Championship or Bust. Or None of the Above

Championship or Bust. Or None of the Above

Is It All About Championships? It Can’t Be.

“This is the year we win it all.” “It’s championship or bust!”

Words echoed from New York City to Buffalo to Cleveland to Phoenix to Seattle. Pick a sport, pick a level, and there you have people saying this is the year. This year we will win it all.

Granted in sports, the “we” is more tribal than anything. “We” aren’t winning anything! The team, now they might. Or at least they will try. But guess what? They probably won’t! Lots of teams haven’t won a title in fifty years. Some have never won one.

Using the NBA as a Backdrop

The NBA has an 82-game regular season followed by two months of playoffs, ending with a 7-game series to decide the NBA Champion. There are 30 NBA teams and did you know, ten of them have never won the NBA Championship? And then there are teams like the Sacramento Kings that haven’t won an NBA Championship since 1952! Oh, and what a championship that was. Kidding, I have no idea what happened. Nor do you. Nor does a 71-year-old living in the great city of Sacramento… because they weren’t alive!

But what about bigger cities like Atlanta and Phoenix? These are some of the biggest cities in the US. They surely have had a championship in the past 50 years, right? NOPE. Atlanta last won a title in 1959. And Phoenix, 1969. The year Richard Nixon took office!

So how do Atlanta Hawks fans, Phoenix Suns fans, and Kings fans wake up in the year 2023 and honestly tell themselves that this is the year? I mean, the Suns’ fans have a real reason for hope. They have a super team. Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal… Surely this is the year for them, right? Well, we’ll see. It’s possible, but chances are against it, and that is no knock on the Suns. Hey, I’ve adopted the Suns as a team I pay close attention to them thanks to my travels to the Sun Devil state. It’s just that it’s so hard to win.

Your Team Is Not Winning It All This Year

There’s no reason for optimism when it comes to winning Championships. I’m here to tell you, it is not happening!

And everybody knows that. You don’t need me to tell you how long it’s been since your team won a championship, and chances are it’s been a long time. And yet you still love your team. Why?

I’ve thought about this paradox a lot, and it’s been clear to me for a while that liking sports can’t be about the championships even though winning championships is what a lot of fans focus on. It must be some sort of process thing. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey, or however they say it. But that all sounds vague and clichéd. There must be more to it…

There I was, sick in bed, watching a Boston Celtics vs Minnesota Timberwolves early-regular season game. I don’t even really follow either team, and I didn’t care who won, but what a game. It had everything — the crowd’s excitement, the energy, and the playmaking. And it was another reminder* to me that it’s not about the championships—we think differently when we’re sick, I guess.

The Moment. Not Championship or Bust

What if it is all about the moment? Just the moment.

That’s it.

It’s not about the championships, it’s truly about the moments. My moment lying in bed feeling bad but enjoying the game. All those other moments I’ve spent watching games texting with good people or watching with family and friends. It’s about the connections. It’s about witnessing something. It’s about entertainment. It’s about fun. It’s about coming together as a group. It’s about the discussions and the debates. It’s about life. It’s about this article. And all of those things are moments.

A Buffalo Bills Anecdote

It was just the other day, in the aftermath of yet another Buffalo Bills heart-breaking loss that this idea was personified. While us fans were left in disbelief, the evening I had with my family—that was the moment. From the conversations that had nothing and everything to do with football, to the chicken wings my brother grilled up, to my dad’s hopeful whistles, to my nephew telling us exactly how this game would play out… that’s what I will remember. Yeah, I’ll also remember the Bills head coach afraid to go for the win with 20 seconds left in regulation, but that’s not the heart of the story. The heart is the laughter, camaraderie, and fun.

Championship or Bust. And Then What?

Now someone could say, if it is just about the moment, then why not go get high all the time or something? Why bother trying to achieve anything? But that kind of life has severe costs, and it’s not the kind of focusing on the moment I mean.

Now someone could also say, but if you never win the championship, how sad is that? Championships are fun, yes. But have a chat with those who have won championships, sold businesses, or reached some other pinnacle of success. Those are moments too. Amazing ones. They happen, they end. Then what? There’s often sadness after it’s all over. Seriously, ask someone who sold their business and then didn’t know what to do next. Find a former NBA Champion who wears his ring around town. It’s cool, but without more moments to look forward to, it loses its shine. Watch the movie “Friday Night Lights”. It’s about winning Texas state championships. That’s the pinnacle. The parents are living a depressed life and holding out hope their kids can repeat their moment of success by winning a state championship. But then what? And what if their kid doesn’t win?

Aim

The aim matters. That championship, that sale of a business, whatever it is you’re trying to do, it matters. It does not mean you will get there. You probably won’t. But having that aim, trying to accomplish something, is what keeps you going. That’s how you can enjoy the moment, every moment you get along the way.

So when the star of the Minnesota Timberwolves, Anthony Edwards, hits the big shot and the crowd goes crazy, they are all enjoying the moment. The season will end. Edwards won’t win the championship—the Timberwolves will have never won the NBA Title in their 35 years of existence. But that’s okay. The aim is the title, but the moment is what matters.

That’s why we’re here.

*footnote: Why was this article, “Championship or Bust. Or None of the Above” a reminder and not an epiphany? I wrote about it in 2016, in this article titled, Enjoy the Journey (yeah that vague, clichéd line I used above!).

I believe this wholeheartedly. In that article, I said do you think Charles Barkley, Jim Kelly, Patrick Ewing, Ted Williams, Dan Marino, and Barry Sanders didn’t enjoy the journey because they never won the title. NOT A CHANCE.