With Tiger Woods wrapping up the PGA Tournament this weekend, the prevalence of dynasties in modern sports became even more conspicuous. Despite the likeability of most athletic dynasties, such as Roger Federer, Woods and the Pittsburgh Steelers (okay, maybe they aren’t a dynasty, but let’s just say I own a Terrible Towel), you can’t help but hope some firecracker like Novak Djokovic, Zach Johnson or the Pittsburgh Pirates (I’ll try to stop using unreasonable Pittsburgh references) will break through in their respective sports. Occasionally, some underdog will top the bests in their sport, but such events always end up seeming like a fluke or something that will eventually mean nothing in the illustrious careers of our athletic gods. So we must ask, and I phrase this in such a way that only a person growing up in my time would, how could we make sports more democratic?
Part of the issue in the reigns of certain dynasties lies in a little thing we call honesty. Although I find the new nickname for Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick (“Beli-cheat”) quite humorous, it is disappointing to hear of yet another cheating scandal in sports. I was already tired of Barry Bonds talk, which climaxed this summer with his breaking of Hank Aaron’s career home run record, and then here come the Patriots with their illegal filming. Whatever happened to the good old days of trusting that the defensive linemen on the opposing team weren’t wired to hear your play calls? And why is it that the New England Patriots are putting more effort into beating the Jets than George Bush is into finding the world’s most wanted terrorist? Maybe Bush should hire Belichick for a new “War Against Losing” initiative. But I digress. I can understand wanting to gain an edge on the opponent, but to me, that usually came in the form of a well-timed Gatorade or, if I was feeling gutsy enough, a Red Bull. Call me an underachiever, but I’d rather down some highly artificial, minimally-effective energy drink than pop a needle full of animal growth hormone into my body. Why can’t more athletes be more akin to the gentlemen of yesteryear, like Cal Ripken Jr. for example? There is a man who defined his legacy honestly. Sure Cal might have taken some cold medicine here and there, but it was only so he could fight the sniffles long enough to play in 2,632 consecutive games. That’s the better part of 17 seasons. Barry Bonds can barely play 10 games in a row without having to sit out due to his sore, artificially-inflated muscles and painful, unnaturally strained joints.
While dynasties have always been around in sports, I seem to have recently become irritated by them due to the excitement they remove from the game. Surprise, the Spurs swept the Cavaliers. As much as I like LeBron James, he’s not going to single-handedly beat the Spurs’ Parker-Duncan-Ginobili line up. I was on post-surgery painkillers and Game Four still wasn’t interesting. I miss the likes of the 1998 Chicago Bulls-Utah Jazz final in which the reigning dynasty could still be competed with.
After discussing the near-impeccability of such fearsome reigns, I realized that perhaps there is not much that can be done to touch our super sports heroes, aside from cheating (which I am not endorsing, especially after recently completing orientation and the academic honesty lecture).
I don’t mean to seem like Rachel Dratch la Debbie Downer, because I myself am a lifelong athlete and have accepted the fact that I will not play soccer with Mia Hamm on the U.S. National Team (not just because she’s retired). But when it comes to sports, sometimes you just have to learn to bite your tongue, root for the underdog and accept that the Yankees will never die. Just like the Pittsburgh Pirates do.
Stevenson is a member of the class of 2011.