Sports fans have a tendency to overrate players. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s just a fact. Whether it is because they are someone’s favorite player, they’re on someone’s favorite team, or they just grew up with them, tons of players get overrated. However, there are some players who get overrated just because they are or were so well-liked.
Matthew Stafford played for the Lions for 12 seasons. His numbers and lack of winning in Detroit do not justify the high-status fans and the media give him, and he got the sympathy vote because he was one of the only competent players the Lions had during his time there. In his career, Stafford is 11-71 versus teams with a winning record, does not have any career playoff wins, and has failed to show up in multiple big moments. He gets put higher than he should for the simple fact that people like him, and he is not the only athlete to suffer from what I like to call “Matthew Stafford Syndrome”.
Starting with other football players, guaranteeing a win in a fur coat does not make you an all-time great quarterback. While Joe Namath did great for the AFL and allowing it to merge with the NFL, and is justifiably one of the most important New York Jets of all time, he has 47 more career interceptions than touchdown passes, and had a career passer rating of 65.5, which ranks 185th all time. Though he was a pioneer in player marketing, his play throughout his career just didn’t justify it. He was the most popular player, though was far from the best.
Damian Lillard is one of the top players in the NBA currently, no doubt about that. He has continually produced for the Trail Blazers and has become a fan favorite because of his loyalty to Portland, despite the team around him typically being mediocre and in no position to win a title. However, it is that same loyalty that has made him overrated. While many applaud Dame for sticking it out in a tough situation in Portland, all it is doing is hurting his legacy, as well as the franchise. The only thing that is holding him back from being a surefire all-time great is team success, and staying in Portland won’t get him that. Going back to his popularity, he was ranked a top 75 player in NBA history, which doesn’t appear to be justified due to lack of team success. I have also seen fans try to compare Dame to Steph Curry, which is just unfair to Steph. This could all change if Dame just gives in and agrees to leave Portland, but for the time being, he is just another athlete who suffers from Stafford Syndrome.
Phil Rizzuto was a 7 time World Series champion, 5-time all-star, and AL MVP. Excluding rings, sure there have been players who have made the Hall of Fame for less, but 5 all-star appearances and an MVP are not exactly Hall of Fame accolades. His stats don’t really help his case either. He finished his career with just 1,588 career hits, a batting average of .273, and 62 career home runs. His popularity came from being a part of legendary Yankees teams, headlined by players like Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, and Whitey Ford. He also became a well-liked broadcaster after his career, which added to his popularity. However, it should not justify his being a hall of famer. While Rizzuto had some good years in his career, none of them really stand out, neither does his overall career.
Just for the record, overrated ≠ bad. There are plenty of players who had amazing careers, but are just not as good as many make them out to be. Stafford Syndrome is a pandemic that runs through every sport. Fan favorites get overrated in all sports, but these players are regarded so highly in their respective sports for the simple fact that they are likable people. Judgment gets easily clouded when you like something, and that is exactly what happened with these players.
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