Don’t say it. Don’t you dare say it.
Because the minute you do, the second you put those words out into the universe, I guarantee you they will come back to haunt you.
A few years ago when Ohio State toppled Alabama in the college football national semifinals, I penned a column wondering if Bama’s coach, Nick Saban, might be fading while the Buckeyes’ Urban Meyer might be on the rise.
Four years later, Saban has added two more national titles, while Meyer has added none and has left coaching again. I guess I was less than prescient. But I also knew better.
It’s why when a certain publisher of a local magazine kept telling me the Rome Wolves would definitely win a third-straight state title, I shook my head.
Not because I didn’t think the Wolves capable, but because I’ve seen so many great teams get tangled up along the way. I wasn’t happy that Warner Robbins knocked the Wolves off, but I wasn’t surprised either.
More than a few pundits began throwing around the greatest ever tag for this year’s Alabama football team. I cringed, and I didn’t agree. I thought they were great but not the best ever.
Clemson agreed with me, as they manhandled the Tide in the national title game. But before anyone says this loss might mark the beginning of the end of the Alabama dynasty and the start or continuation of Clemson’s – hold your tongue.
One game doesn’t spell doom or disaster, but it can be a signpost along the way.
For some reason we have to keep anointing teams as the best ever and predicting when the teams on top will begin to fall. I continue to wait for the Patriots’ run in the NFL to falter, but I’ll be nice and not mention a certain Super Bowl a couple of years ago where we all thought it finally happened.
I can’t stop laughing at pundits and ultimate fighting fans who seem to have the never-ending penchant for throwing around the term greatest ever. Few years ago, they put Ronda Rousey on that pedestal. She fell hard after two jaw-dropping losses. In fact, I could put a long list of MMA fighters who at one time got the label.
We’ve seen the same thing in boxing. Legendary fighter Mike Tyson looked unbeatable for several years dismantling foes with reckless abandon. And then a guy named Buster Douglas pounced. Tyson never recovered.
Sometimes injuries on and off-the-field, or in this case course, issues take an athlete down. Tiger Woods had a stretch where he seemed to win almost every tournament he entered and even had a long string of victories where if he entered Sunday with the lead, he didn’t lose. Then his body began failing him and his poor life choices caught up with him. Woods will still go down as one of the bests of all time, but he doesn’t have the same lofty spot most predicted a few years ago.
Don’t even get me started on performance enhancing drugs, which have also crashed a few careers. I loved watching and rooting for Lance Armstrong as he was collecting yellow jerseys in France. I even woke up early during the summer to be able to watch his rides live and celebrated and cheered as he passed rider after rider and seemed to be truly inhuman with his efforts.
Turned out he was. Armstrong cheated every which way he could to win those events. Maybe he is the greatest cyclist of all time, but that comes with one heck of an asterisk considering all of his titles came with a heavy dose of pharmacology on the side.
Growing up, I idolized Bo Jackson. I followed his every exploit and cheered along as he performed remarkable feat after remarkable feat at Auburn, with the Kansas City Royals and with the Oakland Raiders. I still think he is the greatest all-around athlete of all time. But a freak hip injury robbed him of his world-class speed and the chance to have a long career in professional sports.
It applies for teams as well.
The minute you say your team is unbeatable something happens. A way-too-late pass interference call robs Miami of a second-straight national title after some started giving them the best-ever tag.
Maybe your field goal kicker misses on the final second of the game only to have your archrival grab the errant ball return it 100 yards for the game-wining touchdown halting the chance at a national title three-peat. You knew I was waiting for it.
Perhaps your vaunted gold medal winning machine of a hockey team runs into a crew of plucky collegiate kids from the United States and somebody forgot to let them know they were supposed to lay down and lose instead of manufacturing one of the greatest upsets in Olympic history.
Or maybe you’re celebrating your team about to clinch a spot in the World Series only to watch a back-up player lash a picture-perfect single to left field and the slowest man on the opposing baseball team go from first to home and beat the throw by inches.
Take a cue from Arthur Blank who refused to begin heading to the field until the final minutes of Atlanta United’s championship game. He had left his box in the third quarter of the Super Bowl with his Falcons holding a big lead and we all now how that ended.
So save the talk of best ever, hold on to the celebrations until the clock runs out and never, ever say a certain team, coach, players or dynasty is through, because the minute you do the universe hears you and it’s ready to prove you wrong, often times in the most excruciating way possible.
*The views expressed in this column are those of the writer, and do not represent the opinions of V3 Magazine.