The MVP award in professional sports is always one of contention. Every year there is an argument levied in each of the four major sports between the importance of a player to his team and the statistical performance of that player.
In some sports, the result is varied – as with baseball. In 2007, the two MVPs for Major League Baseball were Alex Rodriguez for the American League and Jimmie Rollins for the . Alex Rodriguez, regardless of whether or not his team might have made the playoffs in October dominated the statistical columns this year and was essentially the lock for most votes in the American League.
It did not matter whether or not he was most valuable to his team, because he was so much better than his fellow players all year long. However, in the National League, the debate was not so cut and dry. Jimmie Rollins put up respectable numbers for the year, batting slightly under .300 all year and producing runs in droves for the Phillies. But, compared to Matt Holiday who hit over .340 with 36 home runs, Rollins was not even close statistically. The argument was broken by who was more important to their team, a category in which Rollins was a favorite – both for his off the field comments and his on the field rallying cries.
How is such a contingency decided though? It depends on how you look at a given sport. In the NFL for example, deciding how a player is valuable to his team is a complex situation. This year’s MVP will most assuredly be Tom Brady. With only four games left, the New England QB has inched within 8 touchdowns of the all time single season record and plowed through nearly all of his competition en route to a 12-0 start.
But, does that make him the most important player on the team? His wide receiver core has been tremendous, hauling down catches that few other men could make. His offensive line has been stalwart, giving him unheard of amounts of time in the pocket to make his decision. Sure he’s a great quarterback, but does he make his team truly great?
The question is further complicated by players like Brett Favre, who with 17 years of NFL experience has become one of the most respected and effective team leaders in the sport. He runs the Packers on and off the field every week and after a few rough years has pulled them not only into contention, but into first place by a long shot. His numbers are not as astronomical as Brady’s but they are equally impressive and his team could very well meet up with Brady’s in the Super Bowl.
It is impossible to know which player will be given the MVP honors. In recent years, running backs have been the stars of the sport, putting up record setting seasons. This year it is the quarterbacks’ turn to put up record numbers and hog the spotlight, but will they be the most important men on the field?
When the time comes at the end of a sporting season to vote for the MVP, writers, coaches, and professionals will go one of two ways – voting for the player who was most impressive statistically or the one who proved themselves to be the most important for their team. Often times, the two go hand in hand, but there are occasions when a player whose numbers are not quite as impressive as someone else’s is so instrumental in his team’s success that they could not have been anything without him. Kobe Bryant is a prime example of such explosive talent and importance – where would the Lakers be without him?
Don’t assume that just because a player has proven themselves to be better than everyone else that they are more important than anyone else, regardless of the awards they may receive. It is a slippery slope from there to ignoring the value of team sports altogether.