In the opening to NBC’s coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs on Wednesday night, Bob Costas declared the past year one of underdogs in sports. Last September, the St. Louis Cardinals clinched a wildcard playoff spot on the last day of play in Major League Baseball, but only after they beat the Houston Astros and the Atlanta Braves lost to the Philadelphia Phillies. Had either game finished with the opposite result, the Braves would have made the playoffs instead of the Cardinals. Led by Albert Pujols, the Cardinals went on a run to the World Series and a world championship.
On New Years’ Day, in a do-or-die game and the last regular season NFL game of the year, the New York Giants beat the Dallas Cowboys to clinch a division title. Two weeks later, the Giants met the defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers in a playoff game. The 9-7 Giants crushed the 15-1 Packers on their way to a Super Bowl title. The Packers only lost one game all regular season? Too bad; history will forever remember the Giants as the winners of the 2011-12 NFL season; the Packers lost in their first playoff game.
This Stanley Cup final features the sixth-seeded New Jersey Devils taking on the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings. Who could have picked this matchup? One team will go down as this season’s champion, and that team will not be the top-seeded New York Rangers or Vancouver Canucks, eliminated by the Devils and Kings, respectively. Those two teams won the most games this year? That means nothing now. The Chicago Bulls finished the NBA season tied for the best record. Those same Bulls lost in the first round of the playoffs. Regular season accomplishments are great, but only the eventual winner matters.
Michael Phelps won gold after gold, setting world records day in and day out. The 2008 Olympics? Nope, I’m talking about the 2007 World Championships. Phelps set five world records inside the Rod Laver Arena in
Over the past four years since
At the 2004 Olympics in
In 2008, though, Kitajima broke Hansen’s world record in the 200 breast two months before Beijing, and at U.S. Olympic Trials, Hansen watched two of his training partners swim right past him on the last lap to earn Olympic bids in the event, which Kitajima ended up winning. Hansen finished fourth in the 100 breast in
Remember how Leisel Jones did not lose the 200 breast between
This is an Olympic year, and Olympic Trials are this month. Over the next ten weeks, legacies will be written as the accomplishments of the past four years mean next to nothing. A swimmer could come out of nowhere to claim an Olympic medal, even gold, and that swimmer will go down as an Olympic medalist. A two-time world champion in multiple events that fails to make an impact at the Olympics? Here come the media labels of choker. The regular season has been going on for nearly four years. Time for the playoffs to begin. The athletes have set themselves up for a run at Olympic glory. Now, we see what they are made of. History will be written, and legacies will be crafted at the Games of the Thirtieth Olympiad.