Has America Gotten Sick of the Modern Day Dynasty?
In this day and age of "What about us?," and "What have you done for me lately?," I got to thinking if we as sports fans are sick and tired of "dynasties."
After all, sports often thrives on a David versus Goliath or hero versus villain kind of story.
I hear the classic lines:
"I'm sick of seeing Team X win all the time."
"They're ruining the game."
"I really hope someone shuts them up."
That's just to name a few.
Supporters of dynasties say it gives sports a measuring stick, something all teams should want to be like.
People who are completely against dynasties say it's good for sports to have a different champion every year and it gives everyone an equal chance instead of having to go against the unstoppable force.
I was born in 1985, right in the middle of the 49ers dynasty and was lucky enough to watch Joe Montana's final Super Bowl— so here's my take on the sports' greatest dynasties, their claim to fame, and why they are respected and/or hated.
I know I'm missing the Celtics and Packers from the 1960s and the Steelers from the 1970s but just go with me here.
1980s—San Francisco 49ers (NFL)
Key Players: Coach Bill Walsh, QB Joe Montana, RB Roger Craig, WR John Taylor, WR Jerry Rice, CB Ronnie Lott, DE Fred Dean
Spark-plug: 1981 NFC Championship Game
Though the 1989 team is regarded by many as one of the greatest teams ever, the 49ers made a habit of dashing many teams dreams in the 1980s—just ask Boomer Esiason.
Joe Montana made a habit of sending 70,000+ home with long looks on their faces while winning four Lombardi Trophies and three league MVPs in the process.
It all started with a simple catch by Dwight Clark in the NFC Championship game against the Dallas Cowboys in 1981 with a young Tom Brady in attendance.
From there the 49ers made a habit of steamrolling over the rest of the NFL and even though Steve Young came close many times in the early 90s before winning his only title in 1994, San Francisco made its most dominant mark in history in the 1980s.
1980s- Los Angeles Lakers (NBA)
Key players: Earvin "Magic" Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy
Years: 1979-1989 (five NBA titles)
Spark-plug: 1980 NBA Finals, Game 6
They were cocky, arrogant and they loved it that way. The "Showtime" Lakers were one of the most popular and hated collection of talent in sports history and backed up their talk with flash and a big collection of Larry O'Brien trophies.
The Lakers chose 6'9'' forward Earvin Johnson from Michigan State first overall in the 1979 draft, coming off of his brilliant performance in the most-watched college basketball championship game ever.
From there, Johnson would guide the Lakers to five NBA titles (three Finals MVPs), including many memorable clashes with his old college rival Larry Bird who was drafted to Boston.
VERDICT: Loved. Though they acted somewhat cocky, their style of play sparked a new generation of players and made basketball cool to play again.
1990s—Dallas Cowboys (NFL)
Key players: Coach Jimmy Johnson, Owner/GM Jerry Jones, QB Troy Aikman, RB Emmitt Smith, WR Michael Irvin, TE Jay Novacek, CB Deion Sanders
Years: 1992-1996 (three Super Bowl titles)
Sparkplug: 1992 NFC Championship Game
After their initial dynasty in the 1970s, the Cowboys underwent a dull period and reached rock bottom in 1989—winning only one game.
The Cowboys then executed one of the most gutsy trades in NFL history, trading Herschel Walker to Minnesota for five players and eight draft picks.
Skillful drafts added fullback Daryl Johnston and center Mark Stepinowski in 1989, running back Emmitt Smith in 1990, defensive tackle Russell Maryland and offensive tackle Erik Williams in 1991, and safety Darren Woodson in 1992.
The young talent joined holdovers from the Landry era such as wide receiver Michael Irvin, guard Nate Newton, linebacker Ken Norton, Jr., and offensive lineman Mark Tuinei, and veteran pickups such as tight end Jay Novacek and defensive end Charles Haley.
This collection of dominant talent enabled Dallas to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span—a feat repeated once by the New England Patriots.
VERDICT: Hated. Fans, especially those of the Eagles, Giants and Redskins, love the current version of America's Team that hasn't found its way since their last playoff victory in 1996.
1990s—Chicago Bulls (NBA)
Key players: Coach Phil Jackson, GM Jerry Krause, G Michael Jordan, F Scottie Pippen, F Dennis Rodman, G B.J. Armstrong
Years: 1991-1998 (6 NBA titles)
Spark-plug: 1991 Eastern Conference Finals
The 1990s brought an unprecedented popularity to the NBA and the Bulls were the engine that drove the train.
Its conductor: Michael Jordan.
Jordan, drafted third overall in 1984, had won five-straight scoring titles and the 1987 NBA MVP award.
He had gotten deep into the playoffs but had a hard time getting over the proverbial hump, even with running mate Scottie Pippen who was drafted in 1987.
All that changed with a sweep over his arch-nemesis Detroit Pistons in the 1991 conference finals, a team who had kept him from the Finals time and again.
Jordan's Bulls won the first of three straight titles, and subsequent Finals MVP awards, before he "retired" after the 1993 Finals to play baseball for the minor league Birmingham Barons.
When he returned in 1996, he saw a familiar face: Dennis Rodman—a member of the 1980s Bad Boy Pistons who won two titles.
His 1996 team is considered one of the greatest professional sports teams ever, winning a staggering 72 games to go along with a 33-8 road record and the second best home record in NBA history at 39-2.
The Bulls had no problem in dispatching the Sonics which sparked their second three-peat, beating the Utah Jazz twice.
VERDICT: Respected. Even the biggest Bulls-haters could not deny the explosive popularity that they brought to the NBA as arena attendance on the road skyrocketed whenever Jordan came to town.
1990s- New York Yankees (MLB)
Key players: Manager Joe Torre, SS Derek Jeter, P Mariano Rivera, 1B Tino Martinez, OF Paul O'Neill, OF Bernie Williams, C Jorge Posada, P Andy Pettitte, 3B Scott Brosius, C Joe Girardi
Years: 1996-2001 (four World Series titles, six AL pennants, nine straight AL East titles)
Spark-plug: 1996 World Series
A homerun in game four by Jim Leyritz off of Atlanta closer Mark Wholers ended one potential dynasty and sparked another.
The New York Yankees would win the 1996 World Series over the favored Braves in six games. After falling short in the 1997 Division Series against eventual AL champion Cleveland, the Yankees retooled and went on a mission to reclaim their throne as the best team in baseball.
The 1998 Yankees are considered one of the greatest baseball teams ever—winning 125 total games (116-46 regular season, 9-4 postseason with two sweeps) and their 24th world championship.
This sparked the third three-peat of the decade (two by the Chicago Bulls) as they defeated the Braves again and their crosstown rival New York Mets for their 25th and 26th championships.
After the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Yankees became the sentimental favorite. Three-straight wins in New York, sparked by two dramatic ninth-inning rallies in games four and five, and the Yankees held a 3-2 lead heading into Arizona but were throttled in game six, setting the stage for a classic game seven.
Curt Schilling matched former mentor and 2001 AL CY Young winner Roger Clemens pitch for pitch and held a 1-0 lead before Tino Martinez tied it up in the seventh.
Schilling gave up a solo shot to Soriano in the top of the eighth and Mariano Rivera emphatically pitched a perfect eighth.
Unfortunately, he could not get the final three outs as Arizona captured its first title in dramatic fashion in the form of a base hit by Luis Gonzalez behind a drawn-in infield.
Many believe that is the moment that the Yankee dynasty had come to an end as most of the main key players either retired or went on to other teams at season's end.
The Yankees would claim five more division titles and the 2003 AL pennant from their arch-rival Boston Red Sox in a legendary seven-game series but would hit rock-bottom in blowing a three games-to-none lead and the 2004 pennant to Boston.
VERDICT: Hated. With the construction of their near $1 billion stadium near completion and spending almost $500 million on CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Mark Teixeira, the Yankees once again stir the jealous and vengeful eyes of pretty much every baseball fan.
2000s- New England Patriots (NFL)
Key players: Coach Bill Belichick, QB Tom Brady, LB Tedy Bruschi, OT Matt Light, RB Kevin Faulk
Years: 2001-present(?)(three Super Bowl titles, six straight division titles, four conference championships)
Spark-plug: 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff
After going 5-11 in 2000 under new head coach Bill Belichick, the New England Patriots were an afterthought.
Two games into the 2001 season, franchise quarterback Drew Bledsoe was hit by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis and it was a hit that threatened his life (sheared blood vessel near his head) but jump-started the career of an unknown backup in Tom Brady.
Brady went 11-3 as a starter and faced Oakland in the divisional playoffs after winning the AFC East, their first division title since 1997.
Down three with under two minutes left, Brady was hit by ex-Wolverine teammate Charles Woodson and appeared to fumble the football to Oakland but referees reversed the call and gave the ball back to the Patriots.
Brady used his second chance to force overtime where the Patriots eventually won, sparking a run to Super Bowl XXXVI.
The team missed the playoffs in 2002 but rebounded by striking gold in 2003 free agency in acquiring safety Rodney Harrison, defensive tackle Ted Washington and linebacker Roosevelt Colvin.
New England went 14-2 in back-to-back seasons, winning consecutive world championships and boasting an NFL-record 21-game win streak.
After blowing an 18-point lead to the Colts in the 2006 conference title game, the team went on a mission and loaded up weapons for an unstoppable offense.
New England went 16-0 during the 2007 regular season and shattered multiple records, along with becoming the most villainous team in the NFL, including:
- Most points in NFL history (589)
- Most TDs in a season (75)
- Most TD passes (50) and receiving TDs in a season (23)
- Largest point differential (+315)
The season would end up being a colossal failure as they lost in the final seconds to the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII, denying them the NFL's second perfect season.
After losing Tom Brady for the entire 2008 season to a knee injury on the first drive of the first game the Patriots turned to Matt Cassel, an untested backup who hadn't played in a game since high school.
Cassel led the Patriots with almost 3,700 yards passing and 23 touchdowns to go with an 11-5 record but thanks to tiebreakers, New England missed the playoffs, becoming the second NFL team since 1985 to not qualify for the postseason with such a record.
VERDICT: Hated. The Patriots were once respected but after news broke that they committed illegal espionage in 2007 and were not punished harshly for it, they became public enemy No. 1 in the eyes of many NFL fan bases.
So are we really sick of dynasties? People believe that if Pittsburgh didn't make the Super Bowl, this could have been one of the least watched Super Bowls ever.
We can say it all we want—that we hate it when one team wins all the time, but their success draws a certain appeal from both supporters and haters.
Some say that teams that become dynasties tend to draw a bandwagon of fans which raises questions about fan loyalty.
Whether you love the phenomenon of a sports dynasty or not, we all cannot deny loving to see them rise dramatically or fall flat on their face.
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