Sunday’s Australian Open final will feature neither Rafael Nadal nor Roger Federer in the first Grand Slam final of that ilk since the Aussie in 2008. Tennis has undoubtedly been dominated by those two men in the past five and some years, but the sport is not alone in that right.
What’s more is it seems like surprises are becoming more commonplace around the sports world.
First, the Texas Rangers and San Francisco Giants faced off in the World Series instead of the Yankees and Phillies. Then Tiger Woods goes a whole year without winning a single title and drops to No. 3 in the world golf rankings behind two guys you’ve never heard of.
Auburn and Oregon battled it out for the BCS National Championship earlier this month after neither was in the preseason USA Today or AP Top 10s. But it was the SEC team that won for the fifth straight season, so that’s not much for breaking the mold.
It’s nice that the NBA and NFL have given us some consistency. Last year’s Lakers-Celtics Finals matchup is the definition of the basketball norm, and while they may not be at it again this June, no young upstart is going to be replacing them.
While the Packers are in their first Super Bowl in 13 years, they are still one of the most storied franchises in the league, and the Steelers are in their third Super Bowl in the last five years.
Not much for shock and awe, huh?
Some fans like to see turnaround in sports so they can see a new champion every once in a while. For an objective baseball fan, seeing the Yankees battle the Phillies for the second season running is a bit boring. The Rangers and Giants brought some new blood and new excitement to the World Series despite the TV ratings not showing it, but don’t expect the same bored feelings with the Phills and Yanks this season.
In other sports, however, breaking from the norm is not what fans want most. A Grand Slam final without Rafa or Fed doesn’t have the same thrill attached to it. They’re the best, and you want to see the best competing for the highest honors, but maybe this is a sign that the best is changing.
Ultimately the answer to whether new blood in sports spices it up depends on who you ask. No Yankees fan will tell you they liked seeing their team bounced from the postseason in favor of a team that had never been to the World Series, and any Nadal/Federer fan will tell you they want to see those two head-to-head in every Slam final.
But the fans of the smaller teams, the ones that never get any attention, have got to be loving the fact that anyone and everyone has a chance of winning it all these days.