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Nevius: It's not easy to compete with the best of the best

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Unfortunately, we have some bad news. It turns out the world of sports has sold us a bill of goods.

You know the story. A kid works a little harder, wants it a little more. He puts in the extra hours. He studies the game. When he plays, he gives it 110%. He makes himself into a winner.

And if you get a team full of guys like that? And they don’t care who gets the credit? And just get out there and make the right plays?

You might just win it all.

All lies.

Don’t get us wrong. It is great to have guys like that. And thank you for your service. But to win at the highest level, you have to have some simply transcendent players.

Our Golden State Warriors are currently hustling around industriously on the court. They are playing with vim and heart. And several of them have good reasons to give it everything, since this is a chance to showcase themselves for other teams.

(Now that they’ve traded D’Angelo Russell, can we stop pretending to appreciate his game? The team is clearly still trying to make moves.)

And yet they continue to lose and lose.

This season leaves you more impressed with Steph Curry and Klay Thompson than ever. When a 2020 Warrior clanks a three-ball off the rim, you remember how automatic it seemed with those two. They truly are in another league.

So is Kevin Durant, who — in a nice touch — recently said Steph, Klay and Russell Westbrook are the best he ever played with. The best recognize the best. Those hard-working overachievers might make a play or two, but at the crunch you want your elites with the ball.

As Ring Lardner said, “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong — but that’s the way to bet.”

Which naturally brings us to Pat Mahomes, the Kansas City quarterback. There is a lot of talk — and expect more — about how Mahomes is a better quarterback than Jimmy Garoppolo.

Let’s just say it. He is.

But right now Mahomes is better than everyone. He’s a unicorn. You know that backbreaking, third-and-15, 44-yard completion to Tyreek Hill in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl? The stats guys went back and checked. They figure, given that he was in the shotgun when he got the ball and then backed up another nine yards under pressure, Mahomes’ throw carried 57 yards in the air. Off one foot. With a 49er hanging on him.

If that’s the standard to play quarterback in the NFL, the rest of the league just quit.

In each of the Chiefs’ three playoff games, they trailed by at least 10 points — and Mahomes brought them back to win. He’s an elite player.

I haven’t given up on Jimmy, though. It is going to be a long offseason for us all, with your brother-in-law reminding you that he always thought Jimmy G was overrated.

And let me say there is no question that the Chiefs won that game, convincingly and clearly. The 49ers couldn’t move the ball at the end. And they couldn’t stop Mahomes and KC, either.

But I would point to one moment. There’s 5:20 left in the fourth quarter and Garoppolo is facing third-and-five. The Chiefs blitz, nobody picks up linebacker Ben Niemann and he lowers his helmet and drills the side of Garoppolo’s helmet.

Replays show Garoppolo on the ground afterward, clutching his head with both hands — a classic head-injury reaction. Washington, DC writer Rudy Gersten immediately tweeted, “Garoppolo should be in concussion protocol.”

As far as we know, he wasn’t. Also, there was no penalty on the play. And what may be more inexcusable, since they had more than one slow-motion look at it, Fox commentators Joe Buck and Troy Aikman didn’t call out the potential head-to-head shot — even after seeing two replays of Garoppolo on the ground, holding his head and grimacing.

Before that play, Garoppolo was 18 of 23 for 195 yards and a TD and an interception. After that hit, he went two for eight, including the now-famous overthrow of Emmanuel Sanders in the end zone.

Draw your own conclusions, but Garoppolo was clearly less effective. Former player and NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks said on the “Move the Sticks” podcast that Garoppolo was “not the same” after that hit.

Oh well. That’s over. How about the future? I still like Jimmy. It was good that he showed up for the clean-out-the-locker media session. As usual, his answers were bland but sincere.

He should know that the negativity he is going to encounter in the next few months is just a small, but loud and obnoxious, sample.

C’mon, it was a great season. Last year they won four games. This year they reached the freakin’ Super Bowl. Only two teams got to go and one of them had to lose.

So I wouldn’t fret about whether Jimmy is as good as Mahomes.

He’s not.

Right now, nobody is.

Contact C.W. Nevius at cw.nevius@pressdemocrat.com. Twitter: @cwnevius

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