I have a few questions for sports fans everywhere: what’s wrong with being excellent? What is wrong with dominating performances? What is wrong with continual success? Putting these questions in a vacuum, as I have just done, allows for everyone to come to the same conclusion: nothing. Nothing is wrong with being excellent, successful over a period of time, and dominating in your sport. In fact, it’s what we encourage. Or should I say used to encourage. We have a problem with the continual dominance and success in our sports not because of the desire for competitive balance, or because we want a mid-major to win the NCAA Tournament, or the Cleveland Browns to actually win a Super Bowl.
We have this problem because of the society we decided to accept as a whole. We have a problem that has stemmed from the idea of participation awards. Everyone gets a medal. Everyone gets a pat on the back whether you win by 30 or lose by 30. Whether you win or lose, we encourage the idea of “having fun”. News flash: WINNING IS FUN. Last time I checked, holding the trophy that you worked your ass off to get, is fun. It is a reward. Winning and success is a reward for hard work being put in, executing the game plan, and being prepared to win.
The UConn Women’s Basketball Program is dominant. I guarantee Geno and those girls are having more fun than other programs. But I also guarantee that they are outworking every program in the country. Winning 90+ games in a row TWICE doesn’t just happen. It doesn’t happen because they got a pat on the back for participating. It happens because they outworked other teams, had a better talent pool because people are drawn to success, and ultimately because they earned it. No one looks at UCLA and John Wooden and says it was bad for the sport. Why do it to these girls?
Tiger Woods was dominant. No one is looking back on his run and saying that it was “bad for the sport”. As he was tearing up major championship after major championship, everyone was wondering if and when he would catch Jack. Could he win 18 Majors? The game was exciting, people wanted to see dominance. When he had his collapse people were worried about golf falling completely off the map. His success allowed for the young guns in the sport now to have someone to look up to and say “I want to win like him”. He also worked harder than anyone on the tour. Another time: hard work allows for success.
LeBron James, 4 time MVP, 3 time Finals MVP, and on track to be the best statistical all around NBA player of all time has been to 6 straight NBA Finals, and might be the most scrutinized athlete ever in professional sports. LeBron has taken care of his body, worked hard, and had some natural ability that allowed for his success. He is going to make it to another Finals this year, and has been the best basketball player on the planet for the last 10 years; that doesn’t “just happen”. He led the charge against the best regular season NBA team ever, a team that now had to go out and add a former league MVP and scoring champion just to bring him down. Yet, he still has more hate than anyone else.
Bill Russell and Red Auerbach, Duke and Kentucky Basketball, Michael Jordan, the 90’s Yankees teams, the 80’s Lakers, the Steelers in the 70’s, need I continue? None of these teams were bad for the sport or for competition or for society. In fact, all of these examples are celebrated as legends of their respected sports. The thing they have in common? They lived in a time where society thrived on hard work, on getting what you deserved through your effort, and celebrated success.
So today, don’t penalize those who are successful because of the asinine mindset “feelings can’t be hurt if kids lose”. Losing and failure allows for these kids to grow, learning how it feels to not be successful and thus work harder in the future to win. Don’t ruin this mindset society. Wake up. Smell the roses of excellence in front of you and celebrate it.
You’re missing a great show.