LOS ANGELES, June 24, 2012 — They won it all. Now the real hard work of repeating begins.
Congratulations to the Los Angeles Kings, Miami Heat, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The month of June brought them true glory.
The Miami Heat won the NBA Championship for the second time in their history. Lebron James won his first championship.
The Los Angeles Kings won the NHL Championship for the first time in their existence after 45 years of futility.
Dale Jr. won his first race in four years and has a realistic chance to win his first championship.
They join the New York Giants, winners of the most recent NFL Superbowl back in February.
A Year of Feel-good Stories in Sports
The Giants were only 7-7 with two games to play in their regular season. They squeaked into the playoffs with a 9-7 record. Then on the road, they took the 15-1 Packers and hit them in the mouth. In the Superbowl they took the 13-3 Patriots and did likewise for their second improbable championship in five years.
The Heat were down three games to two against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. They went on the road in game 6 and got a big win before wrapping it up at home in game 7. They lost game 1 of the NBA Finals before rattling off four straight wins against the Oklahoma City Thunder to win it all.
The Kings were on the verge of missing the playoffs before making a coaching change and squeaking into the playoffs as the eighth and lowest seed. All they did was dominate higher seeds in front of them with relative ease. They led every playoff series three games to zero and got the fourth and final win before any seventh game.
Dale Earnhardt had some heartbreaking losses before finally getting his win.
All of these situations involved intense pressure that average people could not understand.
The Heat was all pressure, all the time. Anything less than a championship would have been a total failure. Lebron James was on the verge of being forever demonized (unfairly) as the guy who could not win the big one. Dwayne Wade was too old, and Chris Bosh was too soft. Coach Erik Spoelstra was one loss away from being fired. Winning it all was more relief than joy.
Dale Jr. has the pressure of being the son of one of the greatest racers in NASCAR history. Dale “Intimidator” Senior and his villainous mustache won seven championships. He lived and died a legend and his son has gigantic shoes to fill.
The Giants had Eli Manning, who critics would say was too nice and too soft to lead. He would not be as good as his brother Peyton Manning. Coach Tom Coughlin was too demanding, and then too old. The New York media always measured football coaches against Bill Parcells.
The Kings had the least amount of pressure because nobody expected anything of them. Yet when they led the Devils three games to zero in the NHL Finals and the Devils then won two straight, the doubters emerged. The Devils had come back to beat the hated New York Rangers. Would the Devils win again? Would the Kings choke again?
Yet in winning it all, these teams also had one other thing in common. That quality may be almost as important as the victories.
These Teams Are Likable
Outside of their division, the Giants have long been admired. They mirror the blue-collar work ethic of New Yorkers. They are a lunch-pail bunch who work hard. Coughlin is a disciplinarian and Eli Manning is a humble fellow. They are both courteous and polite, as opposed to the other New York football team that takes pride in talking trash.
In Los Angeles, the Kings have always had second-class status. When they wore yellow and purple they were in the shadow of the Lakers. When they switched to silver and black they were secondary to the Raiders. In Los Angeles, the Lakers and Dodgers still rule.
Yet the Lakers are loved and hated. Fans worship them and opponents despise them. Nobody hates the Kings. Everybody likes and respects them. They were humble in victory, and very gracious toward the Devils. The handshake lineups after the end of each playoff series remains a great sports tradition.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. is the most popular driver on the circuit. This is voted on by the other drivers. They all like the guy and are thrilled he finally got his win.
The Miami Heat were supposed to be villains. Lebron James was supposed to be hated. Yet Lebron as a villain was never realistic. He is an intelligent, polite, respectful individual. His widely panned “decision” raised money for charity. He even conceded it was a mistake, which he did not have to do. He did all he could do in Cleveland. So what if he had Wade and Bosh? Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, and Dennis Rodman, not to mention Coach Phil Jackson. Nobody wins it alone.
So while they all had great seasons, they all should take some advice into their offseasons. One would think that none of these teams need advice. This is not true. Even champions can get better. The main piece of advice for all of these teams is to remember one thing:
Stay likable and humble. Keep it classy. Respect the honor of the games you play.
Don’t talk trash in the off-season.
As former Browns Owner Art Modell said, “Losers should say very little…winners, even less.”
The 2004 Patriots won it all, and at the parade kicker Adam Vinatieri had the Boston crowd chanting “Yankees suck.” This was low class even by a Bill Bellichick team playing in Boston.
Don’t raise ticket prices. The owners must keep the good will of the fans who stayed through all the tough times. The economy is hurting right now.
Don’t drink and drive or do drugs. The 1986 Mets and Giants saw Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, and Lawrence Taylor have tumultuous offseasons that involved drugs, crime, and self-destructive behavior.
Straw and Doc could have won multiple championship and made the Hall of Fame. They threw it all away. LT managed to keep himself together until his playing days ended, but has had a rough life after football.
Don’t sexually assault anyone. This should never even have to be said, but Ben Roethlisberger has a habit of making bad decisions after winning the Superbowl. First it was a motorcycle crash, and then the allegations by a young girl in a nightclub. Even with two Superbowl rings, Pittsburgh Steelers fans turned against him. He worked hard to regain their trust, but he will never be as beloved as Terry Bradshaw.
Lawrence Phillips won a championship at Nebraska and an arrest for physically assaulting his girlfriend destroyed his NFL career before he really got going. He ended up a bust.
Avoid Hollywood celebrities. This is mainly for the Kings. The Lakers are so hated by fans outside of Los Angeles because the team is seen as “glamorous.” Many Hollywood celebrities know as much about sports as they do about politics…absolutely nothing.
Yet their attendance at games leads to higher ticket prices. It is no longer about basketball. It is about seeing and wanting to be seen. True fans can no longer afford going to games. The Kings should stick to hockey and avoid television and movie stars. They are like gangsters, only with more destructive influence.
Embrace the past.
Dale Earnhardt will always be his father’s son. He has not tried to run from this. His championship if he wins one will be his own, but he knows his father will always be in the background.
The Kings should embrace the 1993 team even though they lost in the NHL Finals. Wayne Gretzky was the Great One and he put hockey on the map in Los Angeles.
The Giants are all about tradition. The 1986 team is the model with guys like Phil Sims and Mark Bavaro epitomizing New York toughness and hard work.
A poignant basketball moment came when the Celtics won it all in 2008. Kevin Garnett finally got his ring and he hugged Bill Russell. This is a respect for tradition.
Lebron James showed plenty of class when he hugged Doc Rivers after the Heat defeated the Celtics. He then hugged Kevin Durant when the Heat vanquished the Thunder. Durant showed tons of class as well.
Don’t get caught up in a double-murder, especially if you are on a team known for trash-talking. From Brian Billick to Ray Lewis to Shannon Sharpe, the 2000 Ravens may be the least liked champion in sports history. Teams were gleeful when they were shut up in 2001.
Don’t cheat. The 2006 Saints were a feel-good story. The 2009 Saints had everybody on their side doing the Tom Benson Boogie. By 2012 the Saints were in ashes, their championship tarnished under a bounty scandal.
Coach Sean Payton was suspended for a year and so were other players and management personnel. Drew Brees is still a golden boy, but the rest of the team has the cloud of cheaters hanging over them.
The Patriots got over Spygate by winning more championships honestly. The Saints need to repair their reputations, and winning fairly would help.
Even the Oakland Raiders, known for its bad boys, had role models in Jim Plunkett and Marcus Allen.
To quote, Bill “The Tuna” Parcells, avoid “Nightclubs.” Everything bad that could happen to athletes is available in nightclubs. Plaxico Burress went from champ to chump with one accident.
Don’t date any of the Kardashians for any reason. No excuses. They are the worst of Hollywood celebrities.
Keep playing. No strikes, no lockouts, no work stoppages. The games must go on.
Enjoy these moments. They are fleeting.
Congratulations to the Kings, Heat, Giants, and Dale Jr.
Now stay humble. As Jon Gruden points out, there is somebody else waiting to knock you off your pedestal the moment you get fat, lazy, and self-important. Rocky Balboa got clubbed by Clubber Lang. That was fictional, but real life can be very cruel to champions who forget what got them there.
Have a great off-season.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian who is obsessed with the National Football League. There is no offseason. Every February he pretends to care about other sports while sobbing uncontrollably each Sunday until September.
Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.” When not watching football, his only other hobby is Republican, Jewish women. Republican, Jewish women, you may contact Eric above.
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS
Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog.