The NFL regular season grows ever closer. Betting sites and locations are constantly adjusting their odds as the money rolls in. The Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots are the AFC favorites, while the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints are the smart money to finish atop the NFC. This brings me to a subject that I've hinted at in dozens of other TSFJ articles: greatness.
First and foremost, greatness requires great ability. Even in learning to be great, one possesses the great ability to process information or to concentrate when mentally fatigued. Greatness is alchemy: there is an even exchange of materials; but to even begin to turn that lead into gold, gold must be present already. The tiniest speck is all that's needed to turn any person, player or team into perfect alchemists.
NFL teams like the Patriots and Saints have sustained excellence for years. While not every year has resulted in a championship, contention has been a staple for these two franchises. I'd like to get into brief ways how great teams can sustain their greatness going into this coming season.
"Excellence is a habit; not an accident," is an old Greek saying that permeates through life. The Patriots are a perfect example, as they went from being universally rooted for in 2001 to hoping they eventually have a terrible season today. Yes, they've had their share of scandal. But a lot of dislike for anyone great can be pointed to the fact they're still great. People root for underdogs a lot because of the idea they're not supposed to win. It is just as difficult to stay on top than it is to get there. It's harder to have and pressure motivating goals once a goal is met. Great teams find something to chase to maintain greatness. In short, greatness doesn't stop trying to be great.
Cohesion is a two-part ideal in team sports. Because personnel changes so often, having all the same players, coaches and execs around for years is impossible. It is important to have some people with tenure there, especially if they're good. But good people are plucked away from teams all the time--because they're good. So another key is to replace those people with the right kind of replacements. Bad fits can thwart championship aspirations real quick. The easiest example, especially with the Patriots and Saints, is that the two teams have had the same quarterback and head coach for years. Great teams keep great talent, particularly in the most important positions of the team..
A big part of the Saints' continued success is that quarterback Drew Brees and head coach Sean Payton have been together for years. (Sporting News)
Several things fall under this category. System, regimen, offensive and defensive identities and in-game plans are all a part of structure. This is where players are told to "buy in" to the way a team is run. Yes, there is room for individualized personalities and the smaller factions of position groups where players gravitate to each other. But at the core of all those teamwork cliches is the idea that everyone knows the structure. This does not mean every player gets treated the same. It may be shocking to some, but talented people get shown preferential treatment because of how good they are. In a utopian society, that's not fair. But nothing about our society is utopian or fair. The concept of treating everyone fairly but not the same is one that will exist in some manner as long as we exist.
Other than talent developing and other variations of human reaction, luck is the thing no one can control. The one definition of luck being where skill meets opportunity is true, as some skill goes into getting to the opportunity for luck to favorably or unfavorably work. But that part, the opportunity, is what's left up to chance. Players getting injured, other teams having their best performances in one game, an underachieving star are some things that all factor into winning and losing. But underneath that luck is the skill, talent and greatness that allows for fortune to bounce their way.
So those are some things to look for in teams to see if greatness is present. Enjoy the NFL season, folks.
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