Joe Burrow can’t waste his first title shot

Back then, if you were an accomplished athlete, you would have wanted Michael Jordan’s stamp of approval on the World Wide Web. MJ’s social media imprimatur would have been the next best thing after winning a championship or two.

It would have meant that you had earned your place in an exclusive club.

It would have meant that you had arrived.

But Jordan was born too early to dominate the online universe, leaving it up to his successor, LeBron James, to choose which ballers he deems worth notarizing for the 188 million people who follow him across three platforms. LeBron’s combined Instagram, Twitter and Facebook followers are far larger than the population of Russia and larger than the population of all but seven countries on the planet.

And King James informed his own nation that Joe Burrow is also a king among kings.

Responding to a recent tweet from an NBA analyst and podcaster who compared the Bengals’ trip to the Super Bowl to a potential Sacramento Kings trip to the Finals – punctuated by six laughing face emojis – james tweeted, “But not if getting a generational talent in the draft!” You would have said the same thing about the Cavs before 2003, wouldn’t you? Joe B is the absolute TRUTH!! We have all seen it and we knew it.

Yes, that was James, a No. 1 overall pick in 2003, comparing himself to Burrow, a No. 1 overall pick in 2020. LeBron even tweeted a photo of the quarterback smoking a victory cigar after the Burrow LSU Tigers beat Clemson for the national title, with a crown emoji.

Of course, this coronation meant a ton for Burrow, 25, the runaway star of the build-up to Cincinnati’s Super Bowl game with the Los Angeles Rams. It’s Joe Cool vs. Hollywood, and in the days and hours leading up to Sunday night’s kickoff, Joe Cool was leading by two touchdowns.

When was the last time a quarterback with a regular-season career record of 12-13-1 lived such a big life? If all Ohio’s love of Akron’s finest, LeBron, wasn’t enough, Burrow’s meteoric stardom has also been endorsed by a most distinguished Cleveland-born rapper.

“The situation I’m in socially doesn’t really feel real to me,” Burrow recently said. “Because, you know, in my head, I’m just the same old guy. One of my childhood idols, Kid Cudi, contacted me yesterday. You have LeBron tweeting me… that part is surreal. The football part, not so much.

Joe Burrow speaks before the Super Bowl.
Joe Burrow speaks before the Super Bowl.
John Angelillo/UPI/Shutterstock

Just look at Burrow in his Cartier sunglasses and sherpa jacket, sporting a prominent chain that bears his initials and jersey number, 9. Joe Cool is equal parts Joe Namath and Joe Montana. His high school basketball coach in Athens, Ohio, Jeff Skinner, told the Post that his point guard often looked like he was rolling on the court, but when he needed another equipment, “it was as if it had been shot down by a cannon”. Skinner said Burrow always played faster, faster and stronger when he faced faster, faster and stronger opponents — like those from LeBron’s old school, St. Vincent-St. Mary of Akron.

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If Burrow plays faster, harder and faster against the Rams’ Aaron Donald, Von Miller and Jalen Ramsey, he’ll be Super Bowl LVI MVP.

And it’s an incredible opportunity that Burrow can’t afford to pass up. While it looks like he’s the kind of franchise quarterback who could appear in four, five or six Super Bowls before he’s finished, there’s no guarantee he’ll ever return. Another NFL star who reached this stage in his second season, Dan Marino, could tell him a bit more about it. Marino lost a Super Bowl to the Montana 49ers at age 23 and then failed to come back in the next 15 seasons, ending his career with an 8-10 playoff record.

Joe Terrier
Joe Terrier

Burrow said of his short-term ambitions, “I’m chasing Aaron Rodgers to try to be the best.” Of course, it makes perfect sense to target a quarterback who just won his fourth league MVP award. And yet, in a world where greatness is usually measured by championships won and lost, Rodgers represents a cautionary tale. He beat Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl after the 2010 season and failed to return for the next 11 seasons and counting. His playoff record now stands at 11-10.

Not everyone becomes Tom Brady, who somehow reached 10 Super Bowls, winning seven. While listening to Kid Cudi’s “New York City Rage Fest” in the hours before kickoff, Burrow should keep that in mind.

Not even 15 months after tearing his knee, Joe Cool is so good and balanced he could become the first quarterback to win the Heisman, a national college title and a Super Bowl. He could then spend the rest of his career making regular appearances in the big game.

On the other hand, there are no certainties in professional football, apart from physical pain. So Joe Burrow should go out of his way to make sure his Sunday night story isn’t written so tightly, but no cigar.

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