We know we tend to get in a bit of trouble when we bring up Joe Namath around these parts, but never do we feel the ghastly pull of his dessicated "legend" more than during Super Bowl week when a New York team is playing. (And by that we mean "the Giants." Obviously.) As we've mentioned, Namath essentially broke sportswriting, the Baby Boomer equivalent of what Brett Favre (and then Tim Tebow) was to ESPN. And so much of it is because of that blasted, ridiculous "guarantee." We remind once again, because people keep forgetting it for some strange reason: One player cannot "guarantee" a victory, because one player cannot win a sporting event. One player has no idea what's going to happen any more than you do. Can we stop pretending that they do?
The Giants arrived in Indianapolis yesterday, and a few players and coaches had brief press conferences before the Media Day obnoxiousness today. One of those players was safety Antrel Rolle, who didn't guarantee anything, but did say this: “We wouldn’t have boarded the plane if we didn’t expect to win.”
This got George Willis's spidey senses a-tinglin'. Careful, Antrel Rolle: You're in the danger zone.
When asked if he were going to guarantee a victory over the Patriots Sunday, Rolle scoffed and said: “That’s not going to happen.” Then he just about predicted one anyway, saying, “We wouldn’t have boarded the plane if we didn’t expect to win.” The truth is, there is nothing left for Rolle to say. Leaders know when to speak and when to remain quiet, which is something the Giants safety has tried to follow throughout his career even during his early days as a Giant, when many wondered if he would ever shut up.
Every time we enter a locker room, we see the way the players look at reporters, not with contempt, not with pity, not with anger, but with cautious bewilderment, as if speaking to an overgrown, dangerous child who is generally innocuous but is still holding a knife, unsteadily. We generally find this unsettling. But we do understand it.
Antrel Rolle said he expects his team to win, just as we expect we'll write a good piece when we sit down to type, the same way a college professor expects to deliver a good lecture, the way an electrician expects to fix your wiring. It doesn't always work out that way, though, which is why — again — "expectation" is not the same thing as "a guarantee." This is obvious, right? Obvious to everyone else, anyway?
The Super Bowl is the worst at this, and it's just gonna be more annoying at Media Day today. Reporters are always telling athletes that they need to know "when to speak and when to remain quiet," but they still keep shoving those microphones up there, and, wobbly, they still keep holding those knives.