NFL America should root for the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday.
And not just because it’s a good story.
It’s bigger than that. A victory by the Bengals over the star-studded Los Angeles Rams might finally slay the Super Team formula and return sports to a level-playing field for all teams.
We’ve seen it in other sports already in recent championships.
Fans told super star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo when he re-signed in Milwaukee that he made a huge mistake and would never win a title.
The Bucks not only beat the Brooklyn Nets’ Big 3 in the playoffs, but won a championship last season in the NBA.
In MLB, we saw David beat Goliath. Somehow, the discounted Atlanta Braves knocked off the Evil Empire Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series en route to winning the World Series.
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Don’t forget the Braves’ payroll was about $150 million. The Dodgers had a whopping $271 million payroll and were able to add Max Scherzer and Trea Turner at the trade deadline to bolster their roster. Yes, the rich got richer.
It didn’t work.
We can only hope that the same thing happens to the Rams.
They were already in the Super Bowl in 2019, losing to the New England Patriots.
After that, they have been on a mission to get as many stars added to their roster, including Jalen Ramsey, Matthew Stafford, Von Miller and Odell Beckham Jr.
In the process, the Rams have mortgaged their future. If they don’t win a Super Bowl, it will set the franchise back. For sure, they are all in.
The Bengals, on the other hand, have grown this team organically, for the most part. The young stars on offense have come through the draft, including stud QB Joe Burrow, WR Ja’Marr Chase and RB Joe Mixon.
Remember, this team won just four games a year ago. That’s the correct formula: bad teams get high draft picks, they make smart decisions with those picks and they turn the franchise around and put it on the road to winning.
Adding a few stars, adding water and stirring isn’t the way it should be done. For sure, it has worked for some organizations, but it has often wrecked the competitive balance.
Sports need that to make it even more enjoyable.
Fans don’t want to see the same teams in the title games every year.
We had that with the Golden State Warriors when they went to the NBA Finals five years in a row and won three NBA titles with a Super Team for the ages.
We can all thank LeBron James, who really ushered in this idea of stacking the deck, grabbing a collection of stars. He did it in Miami with the Heat. James joined Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and formed a player-generated Big 3 in 2010.
If you can remember the ridiculous press conference announcing the formation of that talented trio — it included dancing girls and fireworks — James said that team was going to win championships until the cows came home.
“Not one, not two, not three. …” said James in that infamous recording.
LeBron was serious. He thought his formula would win six or seven in a row. The group went to the NBA Finals all four years it was together, winning two championships in the process.
It sent the NBA to a bad place where rich teams got richer with talented players joining other talented players and forming teams built not to complete, but dominate.
We saw that when Kevin Durant joined the Warriors’ Steph Curry and Klay Thompson after that squad had already won a title.
The bottomline remains that the Super Bowl is all set up for the Rams. They have the better roster on paper and are playing a home game at SoFi Stadium in L.A.
Meanwhile, the Bengals are a young team no one could have ever imagined being in the Super Bowl this soon with a second-year QB on a four-win team from the year before.
But this is sports, where underdogs have won and won big, where what looks obvious doesn’t always materialize. That’s why there are so many big beautiful casinos in Vegas.
If the Bengals win, it will truly be a sports hat trick: Bucks, Braves and Bengals.
It would be good over evil. And just might kill the Super Team idea once and for all.