After Michael Vick’s utter annihilation of the Washington Redskins Monday night, something began to irk me.
It’s not something all that new. It’s something fans around the country have been guilty of time and time again over the years. Something we, as fans, can’t exactly help, but nonetheless needs to be addressed.
I’m talking about the obsession of “Right now.”
Let me explain with a few examples: In April when Duke beat Butler in the men’s basketball national championship, the debate became whether that was the greatest national title game of all time. When the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl two years ago, it was debated whether or not that was the greatest Super Bowl of all time.
When someone does something in sports that is incredibly great, it makes the masses wonder if it was the greatest of all time. In some accounts, the answer is yes. Those accounts are very, very rare.
So I woke up Tuesday morning and looked at ESPN.com’s fan poll and the questions was “Who is the NFL MVP right now?” A few hours later they changed it to “Who is the best quarterback in the NFL right now?”
In both of those polls, Michael Vick was one of the candidates, as was Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and a few others. In both polls, Vick was the runaway winner.
Vick — a quarterback who has started all of five games this season and all of five games in the past 3 1/2 seasons has somehow leaped past Manning and Brady (as well as Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, etc)., and become the best quarterback in the NFL.
Don’t get me wrong. Vick’s performance Monday night was phenomenal. The fact that it was on Monday night magnified it tenfold. But how quickly do we forget the entire body of work of such already established quarterbacks? How quickly do we forget that last year Brees was the runaway winner of “best quarterback in the league?” This year, Brees is an afterthought.
The “best in the league right now” debate didn’t bug me as much. You could make the argument that Vick is playing the position better than any other in the league RIGHT NOW. But for my money, I’d still take Manning, Brady, Rivers, Rodgers or Brees to lead my team. What really irked me was the MVP debate. That’s where the “right now” problem comes from.
In the 1992-93 NBA season, MVP voters gave the award to Charles Barkley over Michael Jordan. In the 1998-99 season, they gave the award to Karl Malone over Jordan. In both cases, writers were awarding guys for having “career-best” seasons and, quite frankly, were likely sick of voting for Jordan. (Bill Simmons dives further into this argument in “The Book of Basketball).
But when you think of those season, and the names of those awards, were Barkley and Malone REALLY more valuable to the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz than Jordan was to the Bulls? The answer is no. And the answer is no when you ask that question about any player compared to Jordan from the years 1990 to 1998.
Baseball has an example, too. While the National League MVP hasn’t been decided on yet, the runaway favorite is Cincinnati Red Joey Votto. Votto had an incredible breakout year and led the Reds to a division title. He was the next big thing in baseball and will likely end Albert Pujols’ two-year run as MVP.
Is Votto more valuable to the Reds than Pujols is to the Cardinals? No way. Regardless of if Votto’s team did better than Pujols, you take Votto away from the Reds and they’re competitive. You take Pujols away from the Cardinals and they’re the Pittsburgh Pirates. Pujols is the most valuable player in baseball, and just because it’s the same old story year after year after year doesn’t make it any less true.
Voters got sick of voting for Pujols. Fans got sick of seeing him way. They wanted the next big thing. That happened to be Votto.
So let’s look at the NFL MVP argument again. Is Vick having a phenomenal season? Absolutely. Probably his best since he entered the league. But if you take Vick away from the Eagles, they still have a pretty capable quarterback in Kevin Kolb and the team around him isn’t so bad. Take Manning away from the Colts. Take Brady away from the Patriots. Those teams are not playoff caliber. They’re below .500. They’re really bad.
The problem is, voters are sick of voting for Manning or Brady. Fans are sick of seeing them win. They’re ready to move on to the next big thing, and right now, the next big thing is Vick.
Was the Butler-Duke NCAA Title game the best ever? It’s in the conversation. But people forget that there was a title game as good or better just two years prior (Kansas-Memphis, anyone?)
Was the Cardinals-Steelers Super Bowl one of the best ever? Sure. It was great. But people forget there was one as good or better just one year prior (Patriots-Giants, anyone?)
People need to take what they see into context when they see it, and it’s impossible to do. Too often do we get wrapped up in the moment and immediately slap the “best ever” label on it without really dissecting the truth. That’s something we, as fans, need to do a better job of realizing.
On to the week 11 predictions.
Chicago Bears at Miami Dolphins (-1.5)
A few years ago I had a really bad fantasy team that was riddled with injuries. I picked up Tyler Thigpen when he was starting for the Chiefs and he won me a few weeks with some ridiculously unexpected good statistical games. I’m a Thigpen fan. Dolphins to win and cover.
Baltimore Ravens (-10.5) at Carolina Panthers
I expect this line to move to 12 or 13 points by game time now that Brian St. Pierre was named the Panthers’ starting quarterback. Ravens to win and cover.
Buffalo Bills at Cincinnati Bengals (-6)
The Terrell Owens/Chad Ocho Cinco blowup is days away. Trust me. Bengals to win, Bills to beat spread.
Detroit Lions at Dallas Cowboys (-6.5)
Every Cowboys fan’s worst nightmare is that Jason Garrett coaches well enough that Jerry Jones sticks with him instead of going after Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher. Cowboys to win, Lions to beat spread.
Cleveland Browns at Jacksonville Jaguars (-1.5)
I’m buying into the Jaguars as a competitive football team. That means they’re going to get blown out at home by Colt McCoy this week. Jaguars to win and cover.
Arizona Cardinals at Kansas City Chiefs (-8.5)
This line is absurdly high. I think the Chiefs are finally starting to come down to Earth a little. Chiefs to win, Cardinals to beat points.
Green Bay Packers (-3) at Minnesota Vikings
This game has Cowboys-Giants written all over it. But I don’t have the balls to pick it. Packers to win and cover.
Houston Texans at New York Jets (-7)
Remember how high everyone was on the Texans after the first two weeks? How inexplicable that this season will probably end up with Gary Kubiak getting fired? Jets to win and cover.
Oakland Raiders at Pittsburgh Steelers (-7.5)
Oakland fans, meet reality. Steelers to win and cover.
Washington Redskins at Tennessee Titans (-7)
The Titans are one of two teams who I consistently get wrong regardless of who they’re playing or how I pick. Titans to win, Redskins to beat spread.
Seattle Seahawks at New Orleans Saints (-12)
The Seahawks are the other team. Saints to win and cover.
Atlanta Falcons (-3) at St. Louis Rams
This may not seem like a big deal, but road games against inferior division opponents are games you must win if you’re a Super Bowl contender. This game is no slouch for the Falcons. Falcons to win and cover.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers at San Francisco 49ers (-3.5)
How ridiculous is it that the 49ers still have an outside shot of winning this division? 49ers to win, Bucs to beat spread.
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (-4)
Peyton Manning in prime time against a rival? Yes, please. Colts to win outright.
New York Giants at Philadelphia Eagles (-3)
Not to sound cliche, but we’re going to find out which team in the NFC East is best this week. I think it’s the Giants. Giants to win outright.
Denver Broncos at San Diego Chargers (-10)
The Chargers’ late season surge has begun. Chargers to win and cover.
Week 10 – 6-7 (7-6 against spread)
Overall: 80-62 (69-70-3 against spread)