Should play­ers be de­fined by a cham­pi­onship

The Compass - - SPORTS - Ni­cholas Mercer To the Point

Af­ter the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins hoisted the Stan­ley Cup as Na­tional Hockey League cham­pi­ons, you have to feel for the other guys.

Guys like Pa­trick Mar­leau and Joe Thorn­ton are the first pair to come to mind. That clip of Mar­leau watch­ing the cel­e­bra­tion un­fold­ing in front of him, with his face propped up by the stick in front of him and a look of ex­treme dis­ap­point­ment on his face, painted what the Cup meant to him.

Thorn­ton, Mar­leau and their team­mates were two games from help­ing them shed the ‘loser’ la­bel when it came to the play­offs. A win on the big­gest stage in pro hockey would’ve helped ce­ment them as le­git su­per­stars — I be­lieve they are, but what do I know — and pro­vide an an­swer to the ‘ Can they win the big one?’ ques­tion.

It hurts for them. They were this close to a cham­pi­onship and now they have to start over.

There is never a guarantee you can get back. That’s what makes start­ing over so painful.

Some­times, you’re lucky as a pro ath­lete and you get a cou­ple of cracks at a cham­pi­onship. For oth­ers, that one fi­nals ap­pear­ance in a ca­reer is the only time they’ve been in reach of a tro­phy.

They all strive for that one cham­pi­onship. They only want one, but of­ten times that es­capes them.

Pro sports are a grind. First, it’s the long reg­u­lar sea­sons; reg­u­lar trips across the coun­try and then comes the play­offs.

Mun­dane play­ers re­ally need it, but do the great ones?

Do the truly great play­ers of the game need to have that cham­pi­onship to val­i­date their ca­reers?

In my opin­ion, I don’t think it re­ally mat­ters to the great ones. Jim Kelly is a Hall of Fame quar­ter­back even though he whiffed on four straight NFL ti­tle games.

Karl Malone is the sec­ond high­est scorer in NBA his­tory, but he doesn’t have a cham­pi­onship. Does that make his ca­reer a waste?

No, def­i­nitely not. It goes for Charles Barkley and Reg­gie Miller too.

But, those are older ex­am­ples. Take Jarome Iginla for ex­am­ple. Great player, no ti­tles.

Got re­ally close with the Flames in 2004, but he hasn’t been back since. That doesn’t take away the fact, he’s a great player.

Carmelo An­thony may never reach the NBA Fi­nals and in the grand scheme of things, it re­ally doesn’t mat­ter.

The level th­ese guys played at dur­ing their ca­reers isn’t di­min­ished by not hav­ing a ti­tle.

The play­ers strive to be the best. It’s in­grained in their DNA.

They need it and they crave it. Their en­tire lives they’ve been the best and they need to reach that pin­na­cle or it’s a waste.

They need that long-last­ing value to put their ca­reers in per­spec­tive.

How­ever, the great ones shouldn’t be de­fined by cham­pi­onships. Their legacy shouldn’t be tied to a cham­pi­onship.

They all want one, but they don’t need it.

Would Michael Jor­dan’s ca­reer and im­pact on the game have been any less sig­nif­i­cant if he hadn’t won six cham­pi­onships?

Ni­cholas Mercer is a re­porter/pho­tog­ra­pher with The Com­pass in Car­bon­ear. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at nmercer@cb­n­com­

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