We seem to have a dynasty problem these days in sports.
Those who are winning don’t think there’s a problem, except when they’re accused of manipulating the rules or outright cheating to get to the top.
But almost everybody else seems to think so. We see it at the high school level, all the way through college sports and into the most popular pro sports.
It’s not enough to celebrate the intelligence and hard work these players and coaches put in to get to the top. It’s become part of the fabric of American sports to cry foul when our teams can’t keep up with the Joneses. And all the whining is starting to take away much of the joy from the games.
The most recent examples involve the Golden State Warriors. Yes, they were the best team in the NBA before league MVP Kevin Durant joined them to form a dynasty. Yes, they were the huge favorites to repeat as champions next year even before the best center on the planet — Mobile native and LeFlore graduate DeMarcus Cousins — signed with the Warriors last week.
Cousins is one of only eight players in NBA history to have a season in which he averaged 25 points, 13 rebounds and 5 assists per game. He did that last season. But because he’s recovering from an Achilles injury that will keep him off the court until January or February, he was available for $5.3 million for one season. That’s basically minimum wage in NBA terms.
When he’s healthy, Golden State will have the best starting lineup in NBA history. It’s debatable, but I would take Cousins, Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green over the legendary Celtics of Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge, or the best Chicago Bulls lineup, which featured Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Ron Harper and Toni Kukoc.
As a free agent, Cousins was available to every team in the league. The Warriors were the team that quickly made the deal when they learned he was available and open to a one-year contract. That makes them smart, not cheaters or unsavory in any way.
Yes, they are going to win another NBA title next year, but that should be celebrated and seen as a standard for every other team to strive for.
At the college level, everybody who doesn’t use “Roll Tide” as a greeting is tired of seeing Nick Saban and Alabama win. Five national championships in nine years is a feat nobody figured they would see in an age of reduced scholarship limits, conference championship games and a more demanding playoff system.
But the Tide has done it by being smarter and working “the process” better than any other program. The scary part is that Alabama is in position to be better going forward than they have been already. Vegas odds have Alabama as the overwhelming favorite to win it all in 2018, and the 2019 team is setting up to be Alabama’s best ever.
So what should be done to break up this Alabama dynasty? Nothing, except try to be better than the Tide.
We certainly shouldn’t be supporting rule changes, such as the transfer rule that allows more freedom for players to move from one program to the other. In the short run, this rule seems to punish Alabama. When offensive lineman Brandon Kennedy was freed to transfer from Alabama to Tennessee and play immediately, critics of Saban cheered. But far better players than Kennedy are now going to transfer from another SEC school to Alabama, meaning the “punishment” for Saban is actually going to benefit the Tide in the long run.
The whining is happening at the high school level as well. St. Paul’s has won three of the last four state championships in Class 5A. Just like with the Warriors and the Crimson Tide, that kind of success offends some people.
So instead of St. Paul’s playing in Class 4A, where the school’s enrollment would rightfully place them, or in Class 5A after the 1.35 multiplier is applied for private schools, the Saints will now play in Class 6A because of the new “competitive balance” legislation passed by the Alabama High School Athletic Association. That means a school with an enrollment of 310 students in grades 10-12 will play against Class 6A competition, where the largest school has 1,046 students and the smallest has 606 students.
The correct solution to ending the dynasty of St. Paul’s football would have been for somebody to work hard enough and smart enough to beat them.
The same is true for Alabama football, Golden State Warriors basketball, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in tennis, Villanova in college basketball and Oregon State in college baseball.
The greatest fun in sports comes when a team like the Philadelphia Eagles rises up to beat a dynasty. What made the most recent Super Bowl so great was that there were no artificial barriers put in front of the New England Patriots to help the Eagles.
One day, some team will eventually do the same to Golden State, Alabama and St. Paul’s. But it takes away the joy of chopping them down if they are somehow penalized for their incredible success.
Randy Kennedy writes a weekly column for Lagniappe and is co-host of “Sports Drive” every weekday from 3-6 p.m. on WNSP 105.5 FM, the country’s first all-sports FM station.