western Conference finals, which clearly indicated that his regular season accolade couldn’t carry him to the NBA’s promised land of championship pedigree.
Athletes like Romo and Nash would undoubtedly be willing to relinquish their in-season success for post-season success in the form of a playoff MVP award. It just means that much more.
“Spit it for the culture / Pay no attention to the critics and the vultures / They rather have a shot of Belvy just to spit you / They cast the judgments ’cause they feel they got the right to.” – Jay Electronica “Shiny Suit Theory”
All that glitters isn’t always gold; sometimes it’s just some real shiny material masked as the real thing obscuring one’s vision to hide the truth.
It’s not my intention to minimize the collective efforts and legacies of the aforementioned, because as a former professional myself, I understand the importance of building a regular season resume and statistics that you can be proud of, however, in sports the ultimate measure of success is not in wins and losses, it is all about championships won and lost. My first championship at any level came as a coach, and I would trade some (not all) of my life’s work to wear a championship ring. Charles Barkley, Dominique Wilkins, Nash and Romo would tell you the same.
We often prematurely crown our modern day sports heroes before they’ve accomplished the unthinkable. Doing so places sometimes insurmountable pressures on their backs – only for them to fall short of glory and fade away into historical obscurity, survived only by incredible regular season statistics written in dusty printed almanacs, or more recently in online forms such as Wikipedia and thoroughly searched Google queries.