Yesterday was a fascinating day for me. I was watching a game with a quarterback who was Tom Terrific and Mr. Perfect before the big game started. But as the game went on, suddenly his legend was slowly but surely getting tarnished with each passing moment. With every overthrow or missed opportunity, it was becoming clear to me that Tom Brady was going to go from being lauded as one of the best quarterbacks of all time to someone who was going to be referred to as a choker.
I find it absolutely fascinating these pedestals that we place our athletes on. And the more you win, the higher that pedestal gets and the harder these icons fall. Brady was just about on the highest pedestal am athlete could achieve. Especially in the eyes of New England fans. He was their version of Derek Jeter. And we've all seen how Jeter's shine has come off the past few seasons (albeit the convenient presence of A-Rod has made it much easier for New Yorkers to bypass Jeter and blame Rodriguez for the postseason failures.
I've been there myself a few times. Most of us ANers loved Billy Koch and his Metallica's Fuel pumping, 100 plus mph fastball ways. Even if he was shaky at times during the regular season. That went away pretty quickly once he let up that fateful bomb to Pierzynski and the Twins.
Much more famously was Dennis Eckersley's painful moment against Kirk Gibson in the 88 World Series. Would Eck had been remembered so fondly by A's fans had the team not come back and won the 89 World Series? I'm not sure he would've because for sports fans, it isn't always that your team goes 18-0. It's what have you done for me on the biggest stage during the biggest moments.
Never mind the fact that the Patriots offensive line was abysmal yesterday and that Asante Samuel probably should've ended the game with an interception that hit him right in the hands in the waning seconds before the touchdown to Burress. The point is that even though guys like Montana, Jordan and Kobe Bryant are recognized as some of the greatest to ever play their game, it's doubtful that any of them would've won without Roger Craig, Scottie Pippen and Shaquille O'Neal. Despite the fact that fans and media want it to be all about one player, choking a big game away is rarely the fault of one player just like winning it all is.
I've said numerous times that the New Jersey Devils are my favorite hockey team. They probably should've won five Cups instead of three, but they choked away several opportunity in Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup finals and Game 6 at home against the New York Rangers in the 1994 Eastern Conference finals (they likely would've rolled against Vancouver). Martin Brodeur, who will be recognized by many as one of the very best goalies to ever play the game if not the best since he'll likely retire with the most wins and shutouts ever, didn't have his best games in either instance. Yet he still wound up with three championships. He's won three titles and a gold medal and people still remember those failures as his. It's ridiculously unfair.
The team concept gets so very lost in today's media where we love to glamorize one person for being responsible for it all. It's Brady's Patriots against Eli Manning's Giants. Not just the Pats against the Giants. Or probably the worst of all these days, it's always Brady's Pats against Peyton Manning's Colts. I understand how important a QB is to a football team and a goalie is to a hockey team, but these guys don't do it alone.
The pedestal of perfection was unceremoniously knocked out from Tom Terrific yesterday. And in many ways, it wasn't his fault. But we will never accept that. We always need someone to blame to make us feel better. It makes me sad that we can't seem to recognize that some of our biggest sports heroes have flaws too. As someone much wiser than I once said, no one is perfect.