Lionel Messi, Jerry West and the gut-wrenching uselessness of the individual accolade

Messi golden ball upsetThe World Cup is finally over much to the chagrin of soccer fans that eat, drink and breathe the sport but much to the enjoyment of Americans who still can’t grasp concepts like offside and stoppage play.  (Think outside the box, people!)

I watched the conclusion of the final game as a dejected Leo Messi received the World Cup’s Golden Ball, the tournament’s MVP award.  His Argentina team had just suffered a crushing defeat to Germany minutes earlier yet his time had come to be individually honored.

While watching Messi accept the award, I couldn’t help but think of Jerry West.  And John Paxson.  And Steve Kerr.  And Big Shot Bob.

Leo Messi is arguably the greatest soccer player on the planet.  He now has another piece of hardware on his mantel to prove it.  The one he lacks, however, is a World Cup Trophy.  That’s the one he covets most.  Until that happens, he’ll never emerge from Diego Maradona’s shadow.  The Argentinian legend was a hothead and a repeated drug offender but he was also a World Cup champion, the irony of national heroism.

While thousands of Germans celebrated around him, Messi approached the podium to receive his award, disappointment written all over his face.  Everyone watching both on television and in the stands knew he’d give anything to trade that trophy for another.  Alas, it was not to be.

Jerry WestIn 1969, Jerry West won the NBA Finals MVP.  He averaged 38 points per game that series yet his Lakers lost in seven games to the Boston Celtics.  It remains the only time an NBA player has ever won the Finals MVP in a loss.  I didn’t watch that series. It was long before my time.  But I guarantee, like Messi, West would have traded in that trophy for a title.

West ultimately got another shot a championship.  Messi will have to wait another four years for his.

In team sports, it’s not always the greatest player who brings home the ultimate prize.  LeBron James won two out of the last three Finals and MVP awards but last year, it was 23 year old Kawhi Leonard who took home MVP honors and his very first ring.

Sometimes it is the Paxsons and the Kerrs and the Robert Horrys of the world, not the greatest players on their team but those who happen to be in the right place at the right time, who get all the glory.  Or the Mario Gotzes.  Gotze was no slouch but he certainly wasn’t Germany’s best player.  Yet he scored Germany’s game-winning goal and has since been spotted hot-tubbing with super models.  It was only Gotze’s second goal of the tournament but it was the biggest.

GotzeDespite all the individual accolades, there can only be one champion.  Sometimes the one who seals that championship is the unlikeliest of personnel.

And so, while Messi’s greatness is celebrated, his inner demons still burn.  As do Jerry West’s.  Meanwhile, Steve Kerr, John Paxson and Robert Horry sleep easy at night.  And Mario Gotze is enjoying his hot tubs.

26 thoughts on “Lionel Messi, Jerry West and the gut-wrenching uselessness of the individual accolade

  1. Messi had no business winning the Golden Ball. Thomas Muller should have won it for Germany. Messi had 4 goals and 1 assist and disappeared completely against The Netherlands and Germany. He didn’t score once after the opening round set of three games…not once. What a joke FIFA has become. I have a problem with giving undeserved awards just because he is a cash cow. The alleged best player in the world doesn’t completely disappear for almost two weeks and win an award for best player. Or he shouldn’t anyways.

    Meanwhile, Muller had 5 goals and 3 assists. Oh and ya know, his team actually won the World Cup. Argentina and others (US) who stacked the box and did nothing but play D got what they deserved. The best team won the World Cup. Hopefully Gotze is enjoying the fruits of his labor.

  2. There had to be something to giving it to him. I was on soccer blogs when he won it and people were in total shock. He wasn’t close to being the best player in the tournament.

  3. Yeah they thought I was lost lol. Look at that pictue of Messi. Even he knows it was an undeserved honor. Like really guys…you are giving me the Golden Ball. Didn’t you guys watch me get abused the couple of weeks. Btw…I think Arjen Robben is the best player in the world.

  4. Chris,
    I found the best way to learn the intricacies of an unfamiliar sport is to follow the sharp betting talent. With your hip pocket engaged in the fray, the mind will work much harder. Try this a few times and you’ll know more than a JT the Brick or a gravelly voiced Ferrall……That’s not saying much. Oh not to be confused with the talented “Happy” Pherral.

  5. Chris

    How much of a goddamn hypocrite is Tony Dungy ? Now he is suggesting that he would not have drafted Michal Sam because of the adverse publicity it would cause a team ? This being the same former NFL head coach who suggested he would take Michael Vick under his wing and aid him in turning his life around. Yet at the same time while head coach of the Buccaneers he had Warren Sapp , who was going through marital difficulties , where the player had been charged not once but twice with spousal abuse and battery against his now former wife Jameika Sapp . Dungy is a bonafide a#shole with his hypocrisy . Sam’s actions and his sexuality are not against the law where as the actions of both Vick and Sapp were .

    If the former Bucs’ head coach wants to be seen as being productive and a Christian as he espouses himself to be then let him show those traits, rather than play to the masses with his stupidity .

  6. He may have played the best in that series but need I remind you that Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Bill Russell and John Havlicek all played in that series.

  7. Al…

    I gotta tell ya’, I was willing give Dungy a pass on this one, chalking it up to a comment taken out of context but you do raise some valid points.

  8. Chris,

    Absolutely played many games/props in the WC. I will admit that initially I was getting killed betting the unders for the game. Like 2, 2.5 total goals scored. The early scoring was record setting for the WC. Upon further review and a few bank withdrawal slips i found that the new soccer ball was more player friendly than previous editions. I climbed out but still ended up a small loser. I did learn however that the NBA has copied some of the soccer manuevers………FLOPPING.

  9. As long as you came out a winner, Bets.

    That’s what a lot of inexperienced bettors don’t get about gambling on soccer. The final score is the final score and overtime means a push.

    It should only take one loss for everyone to figure that out.

    FYI, I do believe Rory was coming back at 12:1 to win the British, a pretty nice price for such a favored golfer.

    It’s interesting how golf numbers are skewed now with Tiger at the bottom of the pack. I wonder if Vegas is taking a bath on that.

  10. I’ll have my take up on Dungy’s comments soon, Al, so stay tuned.

    A nice two-game sweep of the Cards preceded by a three-game sweep of the Twinkies.

    Don’t look now but the Rays are four games under .500 and only 7 games back. Too early to believe?

  11. The only BMs that took a hit on Rory’s victory were the English chaps @ Ladbrokes. I’m sure u heard of the killing Rory’s dad and friends made. They wagered around $600 USD ten years ago @ 500-1 that Rory(then 15yrs old) would win the open prior to turning 26. That’s a cumulative payout of about 300k…..Oh the taxes in Northern Ireland are peanuts compared to here…… source Belfast Telegraph. 7/22/14.

  12. Thank God the World Cup is only every four years. I could only suffer through watching the US games and once they were done, so was my interest. Yes, the ball skills are amazing but let’s face it, after watching the Harlem Globetrotters for 30 minutes, you’ve pretty much seen enough. Until soccer does something to promote more scoring, I will never have an interest. Get rid of the off sides rule and make the goalie box smaller. The goalie would get more action and there would be more GOOOOOOAAAAAALLLLLLLSSSS!

  13. God No! I’d rather pluck my eyebrows! These people going nuts watching 1-0 games (even worse, ties!). Yes, the have incredible skills controlling the ball, but after 30 minutes, you’ve seen all you need to see! Like I said, after the US was eliminated, 90% of the “fans” in the US that were watching it tuned it out!

  14. Gut wrenching for Jerry West to repeatedly lose to Boston. Still haunts him to this day. The only saving grace is that it helped motivate him to become the GM he became and he got to see his creation, Showtime, exact his revenge for him.

    Lucky for me, I didn’t have ti witness it either. Since I’ve been watching it’s been lopsided in the Lakers favor. 10 titles to 4 and 3-2 head to head…Mostly due to Jerry West.

  15. Dan-O…

    You should be used to low-scoring games. Notre Dame hasn’t been able to put up many points ever since that loss to Alabama. ZING!!! (Sorry, couldn’t resist – wait, did the Gators even HAVE a football team last season?)

    And you’re right about fan interest dwindling down to nothing after the US was bounced. The bar business died considerably after we were done.

  16. Speaking of Sterling, Al, do you think guys like Doc and CP3 are for real when they talk about a potential boycott if Sterling still owns the team by season’s start?

    I’m not so sure Adam Silver wants to call their bluff.

  17. Bleed…

    I started reading Jerry West’s (auto?)biography but never made it all the way through. He was a tormented soul even before that series and I’m sure those losses didn’t help much.

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