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Ring not always the thing in sports


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Your favorite NFL team is trailing by five points with two minutes remaining in the Super Bowl and has possession of the football at its own 20.

It’s your choice. You can select any current pro quarterback to bark instructions in the huddle and hopefully lead the team downfield for the winning points.

Never fear, Joe Flacco is here.

Um, but wait, you say. Seems you had been leaning toward either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. Even images of Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers popped into your head during the 30 seconds spent mulling it over.

Ridiculous or not, here’s the popular argument. Flacco by being on a Super Bowl-winning team now has a locker in the big boy steam room. He’s elite. One of the best. A guy you want making the truly difficult decisions and throws.

All because of a piece of jewelry 52 other players helped him earn.

Exactly at what point did our society become so ring-obsessed that it mentally bold-faces the accomplishments of those who do while blurring feats of those who don’t?

It’s a dangerous place to tread, all right. A thought process that informs us that Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton, Jim Kelly, Donovan McNabb and Ken Anderson were inferior to Trent Dilfer, Doug Williams and Mark Rypien.

But not every winning quarterback gets pulled in. What about Jim Plunkett and Eli Manning? Here are quarterbacks responsible for two Super Bowl championships apiece, and nobody outside their respective families mentions either as one of the best ever.

This doesn’t just occur in football. Don’t tell me Steve Fisher, Tubby Smith, Jerry Tarkanian and Rollie Massimino are or were better at their craft than Gene Keady, Rick Majerus and Brad Stevens based solely on a ring. Or that Dean Smith, North Carolina’s men’s basketball coach starting in 1961, didn’t graduate to great until that spring night in 1982 when Georgetown guard Fred Brown delivered a textbook pass to Tar Heels forward James Worthy.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant has five rings and would probably auction off two of his toes for a sixth. Why? Because that’s how many Michael Jordan finished his career with.

Bryant is great. One of the best to ever pick up a basketball. But even with eight rings he’s no Jordan. Then again, using the jewelry scale tells us MJ is no Bill Russell (11 rings).

I suppose when all is said and done, championship rings do play a pivotal role in how we perceive our favorite athletes and coaches. What they’re not is the circle separating greatness from other levels of athletic achievement.

Need more convincing? Always remember M.L. Carr has an insurmountable 2-0 lead over Reggie Miller in championship rings.

Mike Beas is a sports writer with the Daily Journal, a sister paper to The Republic. Send comments to mbeas@therepublic.com.

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