A Tricky Triangle: Dynasties, The Media, and The Sports Fan

Alex McVeighSenior Analyst IJune 11, 2008

Dynasties are an interesting thing. A majority of championship teams are forgotten by sports fans (see: 2002-03 Buccaneers).

But dynasties, well, dynasties are remembered by everyone. How many people who weren't alive when the Steel Curtain was around know who they are? I wasn't, but I have heard about them a lot.

Russell's Celtics, Montana's Niners, Catfish Hunter's A's. All of them imposed their will on an entire era of sports, bringing their city and their fans to that promised land that most sports fans (especially those in cities such as Kansas City) dream of.

The nineties and 2000s are interesting, because we have seen our fair share of dynasties in each of the major three sports (sorry hockey, but you still have some work to do).

The nineties brought us Aikman, Smith and Irvin's Cowboys; Jordan's Bulls and Jeter's Yankees.

This decade has brought us Duncan's Spurs, Brady's Patriots and Ortiz's Red Sox.

So what does this mean for the average sports fan?

A few things actually. First, due to the internet and expansion of sports media, people who grew up in the nineties were not geographically required to only follow the sports teams in their region.

For example, when my mom grew up in New Hampshire, the only games she could get on TV or the radio were the Celtics, Red Sox and Giants. The Patriots weren't good enough to warrant TV coverage.

Anyone who grew up in the nineties witnessed firsthand Jordan's dominance of his sports for years, and unless you had a solid background with another team, or just didn't like basketball, it was hard not to get sucked in.

I was born in 1983, people my age started watching sports about 8-10. That's at the tail end of the Magic/Bird/Thomas era of champs, and the beginning of the Jordan era.

I grew up in D.C., but I had so many friends that loved the Bulls simply because they had the best player and they won the most.

You can always tell what kind of upbringing someone my age had, depending on their sports teams. If they are a Yankees, Bulls and Cowboys fan, chances are: A) You lived in one of those sports no-man's-land (the same no man's land that David Stern is desperately trying to get rid of), or B) You didn't have parents that were tied to your sports team.

A perfect example of this is LeBron James. He grew up in Ohio, but he wore a Yankees hat to a Cleveland Indians playoff game, and he has said before that he is a Cowboys fan, and grew up loving Jordan (hell, he chose #23).

While it's not necessarily front-running (though it is close) it paints a picture of what it was like for LeBron growing up, and probably many people like him. In LBJ's case, growing up without a father means that he didn't have someone willing to take him to Cavaliers/Indians/Browns games.

So he simply grew up watching the best, because those are the teams that get the most attention.

My family was rabidly into the Red Sox and Giants, and I grew up pretty much rooting for them (though I loved the Bonds-era Pirates and the Young 49ers). Its almost natural.

My parents weren't big basketball fans, therefore I really didn't get exposed to it all that much, except for Jordan (who, despite his performance in Space Jam, I never could bring myself to root for).

Come 2002-03, when I was living on my own at college, and began getting sucked in to playoff basketball, the Mavericks and their sharp-shooting German 7-footer, and their obnoxiously passionate (as the best sports fans are) owner, I started to root for them, not knowing the plague they would eventually bring upon me.

Fast forward to this decade, it's not quite the same. While last decade's dynasties were spread across this great land, (East Coast, Southwest, Midwest), two of the three dynasties are in New England.

This poses an interesting, but not entirely unwelcome (compared to the alternative) problem to New England sports fans.

For the first time in the region's history, there aren't just hardcore, long suffering fans, the Sox and Patriots were trendy teams.

The Red Sox did their duty with a legendary World Series run in '04, and a "my future is so bright I have to wear shades"-like stretch of clever trades and farm system use that got them the '07 Title, with the real possibility of more to come.

While not the same as far as business practices go, the Red Sox have supplanted the Yankees as the team du jour. Kids who were born in the 1990-1995 era are growing up seeing this Red Sox team coming off a miracle, a team that is well-liked, free of scandal, and are pleasant to root for.

The Patriots and Spurs present an interesting story, especially compared to their
 nineties counterparts.

The Spurs are at a disadvantage, because unlike the Bulls, Cowboys, Yankees, Red Sox and Patriots, they don't play in a major market, four sports team metropolis.

Add that to their grinding, half-court, slow down style of play, and they aren't the flashy type of team that usually attracts fans from all over the country.

The Patriots have been obviously tainted by SpyGate, which can be traced back to the arrogance of their coach.

But even before it all went down, the Patriots just weren't that trendy of a team to like. Who knows why? Maybe because they were almost too perfect.

After all, Brady won the Super Bowl the first three times he made it to the playoffs. When Plummer and the Broncos took him down in '05, it was almost a relief to see that maybe, just maybe, he wasn't perfect.

Then he came out and stormed to a 21-3 halftime lead over the Colts in '06. But it seemed that the collective will of everyone outside of New England didn't let them complete that third-and-4, and Peyton Manning, everyone's darling who hadn't won The Big Game, got his shot at the gold. And really, who was going to stop him then, Rex Grossman?

Then he went 18-0 and got a rematch with the team that no one even expected to be there, a team that went into week 16 not knowing if they would make it to the playoffs, and they got upset.

Maybe it was spygate, maybe it was the Helmet Catch, maybe something else, but people loved to see them lose.

I guess I've blathered on long enough, but the question this leads to is this: Would you like to see your team become a dynasty, even if all those rings came at the price of your team losing its soul?

Because all teams do, no matter what you say. When I tell people I'm a Red Sox fan, and people tell me, there's always that initial wariness. Did you like them pre-2004? Where were you for game 7 of the ALCS in 2003?

Most people have a good answer, but it would be unheard of to be so wary of a fellow fan in the years before the Red Sox won.

Conversely, by losing your soul, your team achieves immortality. No matter how SpyGate turns out, no matter how the rest of Tim Duncan's career turns out, people will remember the time when those teams dominated there sport like nobody else.

And maybe that means that a dynasty can't be appreciated until fans are telling their grandkids about watching Big Papi hit two walk-off hits 22 hours apart.

Either way, I think it is interesting, and I am interested as to what people think.

Because no matter what the price of immortality, the sight of seeing your favorite player holding a championship trophy over his head, is something that every single sports fan dreams of.

And when you get down to the cold reality of it: you may never see it. I may never see the Dirkster getting his ring. But I'm damn sure going to enjoy every minute of watching him try to get it.