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It's The Dog Days For America's Sports Dynasties

Feb 6, 2013
Originally published on February 6, 2013 10:51 am

Since that devilish little morality saga with Linda Evans and Joan Collins left television in 1989, there have been no dynasties in our world outside of sports.

Today, nobody says that William and Kate are continuing a dynasty or the Kennedys are a dynasty, or the Rockefellers, or even that dreadful ugly chubby family in North Korea.

But at least in the democratic republic of the United States we've always kept our love of dynasties alive in sports. Besides momentum, dynasties are our favorite athletic thing. Only it seems now that our dynasties are melting as fast as the Arctic ice cap.

In particular, we used to have three bona fide dynasties: the Yankees in baseball, the Celtics and Lakers in basketball, and the Cowboys in football. (Even if the Cowboys weren't a traditional dynasty, it was a sort of dynasty brand.)

We adored dynasties. As soon as some team won one championship, we'd all go: Is this the next dynasty? We even had dynasties in college sports, too, like UCLA in basketball and Notre Dame in football –– back when the Irish players went to Mass instead of talked on the phone in all their spare time.

But now, I have to tell you, they're all gone. Sorry, sports fans: No more dynasties.

Through the years, the Celtics have just sort of petered out. The Cowboys became to sports like the Kardashians are to entertainment: just being around is enough.

And now the Lakers have simply, suddenly cratered, slogging along well below .500.

Meanwhile, even before the guileless Alex Rodriquez underwent hip surgery and then got fingered again for using naughty medications, the Yankees were turning into a home for the assisted living.

The current, ordinary Celtics are long in the tooth, too. If the Yankees can't get under the luxury-tax limit and sign Ponce de Leon to replace A-Rod, this could actually be the first year since 1994 that the Yankees, Lakers, Celtics and Cowboys will have, all together, missed the playoffs. A dynasty shutout.

Also, just for the record, it's been years since anybody could even pretend to be a dynasty in ice hockey. For the last nine years in the NHL, there have been nine different champions. Very Canadian, eh?

So, it's a parity world now in Sports America. Yes, a certain glamour is still attached to teams with great tradition, but you can dine out on history for only so long. There's something revealing about seeing so many of the most expensive seats at Yankee Stadium empty, game after game. Especially in New York, the in-crowd is the first to know when the old in-thing is out.

And it's kind of ironic that, at a time when there is such demographic inequality in America, sports is less aristocratic than ever.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Beer with breakfast, hmm. I usually take beer with my sports. Of course, commentator Frank Deford says sports aren't as exciting as the used to be. He wonders where all the sports dynasties have gone.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: Once that devilish little morality saga with Linda Evans and Joan Collins left television in 1989, there've been no dynasties in our world - outside of sports. Today, nobody says that William and Kate are continuing a dynasty or the Kennedys are a dynasty, or the Rockefellers - or even that dreadful ugly, chubby family in North Korea.

But at least in the Democratic Republic of the United States we've always kept our love of dynasties alive in sports. Besides momentum, dynasties are our favorite athletic thing. Only it seems now that dynasties are melting as fast as the Arctic ice cap.

In particular, we used to have three bona fide dynasties: the Yankees in baseball, and the Celtics and Lakers in basketball, plus the Cowboys in football - well, even if the Cowboys weren't a traditional dynasty, but just a sort of dynasty brand. We adored dynasties. As soon as some team won one championship, we'd all go: is this the next dynasty? We even had dynasties in college sports, too, like UCLA in basketball and Notre Dame in football - back when the Irish players went to Mass instead of talking on the telephone in all their spare time.

But now, I have to tell you, they're all gone. Sorry, sports fans, no more dynasties. Through the years, the Celtics have just sort of petered out. The Cowboys became, to sports, like the Kardashians are to entertainment - just being around is enough. And now, the Lakers have simply, suddenly cratered, slogging along well below .500.

Meanwhile, even before the guileless Alex Rodriquez underwent hip surgery and then got fingered again for using naughty medications, the Yankees were turning into a home for the assisted living. The current, ordinary Celtics are long in the tooth, too. If the Yankees can't get under the luxury-tax limit and sign Ponce de Leon to replace A-Rod, this could actually be the first year since 1994 that the Yankees, Lakers, Celtics and Cowboys will have, all together, missed the playoffs - a dynasty shutout.

And, just for the record, it's been years since anybody could even pretend to be a dynasty in ice hockey. For the last nine seasons in the NHL, there've been nine different champions. Very Canadian, eh?

So, it's a parity world now in sports America. Yes, a certain glamour is still attached to teams with great tradition, but you can dine out on history for only so long. There's something revealing about seeing so many of the most expensive seats at Yankee Stadium empty, game after game. Especially in New York, the in-crowd is the first to know when the old in-thing is out.

And it's kind of ironic that, at a time when there is such demographic inequality in America, sports is less aristocratic than ever.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

GREENE: Frank Deford, a one-man dynasty of commentary. He joins us each here on the program every Wednesday.

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.