Sour Grapes

3 06 2008

Recently, MCBias wrote a piece called The Corruption of a Sports Dynasty. He compared ancient Grecian dynasties with successful sports teams. Do teams really become sour the longer they stay on top?

The view from the top of the hill is very nice. It’s easy to become seduced by success. I know of this desire first-hand. I lived in an all-male dorm during my freshman year in college. We would have Tetris matches on an old-school Nintendo and I reveled in being the the unquestioned O’Donnell Hall Tetris King.

Eventually, I would employ mind games such as trash-talking and intimidation to gain every advantage I could (not that I needed it). I would ask around about Meatball’s recent one-night stand and casually mention it during a pivotal point in the Tetris match. These tricks would inevitably distract my dorm mates as they would angrily ask how I caught wind of these stories. “Jenny never hurt anyone, Lord Tetri. Leave her out of this.”

I’m no stranger to tricks of the trade. The longer a team’s core stays together, the richer their game experience becomes. And the longer you play the game on the professional level, the more subtle tricks you learn.

For most people, the line should be drawn here. Once they become aware of these subtle tricks, they shouldn’t employ them. They should turn their back and rely solely on their athleticism.

However, this is where my argument begins. I think that successful sports dynasties draw ire and jealously from those that aren’t as successful. The Evil Empire tag is more of a function of scrutiny than of actually being sour.

Take the NBA’s most successful teams in the last 5 years: the San Antonio Spurs and the Detroit Pistons. In the beginning, they were a “how to” on how to build a winning program.

Top-level management was sturdy.
The rosters consisted of high-quality guys.
They played the game the “right way.”
They were consistently among the top defensive squads in the league.

Both continue to be model franchises but resentment has been boiling over against these teams. Nowadays, everything about these two teams is scrutinized.

They’re aging and old.
Every off-season, their roster is in shambles.
They play a boring brand of basketball.
They’re dirty.

Both the Spurs and Pistons are the Evil Empire. No one roots for them; in fact, everyone roots against them. But what is it that changed the perception? How did guys like Robert Horry and Bruce Bowen go from “high-quality characters” to “dirty?” A few high-profile fouls? Haven’t they been dishing out hard fouls their entire career?

Since when did the Detroit Pistons become boring? I think they are the most exciting fourth quarter team in the league. Tayshaun Prince in the fourth quarter is entertaining enough then throw in Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace. Boring? Really?

In my eyes, it’s not the squads that are souring. It’s a general uprising from the people. These guys haven’t changed the way they’ve handled business so why are we throwing a coup?

Photo courtesy of AP




2 responses

6 06 2008

I have to admit, you brought a good point that nagged me as I was finishing that post. Is it just me that’s old and cynical now? Or, is it just that with the continued dominance of the Pistons and Spurs, extra coverage has meant that the worst elements of the Pistons and Spurs have risen to the top? I won’t completely contest the possibility. However, I would say that the Pistons have kept up a level of respectability that the Spurs have not been able to…there are some essential differences that coverage alone can’t account for.

8 06 2008

There definitely are essential differences between both teams’ games. What’s interesting though is that though Pistons’ polarizing character (Rasheed) seems to actively shun the media, the Spurs’ version (Bruce Bowen) doesn’t seem to have the same revulsion.

And I would argue that there’s more heat on Bowen now than Rasheed. But why?

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