Arizona's love affair with underdogs is costly
We don't like our best and most talented athletes.
Going back as long as I can remember, we've always had a great appreciation for the less-talented, hard-working players.
It's why guys like Brian Henesey, Elliot Perry, Andy Fox, Andy Stankiewicz, Craig Counsell and Louis Amundson, Ryan Roberts and Max Hall gain a cult-like following.
We root for the underdog, the player who, despite his physical limitations, tries as hard as he can and gets what we think is the most out of his meager abilities.
And, conversely, it's why players like Amare Stoudemire, Matt Leinart, Justin Upton and Trevor Bauer struggle for support, have fans constantly questioning their effort and, generally, waiting for the day the team can "rid" itself of its biggest problem.
Except, you know, talented players are rarely a team's real problem.
We have a nasty habit of focusing on what a player can't do, all the while failing to understand how much he actually can do.
Ever wonder why our teams don't win?
If sports prove anything, it's that greatness generally comes out on top. You need stars -- faults and all -- to have a legitimate chance to win. While a group of underdogs winning makes for a good story, the truth is that only happens in the movies and my indoor soccer league.
Talent is a requirement, and it almost seems as if Arizona, due to a lack of bona-fide stars, does not know it when it sees it.
Sure, Stoudemire's defense was lacking and he wasn't a great rebounder, but wow could that guy score points. And yes, Upton has had a down year and made some questionable comments about fans, but rarely do you find the blend of skills he has in one player. While he hasn't been nearly as successful at any point in his pro career as those two, did Leinart really get a chance with Cardinals fans? Or, maybe, were people ready to run the "golden boy" out of town the second they saw photos of him in that hot tub with a few ladies?
Oh the horror, young guys doing what young guys do, be it on the field with some struggles or off it with learning how to deal with their social status.
And now it's happening with Bauer, who has been sent back to Triple-A just four bad starts into his career. Hell, just three innings into his major league career people were giving up on him, and ever since there's almost been this anticipation of his impending failure.
It's almost as if people wanted him to stumble, possibly because they didn't like his routine or feel like he's too arrogant and needs to be humbled.
In sports the difference between arrogance and confidence is success. It's that simple.
Fans have an idea of what their athletes should be like, and if one doesn't fit into that mold -- be it style of play, personality or something else -- they will not be accepted.
Sports fans don't like rooting for the player who tells us he's going to be great, and then actually goes out and is just that, nor are we fond of the player who fails to meet what may very well be unrealistic expectations. They are supposed to be great, after all, so why celebrate them for doing what was expected? And, if they're not? That's simply unacceptable.
Good isn't great, and great isn't enough.
And until that changes our teams will struggle to be good, and rarely be great.