Adapted from the "Last Word" section of my SN column this morning:
Losing is the new winning, if you believe the buzz about Andy Roddick's almost-win against Roger Federer (note: not the same as winning), which many are hailing as the best match Roddick has ever played -- and turning his rep around from bratty underachiever to lovable underdog.
This same past weekend, we have the approval of Anthony Kim for nearly beating Tiger Woods at Tiger's tournament in DC this weekend.
And that follows up the general approval of the Magic's "Hey-At-Least-They-Made-It-This-Far" run to the NBA Finals and the Cardinals' "Hey-Look!-It's-The-CARDS!-In-The-SUPER-BOWL!" near-miss in the Super Bowl.
And that was preceded by the Rays' Cinderella run to the World Series -- They didn't win? Who cares? They ALMOST won!
I'm not saying this is a bad thing. If the only people who enjoyed a season was the league champs, sports would dissolve in fan frustration.
It's all about expectations. If you exceed expectations -- see Roddick or the Magic or the Cards or the Rays or the never-thought-we'd-make-it Final Four team -- the season is a huge success. Maybe expectations are adjusted for the next season, but still: It is expectations-based.
There is one sport left where "Hey, good try!" just doesn't cut it at the championship level: College football.
Oklahoma's great season was RUINED by their loss to Florida, just as Ohio State's season was ruined in the two seasons before that, just as the Buckeyes ruined Miami's season in 2002.
If you have championship aspirations in college football, anything less than a title is a failed season.
Or, alternatively, you could be Andy Roddick -- happy to claim the youth-league "Everyone's-a-winner!" trophy for almost beating Federer. Against the GOAT, 2nd place ain't bad at all.