Have you ever noticed that when an NFL quarterback wins a Super Bowl, the media and the general public tends to praise them like they won it all by themselves depending on who they are? Have you ever noticed when a star NBA player wins a championship, the media and the general public acts like his teammates had nothing to do with it? The same at times apply to MLB and the NHL.
There is something to be said about being the lead dog on your team by helping guide the entire organization to a championship. But the championship that players have won in the past and in the future doesn't change the fact that it is a team sport. And even if players are supposed to be judged by rings, people in today's society still have a very subjective view as to who earned a championship and who didn't earn it.
I follow the NFL and the NBA very closely and I have to say that people love to choose which player should be validated by a championship. For example, if you follow the Ravens, you have heard plenty of people say that Joe Flacco isn't a top 10 quarterback even though he is a Super Bowl MVP.
You hear people say that Flacco's championship doesn't mean anything to elevate him because it is a team sport. You will also hear people say that Trent Dilfer won a Super Bowl with the Ravens to invalidate Flacco's accomplishment which is a pretty useless argument as the Ravens team that won the Super Bowl in 2000 was completely different than the one that won it all in 2012. As a matter of fact, Ray Lewis was the only remaining player from that 2000 Ravens team.
Yet, at the same time, you hear people talk about Tom Brady and his four Super Bowl rings and they attribute that accomplishment all to him.
Another example is Peyton Manning. When Manning won his first Super Bowl trophy with the Indianapolis Colts in 2006, many people back then and still today say that Manning led the Colts to a championship. Do you know what is funny about that? Manning during that playoff run in a span of four games threw three touchdown passes to go along with seven interceptions. So Manning led his team to a championship while throwing three touchdown passes and seven interceptions? The Colts defense during that playoff run wasn't the deciding factor at all?
Flacco, on the other hand, throws 11 touchdown passes with zero interceptions during his 2012 championship run and a lot of people still say that his defense won him a Super Bowl and that he didn't deserve to win Super Bowl MVP honors. Mind you, the Ravens 2012 defense allowed 29 points in Super Bowl 47. Do you see what is going on?
There are a lot of people in the media and in the general public who already have a fixed view of how they perceive certain players and in some cases, nothing will change that. It doesn't matter how well a player performed or how badly a player performed. It appears that marketability and popularity plays a bigger role more than people think in how others view players and their legacy. Certain players will get credit even though the don't deserve it and others will be downplayed even though they do deserve more credit.
Flip over to the NBA. There are legends in the NBA who have never won a ring like Karl Malone, John Stockton, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, Elgin Baylor and their careers are discredited because they never won a ring.
For example, look at this conversation between former NBA players in Tracy McGrady and Robert Horry. McGrady is on his way to the Pro Basketball Hall of Fame and Horry is not. McGrady was a leader on the court in his playing days with the Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic and the Houston Rockets. Horry, on the other hand, was a role player during his entire career mainly playing with the Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and the San Antonio Spurs. Horry was a pretty good role player and very clutch, but he was not a star by any means.
I want you to listen to what Horry said in this clip.
Horry said you have to earn it? Really? Don't pay attention to McGrady asking Horry to borrow the ring. The fact that this was Horry's response is exactly what is wrong in sports when people judge others by rings. Horry was nowhere near the caliber of the player McGrady was. But because he has a ring, he somehow thinks that he attributed the same level of responsibility to carry a team on his back the way McGrady did and that couldn't be further from the truth.
So what is Horry trying to say? That he tried harder to win a ring more than Malone, Stockton, Barkley, Iverson, Baylor and McGrady? Those six players I just listed did nothing to say that they were worthy of winning a ring? So because they never won one that means that they were not worthy of winning one?
People seem to lose sight that players who win championships do not go up against the same teams. For example, Stockton and Malone with the Utah Jazz went up against Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls and many consider Jordan to be the greatest NBA player of all time. Tim Duncan, a legend in his own right and his San Antonio Spurs, on the other hand, went up against an eight-seed New York Knicks team in 1999 and a weak New Jersey Nets team in 2003 and a horrible Cleveland Cavaliers team in 2007.
Are you telling me that Malone and Stockton are not worthy of a championship because they went up against arguably the greatest team in NBA history in the Bulls of the 1990's while Duncan's Spurs feasted on a weak Knicks, Nets and Cavaliers team?
I'm not here to debate whether Duncan and Malone are better than one another but to simply say that players have easier and tougher roads than others. Not to mention, some players have better rosters than others. It is a team sport after all right?
My personal opinion is that a lot of people have a flawed line of thinking in the way they attribute championships to players because not only do they already have a fixed like/dislike for certain players, but they also buy into the marketability and popularity of certain players to downgrade another player's success whether they realize it or not. Manning is more flashy and marketable than Flacco due to the nature of their personality but also the hype that has surrounded them their entire lives respectively.
Manning comes from a rich football family and was always hyped dating back to his playing days in high school and went to a power five conference school in the SEC playing for the Tennesee Volunteers. Flacco, on the other hand, was a bit under the radar for very much of his high school and college career playing for the Pittsburgh Panthers while getting benched in the process and eventually transferring to Delaware to play for the Blue Hens.
Manning has been hyped (and deservedly so) his entire career and I'm in no way saying that Flacco is better than Manning. Flacco is good, pretty good, but he isn't Manning.
But at the same time, the media is able to control people's minds at times. If the media praises someone like Manning all the time, a lot of people in the general public will buy it regardless of his performance on the field on a week to week basis.
But if someone like Flacco who is often criticized in the media plays well on a week to basis, a good number of people in the general public will buy into it criticize him no matter what he does. Which is why there are people in the general public who praise Manning for his Super Bowl run in 2006 with the Colts when his numbers don't warrant that kind of praise and while others in the media downplay Flacco's 2012 playoff performance while his numbers warrant more praise.
Judging players by championships is flawed for three main reasons: Every player doesn't play with the same teammates (because some rosters are better than others), they don't play the same teams (because every year is different) and people in general, have a subjective view on how they view certain players which invite flawed arguments.
How about judging players for the way they played in their respective sports? Is that too hard to ask? I don't think so.