Sports Parity and the End of All Dynasties

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August 10, 2014 by NowhereButPop

by Khalid Bennett

Merriam-Webster describes the word “dynasty” as a family, team, etc., that is very powerful or successful for a long period of time. Nowadays, when people think of “dynasty”, they think of Jay-Z.

I’m here to talk about the team aspect of the word “dynasty”; as in sports team.

The 1930’s, ’40s, and ’50s were dominated by the New York Yankees with Hall of Famers such as Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe Dimaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and others. The ’60s had Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics; it even had John Wooden coaching Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and the UCLA Bruins. The ’70s had Terry Bradshaw and the Pittsburgh Steelers. The ’80s had the Los Angeles Lakers with Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, James Worthy, and others. The ’90s had Michael Jordan going 6-for-6 in the NBA Finals with the Chicago Bulls; while the New York Yankees were back on top in baseball with the Core Four (Jeter, Posada, Pettitte, and Rivera). The ’00s had the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl in ’01, ’03, and ’04; while the boring and quiet San Antonio Spurs won in ’03, ’05, and ’07.

Will the 2010s have another dynasty?

Not only do I think the 2010s won’t have another dynasty; I don’t think there will be another dynasty in sports for a long time. Sports have changed a lot since the new millenium. The thing about dynasties of the past is that the team kept their star and role players throughout the championships. The New York Yankees had Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, Scott Brosius, and others who helped them win in the late ’90s. The San Antonio Spurs had Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili as their core, with Steve Kerr, Bruce Bowen, and others rounding out the bench. The idea of having a core and building around superstars have changed. Teams nowadays are quick to make trades to see “what fits”. Free agency is more important than ever as successful teams will do anything to get that one star to help their team win the championship. There’s nothing wrong with making moves and rebuilding but you can’t expect to win if you keep switching it up every year.

Also there is more parity in sports now than ever; teams are getting better and better each year. Specific matchups and wild card expansions can make or break a team. There used to be a time when you would expect certain teams to be in the playoffs and be in contention of winning a championship. Now, the lowest seed in each league have just a chance to win the whole thing as the highest seed. Winning your division doesn’t matter as much, having the best record doesn’t matter, and even home field advantage is no advantage. It’s even harder to repeat as champions or even reach consecutive championship games. It’s all about who is hot at the right time.

Here’s a breakdown of each league.

NFL

The NFL probably has the most parity out of all the major league sports. Since 2004, no team has repeated as Super Bowl Champions. Also no team has reached consecutive Super Bowls. There’s a higher chance for each Super Bowl to have two different teams every year. In terms of a dynasty, one can argue that the Pittsburgh Steelers were the next one after the New England Patriots. They were in three Super Bowls and won two within six years. You also have the Colts and Seahawks appearing in two Super Bowls; both winning one. Don’t forget about the New York Giants and New England Patriots matchups with the Giants winning both games. So don’t expect the Seahawks to repeat or even make it back; same thing with the Denver Broncos.

NBA

The NBA is a little more consistent when it comes to championships. Since the Spurs dynasty in the mid-’00s, the Lakers and Heat have won it back-to-back. The Lakers reached the Finals three consecutive years and the Heat reached the Finals the past four years. You had two matchups featuring the Lakers and the Celtics; while the past two Finals featured the Heat and the Spurs. The Eastern Conference has a good number of teams to win the East but the favorite is Cleveland now that LeBron James is back. So don’t expect Miami to reach the Finals a fifth time in a row. As for the Western Conference, it’s still very strong. Anybody can beat anybody but it’s usually the Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, and Los Angeles Clippers to be favorites. I’ll will say this though. I believe that this Spurs team will be the last dynasty in all sports. They could’ve had two championships in a row and they have the same team back for this upcoming season. I expect them to win at least two more championships as long as Tim Duncan plays like Tim Duncan.

MLB

The MLB also has had parity when it comes to the World Series. Nobody has repeated since the Yankees in ’98, ’99, and ’00. The Texas Rangers are the last team to go to consecutive World Series losing in ’10 and ’11 to the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, respectively. Since that Yankee dynasty, the Boston Red Sox have won three World Series, with the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants winning it twice. The MLB playoffs are a perfect example where the hottest team wins instead of the best team. Teams like the Arizona Diamondbacks and Florida Marlins were hot at the right time, beating the Yankees both times. In 2004, we all know about the Yankee collapse against the Red Sox. Even 2012 was weird. The Detroit Tigers were clearly the favorite to win but were shut out by that San Francisco Giants pitching. You have teams like the Colorado Rockies, Houston Astros, and Tampa Bay Rays making one World Series appearance (all three runner-ups). Now that there are two wild card spots, no team is safe anymore. It’s August 6th and no division leader is safe; no wild card spot is safe. Remember that the two wild card teams have a one-game elimination before the playoffs start. This could mean that the one team who just got the second spot could beat the team who secured the first wild card spot all year. The Boston Red Sox went from worst-to-first-to-worst again. The St. Louis Cardinals are in a three-team NL Central division battle but have the first wild card spot for now. I can’t see another dynasty in MLB for a long time (unless the Yankees get back to being dominant again).

As for the other sports, the NHL hasn’t had a team win back-to-back Stanley Cups since 1998 (Detroit Red Wings). But there isn’t much parity as teams such as the Red Wings, New Jersey Devils, Boston Bruins, Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, and Los Angeles Kings have made it to or won the Stanley Cup in recent years.

I don’t even want to get into college sports because that’s another level. College football is (or now was) all based on BCS Standings. Alabama was the last to repeat (’12 and ’13). Now things will be different as there will now be a College Football Playoff. Even that will be based on “BCS type” voting. College basketball is the parity of all sports parities. All 64 teams have a chance to win in the famous bracket tournament. Florida was the last to repeat (’06 and ’07). Butler was the last team to make it to the championship game consecutively (’09 and ’10). You still do have teams like Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, and even Connecticut who are usually favorites to win but don’t count on favorites and seedings and odds. That’s why they call it March Madness.

On a side note, you can argue that the Connecticut Huskies women’s basketball team as a dynasty. They’ve won the championship the last two years. Since 1995, they are 9-0 when reaching the championship game. They went undefeated five times. The team also had a 90 game winning streak (which is now the record in both NCAA men’s and women’s basketball).

Overall, I believe the idea of a sports dynasty will no longer exist in the upcoming years. I just believe that there is too much parity in sports, while the CBA’s in sports like basketball and football make it harder for teams to retain their players. I believe that this Spurs team that just won the championship will be the last dynasty for a while. I don’t want to make it seem that not having a dynasty in sports is bad; that is what makes sports so great to watch. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN TO ANY TEAM. I will definitely enjoy the parity each sport has to offer as my eyes will be glued to my TV during each playoff series. I do wish the Yankees, the Brooklyn Nets, and the New York Giants would win every year. But then again, I’m just being your average sports fan rooting for their favorite team.

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