Friday, November 20, 2009

Sports in the Twenty-first Century

Man. What a decade. Ever think you’d live long-enough to see the New Jersey Nets and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals? Or the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series? How about the Arizona Cardinals in the Super Bowl?

Are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers not only going to a Super Bowl but actually winning one a vision not even binge-drinking could inspire? Imagine the Boston Red Sox and Chicago White Sox finally ending their championship droughts—in consecutive years!

Okay. Very funny. When does the alarm clock go off?

Sure, the usual suspects made plenty of appearances; the Lakers won four titles, the Yankees, rejuvenated Red Wings and Steelers two each. The San Antonio Spurs at last converted all those winning seasons into a trio of trophies. And the Celtics recovered from their post-Bird stupor long-enough to snatch one.

But that’s not what this decade is about.

It’s about the Florida Marlins winning another Series just six years after their ’97 title. It’s about the Phillies winning only their second title in 108 years. And it’s about the fresh-out-of diapers Arizona Diamondbacks denying the fabled New York Yankees a World Series fourpeat by scoring two ninth-inning runs in the seventh game of the 2001 classic—off of Mariano Rivera.

It's about the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim—a hockey team named after a Disney movie—going to the Stanley Cup twice. (And winning once.) It’s about the Anaheim Angels winning the 2002 World Series against the Giants and big, bad Barry Bonds. Can anyone say Anaheim—Suburb of Champions?

When the Tampa Bay Lightning (What? Tampa Bay again?) and Carolina Hurricanes win successive Stanley Cups, and the New England Patriots become the dominant team in the NFL, you just know someone spiked the punch.

But not everyone tried it.

The Los Angeles Clippers still reside at the bottom of the NBA. The Cleveland Indians haven’t won a Series since 1948. The Sacramento Kings haven’t put their fingerprints on a championship since 1951, when they played in Rochester, N.Y. and were called the Royals.

And the Stanley Cup remains a rumor in—of all places—Toronto, where the Maple Leafs haven’t bothered since 1967.

And then there’s the Detroit Lions. Once upon a time, the Lions were the cream of professional football, playing for four NFL championships between 1952 and 1957 and winning three.

But then, the Titanic used to float.

That leaves the hapless Chicago Cubs. One-hundred years and counting. A Las Vegas bookie calculated the odds at a million-to-one, which actually means the Cubs have won the lottery. Only no one's calling and claiming to be related.

When homes wired for electricity represented cutting-edge technology the last time you won a championship, you're overdue.

When eleven of baseball's fourteen expansion franchises have seen World Series action since you did, you're overdue.

And when a football team quarterbacked by Rex Grossman hits the Super Bowl before you're awarded World Series visitation rights, you need to call your OB.

Now.

Who knows. Maybe the next decade will be the one. But like my math teacher once advised me about a malfunctioning calculator—don’t count on it.

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