Tuesday, Washington will play in its first Rose Bowl in 17 years. Isn't that enough? Putting a pair of legacies on the line isn't fair.
Free food. Marriott points. Talking about legacies.
These may be a sportswriter’s three favorite things.
We like to rank. We like to classify. We like to know how history, which apparently has cognitive function, will remember people.
With the Rose Bowl just days away, legacy talk has been on the rise — particularly that involving Washington quarterback Jake Browning and running back Myles Gaskin. Folks want to know where the seniors will stack up in the annals of Huskies history.
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My advice to the two? Don’t worry about it. Mainly because it’s beyond their control.
Legacies, you see, are not a simple cocktail. They’re a combination of talent, luck, timing, memory, reputation, and spin.
The most immaculate performances can be discarded. The most pathetic performances can be exalted. One’s place in the pantheon is too often dependent the feats or failures of others.
Just look at that of Seahawks past.
Jermaine Kearse’s miraculous catch in the final minutes of Super Bowl XLIX was one of the greatest plays in championship history. It was also made irrelevant a couple minutes later when Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson to seal the win for the Patriots.
Richard Sherman’s tip in the NFC Championship Game the year before may be the most iconic moment in franchise history, and one that led to the Seahawks’ only Super Bowl win. But if the Niners take a different approach on first and 10 from the 18 with two timeouts remaining, a defining era in Seattle sports may never have come to pass.
This goes well beyond the Emerald City, though. Tom Brady’s 505-yard spectacle last February may have been his best Super Bowl performance, but his team lost. He was nowhere near as dominant in the AFC divisional playoff 16 years earlier when, after benefiting from the infamous “tuck rule” call, he watched Adam Vinatieri make a 45-yard field goal in a blizzard to force overtime and push New England toward its first Super Bowl.
Peyton Manning may have been the worst player on the field in his final NFL game. Doesn’t matter. He still got the second Super Bowl required to elevate him above other Hall of Fame quarterbacks. Kobe Bryant went 6 for 24 against the Celtics in Game 7 of the 2010 Finals. Doesn’t matter. His teammates did enough to win and his Mr. Clutch status stayed intact.
LeBron James’ 38-point, eight-rebound, eight assist stat line in the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals — during which he hit a contested 26-foot buzzer beater to win Game 2 — was one of the most impressive individual series ever. The Cavs lost. Four years later, he won his second of three NBA titles — but only because Ray Allen made an impossible shot in Game 6 to force overtime.
Unfortunately, legacies only care so much about one’s ability or work ethic. And they often punish you for your team’s previous success.
One minute, Bill Buckner was a former batting champion, the next minute, he was the World Series goat (not to mention the guy who let Red Sox relievers Calvin Schiraldi and Bob Stanley off the hook completely). One minute, Jean Van de Velde was up by three strokes on the final hole of the British Open, the next minute, he suffered the most cringeworthy collapse in golf history.
This is both the beauty and cruelty of sports. With no reset buttons or mulligans, the narrative possibilities are endless. And given how their teammates, coaches or other circumstances can affect outcomes, the subjects of those narratives often don’t get to hold the pen.
Tuesday, Washington will play in its first Rose Bowl in 17 years, and for many fans and players, simply being there isn’t enough. As Browning said Thursday: “Haven’t really achieved anything except for being invited here. There’s a lot of teams that get invited here. Only half those teams win. We want to be on the better half.”
If Browning throws for 62 yards and three interceptions on 8 of 32 passing but the Huskies win, he might go down as the best quarterback in program history. If he throws for 390 yards and five touchdowns on 26 of 29 passing but the Huskies lose, many will remember him as the guy who never won a major bowl game.
That’s not fair. But hopefully he’s not worried about it.
His primary running back doesn’t seem to be.
Asked Thursday if he’s been reflecting on his career, Gaskin said no.
“I think I’m just kind of having a lot of fun,” he said. “There’s no reason to reflect on anything right now.”
Myles is right. He and Jake have done enough for the Huskies.
The Rose Bowl should be something for them to anticipate, not fret over.