Monday, February 2, 2009

Kurt Warner for Super Bowl MVP? Not According to the Man of La Mancha

One of my favorite words is quixotic. It's not something that accurately applies to me, but sometimes I wish it did. It embodies a kind of noble determination and sad valor that I can respect. The irony is also appealing since I always thought Don Quixote was more a buffoon than anything else.

Plus, it looks cool and sounds even cooler.

So I don't mind admitting that, on occasion, I tilt at one windmill in particular: the importance of winning over any other achievement in sports.

I've done it several other times, but restricted my argument to Major League Baseball (once here and another time here). In my opinion, baseball is the most vulnerable major team sport to an attack in favor of personal stats/achievements as the appropriate measure of a player's greatness. Since it's a team game assembled from individual performances, I can see dismissing whether or not his teams were winners. I just strongly disagree.

And that goes double for the National Basketball Association; several more orders of magnitude for the National Football League.

In fact, the main reason I'm particularly brutal on Tony Romo, Peyton Manning, and Brett Favre is because I think all three personify the other side of the debate. I've got nothing against them personally except that Tony plays for Dallas and Bert beat up on my Niners back when Steve Young was at the helm—did I say nothing? Well even so, far more significant is the fact that each quarterback (to date) has put up gorgeous numbers and, by virtue of the statistical bling, has become incredibly overrated.

If I'm perfectly honest, I don't sincerely expect to change anyone's mind on the question since it goes to the fundamental filter through which an individual sees athletics (possibly life). That's not usually something people let a random blogger change. But I'm not gonna stop tryin'. Again. Right now.

See, I keep reading articles and arguments in favor of Kurt Warner as the "real" Super Bowl Most Valuable Player. Now, I've really come around on Warner and will readily admit that, when it looked like the Arizona Cardinals might win late, I came as close as I think I'll ever come to adopting an organized religion. And that's saying something because I'm no great fan of such institutions—I've got absolutely no problem with most of the individuals inside them though.

Still, even if I were to concede that Kurt Warner was the best player on the field last night, his team LOST. How in the hell could he be the MVP of a football game that his team lost?

Let me a try a quick and clumsy analogy:

Let's say we could reduce the value of winning and losing down to dollars and cents. Not as in the value of a fight purse or a bowl game or a World Series winner's share versus that of the loser. I'm talking the intangible value of winning and what it means to competitors. It's something that's impossible to actually do, but it's a hypothetical so we can pretend.

Say winning in the NFL is "worth" $1000. Then, say winning is 10 times as valuable as losing to the combatant. I'd say the multiple's closer to infinity for any true athlete (or at least any I'd want on my team as a coach or teammate); certainly in the thousands, but we'll error on the side of caution. That makes losing "worth" $100.

Plug Kurt Warner and last night's Super Bowl into that hypo.

Say Warner was 100 percent responsible for the Cardinal's close-but-no-cigar performance. That makes him "worth" $100. Now let's say Santonio Holmes' performance was only a quarter of the reason for the Pittsburgh Steelers' victory.

That makes him "worth" $250 in the hypo.

Obviously, that is clumsy and very vulnerable to technicalities, etc. But I'm trying to illustrate a point—the MVP is given from the perspective of value to the team. Since the goal is to win, any player who played a more crucial role in that win is going to be considered more valuable than another. Even if that player outperformed him in the individual sense while toiling for the losing side.

Is that fair? Absolutely because the award is not called the Best Player Award or Most Outstanding Individual Achievement Award. It is the MVP and it's about winning.

In a team sport, the team is always the most valuable component to that ultimate goal. Yet the award exists and must go to an individual. Since winning is what it's all about, the team that wins naturally has more "value" to go around.

And that's proven out by the fact that, in the history of the Super Bowl, only one player from a losing team has won the game's MVP award. That was in 1971, roughly 40 years ago. Plus it went to a Dallas Cowboy, which obviously means it was a conspiracy (just kidding Robert/James).

So forget the fact that Warner's interception may have cost Arizona the game. Forget the fumble (I can't put that on him anyway). Forget every single, little thing that Kurt Warner did wrong. He still couldn't win MVP unless the Steelers had NOBODY distinguish himself.

And Pittsburgh had two worthy candidates—Holmes and Ben Roethlisberger.

I would've gone with Big Ben because he had to make perfect throws and keep the drives alive with his mobility before Santonio could even get those balls. But Holmes still had to catch them—sort of a chicken-and-egg deal so I can't gripe too much.

Regardless Kurt Warner was not the MVP. And he'd tell you that himself. In fact, I bet he'd've rejected the award. He'll get over that pick, but he'll see it in his dreams sporadically until the day he dies. You think he feels right today? No way.

The only way it could've been worse is if the interception had been later in the game or Larry Fitzgerald had blown out a knee while trying to tackle that thug and given Anquan Boldin a concussion in the process.

MAN, the Arizona Cardinals were about to take the lead going into halftime of the Super Bowl. This after 30 minutes of being thoroughly dominated and as the recipient of the second half kick-off. At the VERY least, the Cardinals would've been tied. Ooooooof.

Kurt Warner is clearly a warrior (that statement is so obvious is looks ludicrous in print). He's suffered worse and he'll bounce back. He doesn't need pity or consolation prizes. Especially ones he doesn't deserve.

But enough hollow words, my dear Sancho. We are men of action; we must charge!

No comments: