By PAUL NEWBERRY AP Sports Columnist
Forget the U.S. hockey team knocking off the mighty Soviets at the 1980 Winter Olympics. That shocking upset doesn’t come close to the Kansas City Chiefs winning the Super Bowl against all imaginary odds. Or the Georgia Bulldogs somehow capturing a second straight national championship that no one except everyone saw coming. Just listen to Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, elegantly addressing the supposedly staggering mountain his team climbed to claim its second Super Bowl title in four years.
“Not one of y’all said the Chiefs were gonna take it home this year,” Kelce barked after the Chiefs knocked off the Eagles in what we can only presume was a Joe Namath-level upset. “Not a single one! Feel that (expletive)! Feel it! And on top of that, the next time the Chiefs say something, put some respect on our name!”
We’ll just conveniently ignore that the Chiefs had the third-best odds of reaching the Super Bowl at the beginning of the season. Or that they went on to earn home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a glittering 14-3 record.
Follows the same tune
Kelce was following the example set by the Bulldogs, who will go down as one of the most unexpected champions in college football history — at least in the eyes of coach Kirby Smart and quarterback Stetson Bennett.
“They didn’t listen to what everybody said about them,” Smart said after Georgia squeaked out a 65-7 victory over TCU last month in the national title game. “Everybody doubted them to start the year. And that chip on their shoulder was just big enough to create an edge for our team.”
Bennett, too, was clearly peeved that no one believed in a team that was the defending national champion, moved to No. 1 in The Associated Press ranking two weeks into the season, and stayed there the rest of the year while posting a 15-0 record.
“Man, y’all burned us,” Bennett said at Georgia’s championship celebration. “Y’all kept telling us how bad we were, and y’all couldn’t understand it. And we kept winning, and we kept embarrassing people.
“Screw it, we got two rings.”
In keeping with the lack-of-respect theme, we’d like to remember a few other unlikely champions who bravely overcame their make-believe haters.
— The 1927 New York Yankees. After losing 44 games during the regular season (to go along with 110 victories) and capturing a fluky American League title by a mere 19 games, the team known as “Murderer’s Row” entered the World Series against the Pittsburgh Pirates as huge underdogs. Somehow, the Yankees managed to pull off a four-game sweep that left everyone feeling downright foolish for calling the Pirates a shoe-in. “No one thought we could do it!” Babe Ruth shouted in the post-Series celebration, while gobbling down a dozen hot dogs. He reminded the silly members of the press that he hit 60 homers during the regular season, which was more than every other TEAM in the league “The next time you talk about the Yankees, put some respect on our name!” Ruth barked before unleashing an enormous burp.
— Red Auerbach’s Boston Celtics. This rag-tag bunch managed to silence the naysayers with 11 NBA championships in 13 years. Auerbach did a masterful job of motivating a perennially overmatched team that occasionally had to send out a lineup featuring one or two players who WEREN’T future Hall of Famers. The coach would deliver the ultimate burn after every unexpected victory by firing up his underdog cigar. “Everybody doubted us to start the year,” star player Bill Russell said over and over again through the 1960s, usually while being doused with champagne. “That chip on our shoulder was just big enough to create an edge for our team.”
— Mike Tyson. After failing to knock out two of his first 27 opponents, the light-punching Tyson was gifted a shot at the heavyweight title against fearsome Trevor Berbick. The bookies made Berbick a massive favorite, while the media pointed out how flawed the sport of boxing was for giving a clearly inferior challenger a shot at its most prestigious title. In an effort to entertain the crowd, Berbick intentionally ran into Tyson’s fists for roughly 5 1/2 minutes, but the strategy backfired when his legs stopped working. Having barely broken a sweat, Tyson couldn’t resist a poke at his skeptics. “Not one of y’all said I was gonna take home the heavyweight title. Not a single one!”
— The 1960s Green Bay Packers. Coach Vince Lombardi was famously misquoted as saying, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” What he actually said was, “Screw it, we got two rings.” Lombardi dropped that gem on all the doubters after the Packers won the first two Super Bowls in dominating fashion, despite a shaky resume that included only five NFL titles over a seven-year period. Getting the last laugh, Lombardi delivered another quip that would ring down through the ages, “Y’all kept telling us how bad we were. And we kept winning, and kept embarrassing people.”
— John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins. The coach was known for his “Pyramid of Success,” which was built on traits such as loyalty, skill and confidence. But Wooden left out his greatest building block: motivating a team that was clearly lacking in talent to win 10 national titles in 12 years. Turning Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton into serviceable college players, Wooden was able to build a culture that “didn’t listen to what everybody was saying about them” — especially when the pessimism reached a fever pitch those two years they didn’t win it all.
— The 1955-60 Montreal Canadiens. After winning their fifth straight Stanley Cup title, the Habs couldn’t resist a poke at all those who ridiculed a roster with only eight future Hall of Famers. “Aucun de vous n’a dit que les Canadiens allaient le ramener à la maison cette année,” Rocket Richard snorted before announcing his retirement. “La prochaine fois que les Canadiens diront quelque chose, mettez un peu de respect sur notre nom!”
Next up for Kelce: hosting duties on the March 4 episode of “Saturday Night Live.”
We presume he’ll prep for the gig by looking for someone, anyone, who doubts he’s up to the task.
And if he can’t find anyone, he’ll just make ’em up.