January 12, 2012

Always the Bridesmaid, Never the Bride

No, not me.

But thanks for your concern, Mom and Grandma.

I was thinking about sports stars that were overshadowed by someone just a little bit better.
If not for the super-star, these guys would have owned their era, winning championships or tournaments or races all along the way. And their names would be the ones synonymous with excellence.
Note: I'm not saying they aren't champions; they just didn't get the glory they would have received if not for their contemporary.

Here are a couple I've identified [tormentor in brackets]:

Karl Malone & John Stockton [Michael Jordan & Scottie Pippen]
The Utah Jazz stars played over 1,400 regular-season games together and went to the NBA Finals in two consecutive years. Unfortunately, Jordan and Pippen were waiting for them both times, and the pick-and-roll just wasn't enough to steal that elusive championship ring from the Bulls' clutches.
Jan Ullrich [Lance Armstrong]
Everyone knows who Lance Armstrong is. Pretty much only cyclists and cycling fans know who Jan Ullrich is. That's because Jan only won the Tour de France once (1997) prior to Lance taking the cycling world by storm and finishing in the yellow jersey 7 times in a row (1999-2005).
Phil Mickelson [Tiger Woods]
Yes, Phil has had a whole lot of success in his career, and he isn't done yet. Their rivalry has defined an era in golf, with most people remembering Tiger's ability to finish tournaments. On the flip side, Phil too often let leads slip away late in the weekend. Time remains for Phil to catch up, but at present Phil has 4 Major championships to Tiger's 14. Better get on it, Lefty.
Boston Red Sox [New York Yankees]
I have love for both teams, but you have to admit the Yankees have had more success when it really matters: the post-season and especially the World Series. Prior to Schilling's bloody sock in 2004, the Sox suffered an 86-year championship draught, during which the Bronx Bombers won 26 titles. Ouch.
Cameron Brown [Tim DeBoom & Peter Reid]
Outside of triathlete circles, not many people know of Cameron. At the Ironman Championships in Kona, HI, he took top 3 in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2005, as well as two other top-10 finishes, but was never able to cross that line first. To his credit, Cameron has dominated Ironman New Zealand with 10 wins and 2 second-place finishes from 2000-2011.
All these poor guys/teams sadly had their incredible careers which happened to coincide with other guys/teams at a slightly higher peak. We still applaud their skills and accomplishments, but the rivalry didn't come out in their favor. Tough break, but that's the way sports are.

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