The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20 on Sunday night in Super Bowl LVI. During the fourth quarter the NBC broadcast team of Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth were waxing poetic about Bengals’ quarterback Joe Burrow. While discussing Burrow’s exploits as a prep player in Ohio, a comparison was made to NBA superstar and Ohio native LeBron James.
“He’s the LeBron James of Ohio football.”
Al Michaels going on about Joe Burrow being born in a small town in Ohio and went to Ohio State "He's the Lebron James of Ohio football."
Joe Burrow was born in Iowa.
— Christopher Moore (@TheAuthorGuy) February 14, 2022
As a high school player in Ohio from 2011-2014 Burrow led Athens High School to three straight playoff appearances and the school’s first seven playoff victories in its history. During his career, he threw for 11,416 yards and 157 touchdowns and rushed for 2,067 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns. He was awarded the state’s Mr. Football Award and Gatorade Player of the Year award as a senior in 2014. He led the team to a 14–1 record in his senior season.
That’s quite a career but the “LeBron James” of Ohio football is a little hyperbolic.
As a freshman, LeBron averaged 21 points and six rebounds per game for St. Vincent–St. Mary’s varsity basketball team. They were 27–0 and won the Division III state title. As a sophomore, LeBron averaged 25 points and seven rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals per game. The team finished the season 26–1 and repeated as state champions. Bron was named Ohio Mr. Basketball and selected to the USA Today All-USA First Team, becoming the first sophomore ever to do either.
Before the start of his junior year, LeBron was already considered the best high school basketball player in America and a future No. 1 pick in the NBA. He averaged 29 points, eight rebounds, five assists, and three steals per game, and was again named Ohio Mr. Basketball and selected to the USA Today All-USA First Team, and became the first junior to be named male basketball Gatorade National Player of the Year. The team finished 23-4 and lost in the championship game.
In his senior season LeBron averaged 31 points, nine rebounds, four assists, and three steals per game, was named Ohio Mr. Basketball and selected to the USA Today All-USA First Team for an unprecedented third consecutive year, and was named Gatorade National Player of the Year for the second consecutive year.
No, gentlemen. Joe Burrow is not the LeBron James of Ohio football. Not even close. He’s just Joe Burrow, and that’s fine.
LeBron is probably the greatest basketball player of all time, and may go down as the greatest athlete of all time. He’ll certainly be on the short list. Making that kind of comparison is unfair, and comparison is the thief of joy.
Let’s just enjoy Joe Burrow for who and what he is. A very talented young quarterback who has got some swag. But let’s not go overboard.
There’s been such a rush to anoint Burrow and force him down the collective throats of NFL fans. He’s good, he’s cool, got some swag, we get it. But let this thing happen and develop however it’s supposed to. There is no need to keep reminding us of his cool or how good he is.
It’s gotten so over the top with Burrow that sociologists are seeing Burrow as someone that transcends race with his excellent play and swag.
“There’s this tradition of white athletic excellence at a time when the quarterback position is changing, becoming more Black,” said Jeffrey Montez de Oca, the founding director of the Center for the Critical Study of Sport at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, told The New York Times. “The coolness of Joe Burrow is connected to a Black aesthetic, unlike Tom Brady, who’s such a white quarterback. When you have a white quarterback like Burrow who can code switch, that makes him an especially effective face of the NFL.”
Imagine what the stories and memes would have been if Burrow led the Bengals on a game-winning drive in the Super Bowl? All the cigars and iced-out chains? Yikes.
Be excited that Burrow is part of a group of young exciting quarterbacks that will dominate the league for the next 15 years. But we don’t have to make lofty comparisons and we can allow him to grow into whatever it is he will ultimately become as a player.
We can also allow him to be cool and not oversell his coolness factor. That’s the thing about cool, we know it’s there.