May 2, 2011

The Real Reason Some Players Are "Winners"

     I've been hearing this a lot leading up to the NFL Draft.  Certain players are described as "winners".  Somehow guys like Cam Newton and Andy Dalton magically make a team better than it should be, without any explanation.  It happens in other places too.  Tom Brady, Kobe Bryant, Andy Pettite in the playoffs, and many others are said to have that winning edge.
     I, on the other hand, don't believe that some athletes are just more prone to winning than others.  The fact that they do win so much can be attributed to at least one of three things:

1.  The player is very talented.
     When a player is more talented than usual, they make their team better.  Good teams tend to win more games and more championships.  Is it really that weird that a Kobe-led team has won five championships?  It isn't Kobe's focus and performance in the clutch.  It's his talent.  LeBron James has won 60+ games with the Cavs and made an NBA Finals appearance.  The fact that he didn't win that championship is because his supporting cast was awful, not because he isn't a "closer".  Which leads me to my second point:

2.  The player was on a good team.
     Andy Dalton won with a team that's consistently in the top 5 in defense and plays in a mediocre conference.  Kobe won with teams that included Shaquille O' Neal or the Gasol/Odom combo and had a smart, experienced coach.  Andy Pettite wins with the superstar-laden Yankees lineup on his side.  The point is, no great player is going to win much of anything without great talent around him.  Proclaiming certain people "winners" is unfair to those who just end up being on bad teams, like Jake Locker.

3.  The team as a whole just happened to win more games than it should have.
     Sometimes this kind of thing happens.  Teams just become unbeatable for a few weeks.  But this trend always reverses itself, even if the "winner" tag sticks with a guy.  Tom Brady may have won 3 Super Bowls, but he's also lost his last three playoff games.  Jay Cutler has lost a lot of games since he got to Vanderbilt, but he managed to get his team to 11-5 last year.  The Lakers had a few bad years with Kobe leading the team.  Even Kyle Orton, who I thought was the only true "winner" after the Broncos started 6-0 last year, has lost 17 of his last 22 games.

Don't be fooled by someone who wins a lot of games.  In the world of sports, talent always wins out in the end.

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