Monday, November 22, 2010

Jimmie's NASCAR run never to be repeated

Sacramento, California – In case you haven’t heard, NASCAR uber champ Jimmie Johnson officially has been transported into the Dynasty category.

About time.

Winning four consecutive Sprint Cup championships was incredible, and yet Johnson was seemingly second-page news even as he was fighting at the top of the standings for a mind-blowing fifth title in a row. Johnson didn’t even have the lead coming into the last race of the seemingly endless 2010 Sprint Cup campaign; he must be slipping, right?

Then, after the checkered flag flew in the late-afternoon Florida sun on Sunday, and it sank in that Johnson had done what many would have called impossible at the dawn of this decade, the dynasty word started creeping into the media language.

And well it should, because let me tell you: This will never happen again. Ever.

As someone who witnessed UCLA win seven consecutive NCAA national championships in men’s basketball from and 10 of 12 from 1964 to 1975, let me assure you from that vantage point alone that what Johnson and his finely tuned team polished off Sunday will not be seen again in our lifetimes … or the lifetimes of our great-grandchildren.

UCLA did its magic during a time when the NCAA tournament was a comparative shadow of what it is now. I don’t think even those fabulous UCLA teams of years past could match their record in today’s coast-to-coast, 64-or-more-teams party. Just too much competition stretching across the land.

And yet Johnson has walked off with five trophies during what is being billed as the most competitive period in top-tier NASCAR racing history.

Can you imagine the coverage for a college football team winning five consecutive national championships in this era? Or a college basketball team? The Los Angeles Lakers will have to win three more NBA titles to stand on the podium with Johnson.

Alas, there seems to be a general belief that, in the end, Johnson is expected to win. I was stunned to tune in for ESPN’s SportsCenter on Sunday night only to see the sports network spending AN HOUR on the aftermath of the Philadelphia Eagles-New York Giants NFL game, to the exclusion of everything else going on in the sports world.

Are you kidding me? Do you think ESPN would have done that if, say, the New York Yankees wrapped up a fifth consecutive Major League Baseball championship?

Of course not. And that sort of bespeaks the Jimmie Johnson Phenomenon in these times: Understated greatness. Maybe the magnitude of Johnson’s accomplishment will sink in even more with the passage of time.

I’m betting that will be the case. Why?

Because we’re never going to see it happen again.

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