I was all set to write a column about the new format of the ECAC playoffs this year and how it makes this weekend’s Yale vs. Harvard and Brown more meaningful for three teams that are atop the ECAC. But, an event that transcended any specific sport occurred during Monday Night Football, so here comes a nice, last-week-of-classes rant.
Oakland Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown is a tremendous wide receiver in the National Football League. His thousandth career reception in Oakland’s game against the New York Jets on Monday night was a significant career milestone that deserves some ceremony. But as significant as Brown’s accomplishment was, did it really warrant a lengthy, in-game ceremony? Could it not have waited until the game’s conclusion?
While Brown was soaking in his surprise ceremony, Raiders’ quarterback Rich Gannon had a plenitude of time to confer with the coaching staff about the next play. The result: touchdown, Jerry Rice. 13-10, Raiders. The silver and black would not trail again.
Forget that the ceremony may have affected the outcome of the game; football is a team sport and Brown’s individual accomplishments overshadowed what was a very important game for both teams. Consider his coworkers’ actions — Gannon, the man who threw Brown his thousandth catch, was speaking with the offensive coordinator instead of honoring Brown during the extended celebration. But that’s what Gannon should have been doing, and that’s why the celebration could have waited until after the game.
I have to wonder what they would have done if he had fumbled his thousandth reception and the Jets returned it for a touchdown? Of course, it would be ridiculous to celebrate under such dubious circumstances. The celebration should commemorate the other 999 catches just as much as it commemorates the thousandth. As important as achieving 1,000 catches is, it is not even a record!
Also, where do you draw the line? Jerry Rice has the most touchdown receptions in league history by a wide margin and each additional catch of his sets a new record. Do we honor each of those with a ceremony? Of course not! And while this example is an obvious dramatization, the point is clear — no individual is above the game.
Suppose the Raiders were being blown out at the time. Do you stop play and celebrate in the middle of the game? I would certainly hope not.
On Monday night, the Raiders sent a message that an individual’s accomplishments are more important than the game. But if the accomplishments of the individual overshadow the importance of the game, then both the game and the player’s performance lose their value.