The Difference between Being Competitive and a Champion

As Cowboy Nation took solace in the spirited effort Dallas gave being defeated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-29 in the waning seconds of the opening night contest, they must be careful not to exclaim, “À la bonne heure!” The effort was inspiring; however, a narrow loss to the Buccaneers still indicates a clear distinction between being competitive and a champion.

            Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy and staff must be somewhat concerned about the ineffectiveness of the offensive line henceforth. Dallas could not generate a half-decent rushing attack, which resulted in running back Ezekiel Elliott only amassing 33 yards. Conversely, quarterback Dak Prescott was not pummeled to the turf too many times, but Tampa Bay nose tackle Vita Vea resembled a large boulder rolling downhill wreaking havoc on Dallas’ efforts in key moments usually resulting in holding calls.

            While Prescott earned deserved plaudits for completing 42 passes out of 58 for 403 yards and three touchdowns in his first game since his injury in October 2020, the timing between himself and the receiving corps must be quicker in forthcoming games because the offensive line may continue to struggle. If that is the case, Prescott will not have enough time hoping to see his receivers break open on longer routes.

            For Tom Brady and the Buccaneers, overcoming deficits in the final minutes of a game is standard operating procedure for a world champion (Yes, “world champion” goes against the protocol of former WFAA sportscaster Dale Hansen, but I do not care.) They are proof of the old NFL adage that opponents have to play a superhuman level of football to defeat a champion. The defending champs will continue to receive their oppositions’ best effort this season and may still be in contention for a consecutive Vince Lombardi Trophy at season’s end.

            Nevertheless, the Dallas Cowboys have much to prove that they are an improved franchise. The cowpunchers have been so underwhelming for the preponderance of 24 years that derision from notable pundits has become, in effect, passé.

            If the Cowboys are going to return to prominence, they must discover ways to win games consistently and become champions again. Vince Lombardi once stated, “In our business, you are either first, or you are last.” While he may have been a bit facetious in his statement, Lombardi was merely trying to tell us that we must not be satisfied with merely finishing second or worse.

            Consequently, Dallas must not become satisfied with a close, competitive defeat with Tampa Bay on opening night because a loss is still added to the losing column. If the Cowboys accumulate too many losses, the mocking of the franchise will continue unmercifully no matter how fervent a fan base we may be.

Kwame Brown: The Pros and Cons of Stature

Over the past week or so, there has been a great deal of kvetching from Kwame Brown about his legacy as a former professional basketball player as told by the American media. Since his career concluded in 2013, memories of his career are fading precipitously with each year.

            Brown entered the National Basketball Association directly from high school in 2001 and was selected by the Washington Wizards under then-team president Michael Jordan. His four-season tenure with Wizards was generally considered underwhelming by pundits. Nevertheless, his 6’11” 290-pound frame was too irresistible for other NBA franchises to resist resulting in Brown being signed by the Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, Detroit Pistons, Charlotte Bobcats, Golden State Warriors, and Philadelphia 76ers in that order averaging 6.6 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game.

            Perhaps, some of the derision Brown has received post-career centers on those professional basketball players of comparable size (albeit different positions) as follows: Bill Russell – 6’10”, Hall of Fame, 15.1 ppg/22.5 rpg; Bill Walton – 6’11”, Hall of Fame, 13.3 ppg/10.5 rpg; Moses Malone – 6’10”, Hall of Fame, 20.6 ppg/12.2 rpg; Kevin McHale – 6’10”, Hall of Fame, 17.9 ppg/7.3 rpg; Kevin Garnett – 6’11”, Hall of Fame, 17.8 ppg/10 rpg; Tim Duncan – 6’11”, Hall of Fame, 19 ppg/10.8 rpg; and Kevin Durant – 6’10”, 27 ppg/7.1 rpg.

            While it is general consensus that the sport of basketball is a big man’s/woman’s game, NBA general managers’ willingness to sign Brown continually is a testament to their naiveté and arrogance because his game was not transcendent enough regardless of coaching or teammates. Unfortunately, Brown’s size ultimately made him a victim of all of the great expectations that many people had as a result.

            Brown’s lack of dominance in conjunction with the marginal careers of Eddy Curry, Korleone Young, et cetera made NBA executives uneasy about drafting players directly from high school because they were too inexperienced and usually physically incapable of the rigors of the NBA; everyone cannot exceed expectations under those circumstances like LeBron James who was a wunderkind.  

            Over the past few decades, there appears to be a growing level of enmity between athletes and the media, especially those media personalities who were never professional athletes themselves. Some athletes are often frustrated knowing that most reporters they encounter are not cognizant of the rigors of what it takes to stay in shape annually and maintain their position in their chosen sport under demanding coaches who constantly have their jobs on the line as well. In fairness, most media members’ idea of physical activity is a nice leisurely two-mile jog and a couple of repetitions on a few weight machines three to five times a week.

            Nonetheless, these factors do not make Brown a sympathetic figure over the years because “when someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” Since Brown was the first overall pick of the Round 1 of the 2001 NBA Draft, he was expected to produce. Brown cannot figuratively hypnotize the public into believing that his career was more than it was because those shadowy almost black and white images were too well chronicled for that disappointment to be erased.

Monday, May 31, 2021