Dynasty vs. Destiny. That's how Major League Baseball billed Game 7 of the World Series between the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals. Sadly for Royals fans, who have waited nearly three decades since the team's last championship, the 2014 World Series did not manifest in destiny.
But what about the Giants "dynasty?" Is winning three titles in five years a modern-day dynasty?
In most sportswriting circles, it is. There is no word better than "dynasty" to describe something as simple as "a really good team that wins a lot."
The San Francisco Giants are surely that—a really good team that wins a lot. But are Bruce Bochy's bunch more than that? Are the Giants a bona fide sports dynasty?
To answer that, it's worth looking at other modern-day—and back-in-the-day—teams to compare.
The Onion @TheOnion
"It's just so surreal to actually see it finally happen." http://t.co/9UoqM6gAUE http://t.co/fdhvtMuD1z2014-10-30 14:15:40
If the Giants are a dynasty, then were the Miami Heat with LeBron James a dynasty? The Heat won four straight Eastern Conference titles and two NBA championships during LeBron's four years in South Beach.
Dynasty, right? If the Giants are a dynasty after winning three titles in five years, despite missing the playoffs in 2013—with a record 10 games under .500, finishing tied with the moribund Padres for third in the National League West—and in 2011, then the Heat were surely a dynasty in the NBA over the last four years.
Except the Heat aren't even the reigning champions in the NBA. The Spurs are. Are the Spurs a dynasty?
The Spurs have won five championships under Gregg Popovich, dating back to 1999. The Spurs, like the Giants, won three titles in five years. San Antonio got its three rings from 2003 through 2007, then went on something of a championship hiatus until winning the title again in 2014.
If people consider the Spurs a dynasty, then certainly the Giants are as well. Unless, of course, none of these teams are true dynasties and it's just a word we use because we haven't come up with something catchier than "a really good team that wins a lot."
Wait. If the Spurs are still a dynasty and the Heat were a dynasty with LeBron, is it possible for a sport to have…simultaneous dynasties?
That seems counterintuitive to the whole "best in the game" concept that comes with the prolonged and consistent excellence implied by the dynasty moniker. So maybe none of these are dynasties after all.
Maybe we're in an era with a lot of really good teams, some of which have won multiple titles in short spans of time. Or in the case of the Spurs, long spans of time. Maybe it's nothing more than that.
Speaking of which, we mustn't forget the New England Patriots in this new-age dynasty debate. And yes, it's a full-on debate at this point. The Patriots were still being hailed as a dynasty as recently as this season.
Bleacher Report's Ty Schalter and Yahoo Sports' Frank Schwab were two of many national writers who chronicled the Patriots dynasty's death after a crushing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs…on September 30, 2014. That was a mere 3,523 days since New England last won a Super Bowl.
And that's my problem with crowning any good team with a series of championships over a somewhat prolonged amount of time a "dynasty." It's that we—sportswriters and sports fans and the collective blowhards at the end of the bar—use the "D" word too often and keep using it for teams that really haven't deserved it in a long time.
The Spurs are not a dynasty, despite going to two NBA Finals in the last two years, winning one. The Patriots are certainly not a dynasty, and they haven't been one in some time, despite an undefeated regular season and two Super Bowl losses in the last seven years.
Really good teams? Sure. Dynasties? Not a chance.
I won't lie that this semantic argument is little more than a barroom debate or sports talk radio pabulum that puts the prolonged success of a team into proper historical context. It's harmless and mindless. Call a team whatever you want, really. It's just that the conversation isn't as cut-and-dried as some in our industry suggest it to be.
I brought up the topic on The Morning B/Reakaway on Bleacher Report Radio (7-10 a.m. ET on Sirius 93, XM 208 and the Sirius XM app, to complete the shameless plug for my new radio gig) Thursday morning as nothing more than a light-hearted debate to get listeners engaged in the World Series aftermath—outside of Madison Bumgarner's historic performance—and it manifested into something far more contentious.
Dynasties mean something in sports. It's our job, as the current crop of sports writers, reporters and yakkers at this point in history, to chronicle big events. It's a great honor, truly, to get to talk and write about these moments in sports that will live on forever in the annals of time.
MadBum's performance in this World Series is on par with that of Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling in 2001, Jack Morris in 1991, Sandy Koufax in 1965 and even Christy Mathewson in 1905, more than a century ago. His performance is one of the great moments in any sport at any time. But that doesn't make this a dynasty.
And yet, maybe it does.
On our show I brought up the Patriots "dynasty" and said it ended in 2004, when they won the last of their three Super Bowls in four years. The year in between their first and second title under Bill Belichick, the Patriots went 9-7 and missed the playoffs, essentially the same thing as when Bochy's Giants missed the postseason in 2011 with a record of 86-76. Are we splitting hairs in granting dynasty status to a team that won three titles in four years and not one that won three in five?
Was I—am I—hanging on to an erroneous perspective of what a sports dynasty has ever been?
The Dallas Cowboys won three Super Bowls from 1992 to 1995, losing once in the NFC Championship Game in that span. Dynasty? We've always thought of them as one, sure.
The San Francisco 49ers under Bill Walsh won Super Bowls in 1981, 1984 and 1988, and in 1989 with George Seifert, but only got past the divisional playoff round once in the remaining five years (which, admittedly, included a strike-shortened season in 1982). We all consider those 49ers a dynasty with little historical debate.
If that San Francisco team is a dynasty, then why not the modern-day Giants?
mark schlereth @markschlereth
I agree! “@KMillar15: @markschlereth Say 3 Championships in 5 years #Fact #Dynasty”2014-10-30 14:44:20
There isn't a great answer other than remembering that there were real dynasties one time, back before many of us were born. Teams had prolonged excellence that didn't include one losing season and another in which they didn't make the playoffs.
The UCLA Bruins? Now that's a dynasty. John Wooden led UCLA to 10 college basketball titles in 12 years, with another trip to the Final Four in there as well. It's not entirely fair to use the same word to define that level of excellence to this year's Giants.
Nick Saban's Alabama Crimson Tide won three national championships in four seasons from 2009 to 2012, and I'm not even sure they're a real dynasty when it comes to college sports when compared to Wooden's era.
Is it unfair, though, to look at the college game for historical dynasty parallels?
The Edmonton Oilers won five titles in seven years from 1984 through 1990. The Montreal Canadiens won five consecutive titles from 1956 through 1960, then after losing in the NHL semi-finals four times in a row, they won four of the next five championships, and six of the next nine overall. Two years after that, they won four more titles in a row.
The Green Bay Packers won three titles, including the first two Super Bowls, under Vince Lombardi from 1965 through 1967. Those championships were just two years removed from back-to-back NFL titles in the early 1960s.
And yet, we've saved the best dynasties for last. There can be no talk of dynasties in sports without naming three teams: the Lakers, the Celtics and the Yankees.
The Lakers franchise won five of the first six NBA championships while in Minneapolis back in the 1950s. Thirty years later, give or take, the Showtime Lakers won five titles in nine years and made the NBA Finals three more times in that decade without winning. The other team that won during that stretch? The Boston Celtics, who had three championships in six years in the 1980s.
So much for debunking that "simultaneous dynasty" debate, eh?
Now, that said, the Celtics in the 1980s were nothing compared to Red Auerbach and Bill Russell's Celtics, who won 11 championships in 13 years from 1957 through 1969. The entire decade of the 1960s dominated by one basketball team? Yeah, that is a dynasty.
And it still may not be the best in American sports history.
The New York Yankees have won 27 championships, many of which came in several dynastic bunches. New York won the World Series six times in eight seasons from 1936 to 1943. They won another six titles in seven seasons from 1947 through 1953 and then won four more titles in which the team made the World Series nine times in 10 seasons, from 1955 through 1964.
Yes, if you are counting at home, the Yankees won 10 titles in 15 trips to the World Series from 1947 through 1964. That is a dynasty. Whatever the Giants are doing right now is just really, really good in comparison.
Even if we excuse the past and only look at sports today, we owe it to history to have more perspective on what a dynasty means.
We've seen real dynasties, and as good as the Giants have been over the last five seasons, they aren't even that good. Hell, the Giants didn't even win their division this season. This dynasty talk is fun, but it's incredibly reactionary in the moment.
Don't mistake this debate for a knock on the team's current run. Brian Sabean and Bruce Bochy's streak has been amazing. They are certainly Hall of Fame-caliber men who have brought incredible success to the Bay Area. And that should be enough.
Rather than perpetuate this dynasty debate any longer, we should work together to come up with another word for what the Giants have done. Do you have any ideas? Take your time. With the way the Giants roll, we have two years to figure it out.