Sports are fun. There’s a reason that people get so excited and gather around the TV or in stadiums to watch their favorite players kick, hit, shoot or throw a ball or puck in defense of a certain locale and team.
But sports championship matchups have become sadly predictable in most sports. Is this a kind of power consolidation towards the top in certain conferences of certain sports? Or are we living in an unprecedented time where we are witnessing some of the greatest athletes to ever live performing remarkably in their prime? In thirty years, will this time be lauded for how many dynasties could exist across all of sports?
Let’s analyze some recent trends in sports championships:
Since and including the 2001 season (2002 Super Bowl), there have been sixteen Super Bowls.
The AFC has been represented by only five different quarterbacks: Tom Brady (seven), Peyton Manning (four), Ben Roethlisberger (three), and Joe Flacco and Rich Gannon each with one.
In contrast, the NFC, in the same time, has been represented by thirteen different quarterbacks, with only Eli Manning, Kurt Warner, and Russell Wilson appearing in the Bowl more than once.
Now, I think it can generally be agreed upon that both Manning and Brady are two of the best, if not the two best, quarterbacks to play the game. I know that the role of the quarterback is overstated a lot in the game, but it’s hard to argue with the numbers: that across sixteen years, three men stood under center in fourteen of those Super Bowls.
Maybe things will swing and change so that the NFC is only ever represented by some who has been there before; it certainly wouldn’t surprise anyone if Matt Ryan’s Falcons or Russell Wilson’s Seahawks made it to the big game again, with Rodgers’ Packers and Newton’s Panthers also potential heavyweights to return, if the cards play right.
Or, it’ll be Brady and the Pats vs Dak and the Cowboys next year, and this strange but predictable trend will continue.
The NBA finals just started and this marks the seventh consecutive championship round that LeBron James is participating in; four with Miami Heat and his third with Cleveland Cavaliers (with an additional Cavs appearance back in 2008).
This is also the third consecutive matchup between the Cavs and the Golden State Warriors, with each team having taken one series each prior to this most recent. So, uh, best two out of three, guys?
No one would doubt James, Steph Curry, or any of the other All Star players that have been and currently are featured in these Finals. But as you can see, the trend is similar to the NFL in regards to the frequency of returning teams.
Baseball is actually pretty spread out in terms of repeating teams.
Since 1995 after the strike, the New York Yankees have returned the most, seven times, winning five times. The San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals tie for second most appearances with four. The Cardinals splitting their champsionships 2-2, and the Giants have won three titles in the last five years. The Giants seem to go every other year, so statistically 2018 is a year they should win. I guess we’ll see.
Outside of them, a handful of teams have gone three times: Braves, Indians, Red Sox; and a few more have been twice: Rangers, Mets, Marlins, Phillies, Royals, Tigers; and even more have only been once.
In summary, the MLB seems to be more diverse and fair than the NFL and NBA have been (in general), although that is across a wider time span, admittedly. In the same time period as James as been a part of the NBA finals, the NL has been represented by the Giants and Cardinals each twice, with the Mets and the Cubs each representing in 2015 and 2016 respectively, and the Kansas City Royals being the only team to repeat for the AL, in back to back years 2014-2015.
Since the 2009 season, there have been only four different teams to win the Stanley Cup: Chicago Blackhawks (three), Pittsburgh Penguins (two), Los Angeles Kings (two), and Boston Bruins (once), with the Bruins also losing one appearance in the same time period.
The NHL Finals are also currently going on, but the Pittsburgh Penguins have a shot at continuing this consolidation of Cups to a few teams across about the same amount of time LeBron James has been appearing in every NBA championship and Manning, Brady or Roethlisberger have been playing to win another Lombardi.
Overall, I think that this is just an interesting trend across most sports. I’ll be honest and say I don’t watch European sports, so soccer [football] is kind of out of my sports lexicon. I’m not even saying that sports are less fun when there are only a few teams or players always winning. Dynasties are fun to watch and grow and you never know you’re watching one till they’ve been in it a while.
After the 2007 season, when Brady lost his for the first time in a Super Bowl, some thought the dynasty was over. Since then, he’s 2-1 in subsequent Super Bowls, setting a record for most passing yards and leading the largest comeback in Super Bowl history at the ripe age of 39.
I think we are living in an unprecedented time of amazing athletes across the sports world, from Tom Brady to LeBron James to Bryce Harper to Sidney Crosby to Steph Curry to Cam Newton to Alex Ovechkin to Kris Bryant; and I think that’s really cool.
So are Sports Championships overall, getting easier to predict and less interesting in figuring out the actual matchup? Maybe just a little. But they doesn’t keep the actual games themselves from being interesting and entertaining, and only makes the sports themselves more attractive to growing fan bases around the world.