Friday, June 18, 2004

The Giambi Corollary - ignore it at your peril

Those of you familiar with the immutable, but occasionally unnamed, laws of sport were totally unsurprised to see the Lakers get dismantled by the Pistons in the NBA Finals.

Three seasons ago, the incomparable Sports Guy laid out for peer review The Ewing Theory, a clever and frequently substantiated premise that sports teams are better off without their best player. It requires the following:
1. A star athlete receives an inordinate amount of media attention and fan interest, and yet his teams never win anything substantial with him (other than maybe some early-round playoff series).
2. That same athlete leaves his team (either by injury, trade, graduation, free agency or retirement) -- and both the media and fans immediately write off the team for the following season.

Inevitably, the team performs very well, and sportswriters are left baffled - there are absolutely dozens of examples of the Ewing Theory in action.

In reaction to the Colorado Avalanche signing Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne on the same day this past NHL offseason, I was compelled to articulate The Giambi Corollary to The Ewing Theory. It requires the following:
1. A star athlete who has never won a championship is in need of a new team to accommodate his A) giant contract, or B) unfulfilled desire to win a championship
2. A rich, successful team acquires said athlete -- and both the media and fans immediately award the championship trophy to said team, ignoring the piffling matter of the actual season to be played

In early 2001, coming off three straight World Series wins, the New York Yankees decided to sign chiseled first baseman and sabermetrician's wet dream Jason Giambi to an 9-figure, multi-year contract. In light of the streak they were on, and Giambi's MVP-talents, the sports media crowned the Yankees four-peat champs before Opening Day. What actually happened when they played the games is the Yankees lost to Arizona in the World Series, and they haven't won it since, losing to the Angels and the Marlins in the past two years.

My first specific recollection of The Giambi Corollary in action was the Houston Rockets signing Charles Barkley for the 1995-96 NBA season, coming off back-to-back championships. They didn't even make it to the finals. Kariya and Selanne this year for the Avalanche were an unforeseeable disaster - unless you were familiar with The Giambi Corollary. The exceptions that prove the rule are Ray Bourque and Dominik Hasek; and even Bourque's first playoffs with Colorado ended in disappointment.

Anyhoo.....the Lakers signing Payton and Malone before this season was teasing the power of The Giambi Corollary. Then the gambling action was so hot on the Lakers that they were made -200 favorites to win the NBA title. For those of you unfamiliar with the terminology, that means you could have picked every other team in the NBA to win the title, and the Lakers were still 2-1 favorites against your 28 teams.

This blatant an invocation of The Giambi Corollary absolutely demanded that it work - and so it did. And those of us who respected its fundamental truth were enriched, thanks to Laker bettors, literally.


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