The other day I wrote about the quest for parity, using a comparison between franchise quarterbacks in the NFL and the super elite basketball players in the NBA. It’s a comparison that doesn’t come without caveats as the difference between the sports and roles players take on for their teams can sometimes be major. You’ll have to indulge me again as the NFL is on my mind again today (and not just because the season kicks off tonight).
I bring up the NFL today because another bit of news from the grid iron caught my eye as it was announced that perennial MVP candidate Peyton Manning underwent neck surgery and will miss at least 2-3 months with the potential to miss the entire season. As a football fan in general and a person that appreciates the best players in the game from any sport, this saddened me.
But it also got me thinking about injuries and how easily a team’s chances can be derailed by an unforeseen ailment. Manning is the engine that powers the Colts franchise and without him they’re likely sunk, competing for a top draft pick next April rather than a playoff berth this winter. Suddenly the Colts have gone from championship contender to also ran. Such is the reality of losing your best player.
This is especially pertinent to me because as a Laker fan I too worry about a closing championship window and how fragile that can be. This past spring the Lakers were swept out of the playoffs in large part because their top players didn’t perform up to standard, but when looking closer injuries surely played a role in their demise. Kobe nursed a knee injury early in the season, an ankle injury towards the end of the year, and sat out most practices to rest aging legs. Pau Gasol came out of the gates as strong as ever, announcing himself as an early season MVP candidate before wearing down physically and mentally after playing heavy minutes without another viable Center on the roster to curb his minutes in the pivot.
Moving into this next season Kobe’s gone to Germany for a knee procedure that he hopes will help him practice more while still having fresh legs during the season but that’s by no means a guarantee. Gasol’s looking to recharge and reestablish his place amongst the league’s best by wearing his national team’s colors this summer but that’s no guarantee against past seasons’ hamstring issues cropping up again. Meanwhile Andrew Bynum hasn’t played a full season in 4 years and as he takes on more responsibility with this team his value and importance to its success only goes up.
Sometimes it’s the things you can’t control that impact your season the most. A lesson that the Colts learned the hard way this morning. For a fan of the Lakers, this serves as a sobering reminder. Here’s hoping the Lakers have a bit more luck in this area next season.