In sports there’s the old saying, “It’s not whether your win or lose but how you play the game that matters.” The late Hall of Fame coach Vince Lombardi, however, who won five NFL Championships and two Super Bowls, stated, “Winning is the only thing that matters.”
It’s been a week since the Los Angeles Rams lost their opening playoff game to the Atlanta Falcons. It was the Rams’ first playoff game at the Coliseum in thirty-nine years and, sadly, they came up on the short end, 26-13. (It wasn’t remotely that close with Atlanta leading from beginning to end.)
And it’s also only been days since the Lakers snapped their 9-game losing streak (one shy of tying the franchise record) their first win since Thanksgiving. On Tuesday Lakers beat the Kings and on Thursday beat the under-manned Spurs giving them a modest 3-game winning streak but hopefully it’s a start.
A non-starter, however, the Lakers are saddled with narcissistic and opinionated LaVar Ball, or as I refer to him, the African-American Donald Trump. LaVar, father of Laker rookie point guard, Lonzo, spouts off about the Lakers at will, the latest being that “Luke Walton has lost the locker room.” And Lonzo, 20, seems powerless to prevent his overbearing father’s controversial remarks.
L.A. Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke suggests the Lakers might be better off trading Lonzo, their #1 draft choice. Plaschke opines that no quality free agent will want to come to a team where the father of a star player can upset the apple cart with outlandish tweets.
Plaschke writes, “Lonzo is a good player but not a transformational one.” He added that only a rookie LeBron James might have been worth putting up with LaVar. News flash, however, it now appears that Luke Walton’s job may be on the line. LaVar’s still a jerk but he may have smoked out a real problem other than himself. Stay tuned!
In 2017, the Clippers, once again failed to get past the second round of the playoffs. In 2018 they also lost perennial all-star Chris Paul and, if the playoffs were today, would be on the outside looking in. Until further notice, the Clips are cursed.
In local college football UCLA’s anticipated loss in a bowl game after a dismal season and USC’s one-side loss in the Cotton Bowl ended the year on a sour note. In baseball, the Angels finished out of the playoffs for the second year in a row. However, their signing of Shoehei Ohtani, the “Japanese Babe Ruth” gives them high hopes for 2018.
With all my laments and now mentioning the Dodgers’ extremely disheartening game 7 loss in the World Series might make you think I agree with Lombardi’s “winning is everything.” Not necessarily.
The Rams and Dodgers had wonderful seasons and there’s considerable hope for the future. But in both cases, how the season ended so anti-climatically, has many local sports fans currently disheartened. (Or should I just say THIS local sports fan?)
Before I get to what was supposedly going to be the lead story of this column, Chip Kelly being hired to coach UCLA’s football team in 2018, let me catch up on 2017 hockey and soccer. In hockey, the Kings missed the playoffs for the second time in the past three years whereas the Ducks lost in the conference finals. Both franchises, however, have won Stanley Cups which gives them a free pass of sorts; The Ducks in 2007 the Kings in 2012 and 2014. As for soccer, The Galaxy finished in last place and failed to make the playoffs.
That brings us to Chip Kelly who signed a 5 year $23.9 deal. (Couldn’t they have added $100,000 to round off to an even $24 mil?) The Bruins had never before signed such a high profile coach. Then again, in May, 2016, UCLA and Under Armour signed a 15-year-deal worth $280,000,000 deal, the larges shoe and apparel sponsorship in sports history. So money not only talks it gets you a winning, albeit controversial coach.
On the plus side, while the head coach of the Oregon Ducks from 2009 to 2012, he led the program to four consecutive BCS bowl game appearances including the 2011 BCS National Championship Game. (Keep in mind, the last UCLA national championship came in 1954!)
Also on the “plus” side, in 2009 and 2010 Kelly was Pac-10 Coach of the Year and in 2013 was the Maxwell Club Coach of the Year. His football philosophies are so unique that two books have been written about him: “The Tao of Chip Kelly: Lessons from America’s Most Innovative Coach” and “Controlled Chaos: Chip Kelly’s Football Revolution”
On the negative side, after Kelly left Oregon, the school received three years probation and reduction of scholarships. Ouch!
So, which is more important, how you play the game or winning? E-mail me. But you can’t say “both,” because I think I just did.
Jack also writes “Laughing Matters,” which appears every Friday. He’s at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth and firstname.lastname@example.org