Column: Athletes vie for Namath-like guarantees, fail

Athletes continue to fall short of so-called guaranteed wins.

In 1969, Joe Namath guaranteed his New York Jets would upset the highly favored Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III. Namath and the Jets ended up winning the game and Namath's guarantee became a legend. Since then, athletes in all sports have been trying to guarantee victories in order to gain the fame Namath got with his guarantee.

In 2006, former Seattle Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens guaranteed his team would beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL. Then, during the game, Stevens hurt his teams chances by dropping several passes. The Steelers went on to win the game, 21-10.

Before the NFL season began in 2007, former Detroit Lions quarterback Jon Kitna guaranteed a 10-win season. It looked possible at the beginning of the year, but eventually, the Lions broke down. They finished the year with a record of 7-9. Kitna finished the year with only 18 touchdown passes. He was sacked 51 times, lost six fumbles and threw 20 interceptions. These aren't the kind of stats that one would expect from a quarterback who guaranteed 10 wins.

Later in 2007, former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Anthony Smith guaranteed the Steelers would beat the undefeated New England Patriots. But the Patriots demolished the Steelers, 34-13, and Tom Brady threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns. Two of those touchdowns were thrown to receivers Smith was supposed to be covering. Patriots continued to humiliate Smith by chanting "guar-an-tee" throughout the game.

Most recently, Courtney Paris, Oklahoma star women's basketball player, guaranteed a win in the 2009 NCAA women's championship game or she would give back her scholarship, which totaled $64,000.

A bold prediction, but it had just one problem: Oklahoma lost in the Final Four. The university wouldn't accept her scholarship money back.

The lesson is athletes should not make guarantees. More athletes have had to eat their words in the last 40 years than have become Namath-like legends. The fact is, athletes in team sports simply cannot single-handedly determine the outcome of games.

Even Joe Namath didn't win the Super Bowl all by himself. If his receivers weren't open or dropped his passes, history would have remembered him as a fool who couldn't deliver on his promise.

Anthony Smith, a safety, had even less of a chance to influence the outcome of the game. He can't throw or run for a touchdown and interceptions returned for touchdowns are very rare. He should have kept his mouth shut and not put even more pressure on his team.

The Patriots said Smith's comments didn't affect the way they played the game, but any fan who watched the game saw otherwise. It seemed as if Tom Brady was specifically targeting Smith with some of his deep passes. At one point in the game, Brady got in Smith's face talking trash.

Athletes could just avoid these situations altogether by not running their mouths and keeping their egos in check. They don't need to make guarantees and give other teams "bulletin board material" for extra motivation. All athletes can do is go out, do their job and help their team win in any way they can. But guaranteeing wins doesn't help their chances at all.

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