Australia’s Big Bash League Final was played today, and the NFL’s Super Bowl is next Sunday. They present very different views of a season … and a champion. (More)

And the winner is….

Unless you’re a cricket fan, you’ve probably never heard of Australia’s Big Bash League. Even if you like cricket, you need a cable package with NBCSN and the Willow channel, or a streaming package from Cricket Australia, to watch BBL games on TV. The 2016-17 season ended today, when the Sydney Sixers defeated the Perth Scorchers in the Big Final. That’s good news if you’re a Sixers fan, and bad news if you’re a Scorchers fan.

It’s also good or bad news if you’re a Sixers or Scorchers player, but not quite as good or bad as it will be for New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcon players next Sunday night.

For National Football League players – as for Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, and National Hockey League players – that is the league. The Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, and Stanley Cup are the championships. There are Olympic basketball and hockey tournaments and players on national teams care about those, but they only happen every four years. For the rest of the time, their entire professional focus is the NFL, MLB, NBA, or NHL. If you win the Super Bowl, you’re champion for an entire year. If not … you’re an also-ran … for an entire year.

But that’s not true for the Sixers or Scorchers players. Some of their best players weren’t in the lineups or the locker rooms for today’s game, because they’re playing with their national teams. Like most Twenty/20 cricket competitions, Big Bash League rosters feature players from around the world. Thus, many players left their BBL teams to play in Pakistan’s Tour of Australia (which ended Wednesday), England’s tour of India (which ended Friday), or Sri Lanka’s tour of South Africa (still underway). Oh, and Australia’s tour of New Zealand starts Monday.

Several BBL players only came to Australia after South Africa’s T/20 league finished in December. Many will go on to play for teams in the Indian, English, and/or Caribbean leagues later this year. Many younger players, still developing their skills for international competition, will play in regional or national club tournaments in their home countries.

And with each player possibly so many uniforms – several leagues, domestic club, and perhaps the national team – it’s quite common for cricket players to be teammates in one competition and play for archrivals in another.

So the Sixers and Scorchers players didn’t finish their cricket seasons today. Indeed their 2017 seasons have just begun. The Sixers players are BBL Champions for 2017, and that’s A Big Deal tonight. But by Monday, most will have moved on to the next competitions on their year-round schedules.

And yet, watch Welsh star Eoin Morgan’s response when he hit this six on the final ball of a match earlier this season:

That was a must-win match for his Sydney Thunder. Had they lost, they would have been mathematically eliminated from any chance at the BBL playoffs. But here’s the thing …

… Morgan knew he wouldn’t be around for the rest of the Thunder’s season. He was leaving the next day to captain the English national team in their tour of India. No matter the outcome – wicket, dot, single, double, four, or six, and only a six would be enough to win and keep the Thunder’s hopes alive – he knew it would be his final swing in this BBL season.

And still he leapt with joy and pumped his fist and hugged his teammates after hitting that six. It mattered. He cared.

Too often we imagine politics like an NFL season, in a league that plays only every other year. Indeed too many of us imagine it a league that plays only every four years, where the presidential election is the Super Bowl. The winners are Champions until the next ‘season’ – two or four years away – and the losers are Also-Rans.

But politics is more like cricket. Yes, we lost the political equivalent of the quadrennial World Cup or T/20 World Championship back in November. But those trophies only matter until the next competition begins, and it has already started. What’s more, activists and elected leaders who ‘wore the other team’s jersey’ last fall may be our teammates on an issue today … and wear another jersey on another issue two months from now.

Recognizing that shouldn’t diminish our commitment to This Challenge – this issue, this project, this election – just as knowing he would leave his team the next morning didn’t diminish Morgan’s commitment to that match.

But it should both buffer the losses and tamp down the victory laps.

Win or lose, the Last Challenge is over … and it’s time to focus on the Next Challenge….

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Image Credits – Logos: Big Bash League; Composition: Crissie Brown (BPI Campus.com)

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Good day and good nuts