This ESPN article is titled, “How one Super Bowl loss helped define Matt Ryan’s legacy.” In case you don’t know, [everyone chime in] or even if you do, Ryan was a quarterback selected in the first round by the Atlanta Falcons in the 2008 NFL Draft. He had a very good career, but as ESPN’s Seth Wickersham writes, the loss to the Patriots in Super Bowl 51 (sorry, I don’t use Roman numerals) in a game where the Falcons once had a 28-3 lead, is the defining point of his career, both in terms of achievement and how that loss prevented Ryan from becoming what he had wanted most: being “an undisputedly great quarterback.” (Ryan has unofficially retired and will be working in TV this upcoming season. The retirement is unofficial so the Colts, his second and last team, will have no basis not to pay the $12 million guaranteed to him for 2023.)
Wickersham writes, “His drive was addictive and seductive and inspirational, helping him transcend limited physical gifts. And he was so close, better than 98% of quarterbacks in NFL history. But that final 1% — well, Ryan and I spoke many times over the years, and the subtext of every conversation was how to take the last step, from very, very good to great.”
I did not achieve anywhere near as much in pro sports as Ryan did, but I did accomplish a lot. One thing that eluded me, though, was being part of a team that won the World Series. Three teams for whom I worked, either full-time or as a consultant, played in the World Series, but all three of them lost.
The one loss that sticks with me the most is the New York Yankees losing to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. I was a consultant for the Yankees that year, my first in my consulting business, but the only year I worked for them. (All three of my clients made the playoffs in 2001.)
The series went to a seventh and deciding game. The Yankees took a 2-1 lead to the bottom of the ninth inning and sent out their All-Star closer Mariano Rivera to secure the win. Rivera would later become the first, and so far only, player to be unanimously elected to the baseball Hall of Fame.
As many of you know, the Diamondbacks scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth off Rivera to win the game and the World Series. I don’t know if I would have received a World Series winners ring, I didn’t start putting a World Series ring clause in my contracts until the next season, but I would have always been a part of a World Series champion.
When Luis Gonzalez blooped the game-winning single over the Yankees’ Derek Jeter, somehow I knew I would never be a part of a World Series winner. I was a consultant for the 2008 Tampa Bay Rays, who won the American League championship and were favored against the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, but lost four games to one. I never expected the Rays to win that series.
Is it better to have achieved much, lived a dream of sorts, but fall short of an important goal than it is to have never been “in the ring?” That’s a philosophical question to which I would give a different answer depending on my mood and maybe the day of the week.
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