THE DOMINANCE THEORY
Dynasties are the yardsticks by which sports history is measured
We watch sports to see great plays and great games, great
athletes and, of course, great teams. Dynasties form the
foundation upon which sports history is built. The Yankees, the
Canadiens, the Celtics, the 49ers: They're the standard against
which all other teams are judged.
Would the Brooklyn Dodgers endure so sweetly in memory if they
hadn't struggled so valiantly--and for the most part, so
futilely--against those Yankees bullies? The value of a dynasty is
that the reigning team is at once loved and hated; a fan can't
feel the thrill of an underdog's triumph unless there's a top dog
firmly in place. Take golf, which is thriving in these Tiger
Woods years. Woods's dominance provides us with an overriding
reference point: How does everyone else stack up, or not stack
up, against him?
June 24, 2001
Like many previously neutral observers, I took a shine to the
76ers after they won Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Could they really
upset the mighty Lakers? I wondered. That glimmer of hope, which
fueled my interest in the series, was made possible because the
Lakers are mighty, which is why I'm glad they're well on their
way to becoming a dynasty.
Nothing cheapens a championship trophy more than having it pass
like an unwanted heirloom from team to team. It implies a
randomness, like the one currently undermining the NFL. You
remember the Steelers of the 1970s and the Niners of the '80s,
but, quick, who won the last five Super Bowls? Years from now
you'll recall Michael Jordan's Bulls and Shaq 'n' Kobe's Lakers.
But you'll scratch your head trying to remember who won the
titles in between--or you won't scratch your head, because you
won't care. --Kostya Kennedy
Dynasties are the cudgels that destroy competitive drama
I deplore dynasties for the same reasons critics rip a formulaic
movie: stock characters, predictable plot. Would we really be
worse off if Karl Malone, John Stockton and the Jazz had, just
once, knocked off Michael and the Bulls? Or if the Yankees would
give the Red Sox another chance to exorcise the Curse of the
Bambino? No, give me the New York Rangers' lone Stanley Cup in 54
years; a Game 7 in which Mutombo's bones beat Shaq's bulk; a
World Cup final in which Brazil loses to anyone. (O.K., maybe not
to Argentina.) If the alternative is rampant Steinbrennerism,
I'll take the World Series winner whose owner has spent the least
This isn't meant to extol the liquidation of the 1997 Florida
Marlins or to give a pass to the NFL, whose owners have
revenue-shared into extinction the incentive to win. Nonetheless,
to embrace the top dog for helping us appreciate the underpup is
like praising the bully for giving us a sense of compassion. Only
after a round of trust-busting during the second half of the last
century did sports boom. It took UCLA's eviction from the Final
Four by the UNC Charlottes and Indiana States of the field before
the NCAA tournament became a Tiffany television property, and the
Yankees' tumble from their perch in the 1960s for baseball to
fully flourish beyond the Mississippi.
As for the example of Tiger, let's be careful what we wish for.
What if a dominant athlete happens not to have Woods's elan? What
if, while squatting at No. 1 for 156 straight weeks, a tedious
dynast turns as many people off his sport as Tiger has turned on
to his? With Ivan Lendl, I rest my case. --Alexander Wolff
MORE PROBLEM BALLOTS
ROCK THE VOTE
Through Sunday the Cardinals' Albert Pujols led National League
third basemen in average (.352), homers (20) and RBIs (62).
Pujols, however, has virtually no chance of being elected to
start in the July 10 All-Star Game. Why? His name isn't among the
16 third basemen on the league's ballot.
The production and distribution schedule for the 72 million
ballots printed by Major League Baseball requires clubs to submit
the names of their projected starters by mid-April. That means
breakout players like Pujols and Mets outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo
(five homers, 32 RBIs, .320 with runners in scoring position) get
snubbed. It also means the ballot can end up embarrassingly
unbalanced: Listed as the Cardinals' third base nominee is Craig
Paquette (.259), while the Mets have .183-hitting outfielder
Darryl Hamilton's name next to a chad. (Shinjo's omission assumes
even greater significance considering that five million ballots
were distributed in Japan.)
"We get a guy like Pujols every year," says MLB spokesman Patrick
Courtney. "That's why managers name players to the team as well."
Sure enough, Pujols seems a lock to be selected as a reserve.
Still, given that ballots are typically outdated by June, why
doesn't baseball print a second round or post modified ballots
online? "In theory that sounds good," says Courtney, "but every
time someone got injured, teams would want to change the ballot."
Courtney also points out the prohibitive cost of distributing an
additional run of ballots to 30 parks and assorted retail
locations, not to mention in the Dominican Republic, Japan,
Mexico, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. What's more, voting rules
require that each team have exactly 25 home dates on which
ballots are accepted, meaning that scheduling a second round
would be nearly impossible. Online ballots aren't updated, says
Courtney, because they're only meant to replicate paper ballots.
The flaw, in other words, is built into the system. At some
point, the speed and flexibility of the Internet should provide a
solution. Until then, baseball fans will have to live with being
denied, at least in part, their best referendum on the game's
best players. --Daniel G. Habib
Sport? Not a Sport?
THIS WEEK: MOUNTAIN CLIMBING
SPORT "You have to be an athlete, and you have to have a game
--Bengie Molina, Angels catcher
SPORT "Anything that physically demanding has to be a sport, even
if you don't keep score."
--Dave Hansen, Dodgers infielder
NOT A SPORT "Come on, mountain climbing? You don't have to be an
athlete. Plus, risking your life is not a sport. That's
--David Weathers, Brewers reliever
SPORT "More than car racing. You just sit in a car and drive
around a track. Mountain climbers have to be in shape."
--Joe Sakic, Avalanche forward
NOT A SPORT "It's an athletic activity, and it's a strong mental
challenge because one slip and you're dead. But you don't compete
--Qadry Ismail, Ravens wideout
NOT A SPORT "Anybody who climbs a mountain isn't a sportsman.
--Rod Smith, Broncos wideout
SPORT "It's man against mountain, and it's win or lose. If you
fall, you're dead, but you also lost."
--Elton Brand, Bulls forward
The NBA's "It's All Good" Campaign
SYNOPSIS A series of playoff-themed ads that juxtapose stars of
the past (Dr. J, Michael Jordan) with standouts of the present
(Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson), capped by the slogan "It's All
BACKGROUND In replacing its 10-year-old "I Love This Game"
campaign, NBA execs were looking for a hip catchphrase that would
also connect fans to the league's stellar legacy. "The play on
the court has always been good, from Bill Russell to Kobe
Bryant," says NBA Entertainment executive vice president Gregg
Winik. "It's been good in the past, and it's still good now." Yet
the selection of the slogan is quizzical, not the least because
of its hip-hop roots: Rappers in the early '90s used the phrase
with an undercurrent of defiance; it represented an assertion of
status (the street life: It's all good). The motto has since
seeped into pop culture at large, turning up everywhere from yoga
classes (where it's used as a faux-Buddhist mantra) to hit
sitcoms (it was a punch line in a Will & Grace episode). But even
in these watered-down contexts, the phrase doesn't suggest the
rah-rah spirit implied in the NBA spots. "If somebody makes a
mistake--like, 'Man, I forgot your shoes'--I say, 'It's all good,
we straight,'" says Lakers forward Robert Horry. "But it's not
used like, 'Hooray, it's all good.' That's just so corny."
BOTTOM LINE Though it's always nice to see vintage footage of
hoopsters, the misused catchphrase makes the campaign feel
comically behind the times.
How to return Pete Sampras's serve
Next week Pete Sampras begins his quest for a record eighth
Wimbledon singles title. One key to his success on the All
England Club's slick grass courts is his booming serve; in seven
Wimbledon finals, Sampras has lost four service games. Here's a
step-by-step guide to neutralizing the greatest weapon of
Wimbledon's greatest champion.
1. CROWD THE BASELINE By hitting the return on the rise, you cut
off the angled serves. Says Davis Cup captain Patrick McEnroe,
"If he sees you're standing far back, he can slice it or kick
it." The downside is you have even less time to react to his
2. CHEAT TO THE CENTER Sampras hits his biggest serves down the
middle. He can go wide, but that serve, as McEnroe notes, "is
not as effective as the bomb up the middle."
3. GET AHEAD IN THE COUNT Even to think of breaking Sampras, you
have to win at least two of the first three points in a game.
Fall behind, and he has too many options. But if you can get to
15-30, you force him to be more conservative. How are you
supposed to win those crucial first points? Well....
4. EVERY NOW AND THEN, guess Pick a direction and break that way
early. You'll at least have a fighting chance at stealing a
point. "If I don't guess, I'm not going to win the point
anyway," says Justin Gimelstob, who snagged a set from Sampras
at last year's Wimbledon. "But if I guess right, at least I can
get a decent hit at the ball."
Radio reporter Sid Rosenberg, who was fired two weeks ago after
saying on Don Imus's syndicated show that Venus Williams was an
"animal" and that she and sister Serena had a better shot at
posing nude for National Geographic than Playboy. "He apologized
and showed he understood he was wrong," says program director
Mark Chernoff of Imus's flagship station, WFAN, in New York City.
Rosenberg also sent a written apology to the Williamses.
To 104 years in prison, David Casper, 28, son of two-time U.S.
Open golf champion Billy Casper, for a 1999 crime spree during
which he robbed his parents' house. He pleaded guilty in April
to 35 felony counts and was sentenced under California's
By New York City correction officers, Tom Gallagher, 37, who was
swimming in the East River when he was mistakenly identified as
an escaped prisoner from nearby Rikers Island. Gallagher was
swimming around Long Island to raise money for the Association
for Children with Down Syndrome. "We got all happy thinking we
had our man," said Sandra Smith, a correction department
spokeswoman. It took 10 minutes for Gallagher to persuade
officers to allow him to continue.
As a security guard for one episode of the Jerry Springer Show,
Tigers pitcher Jeff Weaver. The 6'5", 200-pound Weaver, a fan of
the program, broke up two scuffles during his stint, including
one involving two heavyset women.
Plans by the CFL's Toronto Argonauts for a regular pregame wet
T-shirt contest using strippers from a local club. "The response
was generally positive," says Argonauts president Jeff Giles.
"[But] perhaps we went a little bit too far." The Argos will
instead feature swimsuit competitions that will be open to all
HELLO, IT'S ME: Last week, Rex Rundgren, a shortstop from
Sacramento City College and son of rocker Todd, was selected by
the Marlins in the 11th round of the baseball draft. Rex is the
latest scion of an entertainment figure to make a splash in the
sports world. How many of these other famous father-son combos
can you name?
1. Father mastered the R&B sound, but when XFL folded, it was
the son, a wide receiver for the Birmingham Thunderbolts, who
had tears on his pillow, pain in his heart.
2. Although father was famous for hitting the road (at least on
the silver screen), son made name for himself when he won 1981
U.S. Amateur golf tournament at San Francisco's Olympic Club,
only 15 miles from home.
3. Eight was enough for father, but son knocked off the world's
top-ranked player when he beat John McEnroe in semifinals of 1981
4. Though father was trailblazing '50s doo-wopper, son, a
first-round NBA draft selection in 1991, turned out to be great
pretender after he bailed on the Pistons and $36 million
contract in '99.
5. While dad got famous for juggling squares, son was a diamond
man who spent nine seasons as a first baseman for the Cubs and
the Royals in 1970s.
6. Father gained fame as a member of The Dirty Dozen and for
storming Sands of Iwo Jima. Golfer son was undone by sands of
Sawgrass, where bunker bogey on 12th hole cost him 1981 TPC to
7. Father shot the sheriff in Jamaica; son sacked the
quarterback near South Beach.
8. Father was Starsky and Hutch's street informant. Son has
informed Michigan that he'll be USC's running back this fall.
ANSWERS: 1. Father: Anthony Gourdine, lead singer for '60s
hitmakers Little Anthony and the Imperials (Tears on My Pillow);
son: Damon Gourdine. 2. Father: Bing Crosby; son: Nathaniel
Crosby. 3. Father: Dick Van Patten, paterfamilias on TV's Eight
Is Enough; son: Vince Van Patten (top). 4. Father: Tony Williams,
lead singer for The Platters (The Great Pretender); son: former
Detroit forward Bison Dele. 5. Father: Hollywood Squares host
Peter Marshall; son: Pete LaCock (middle). 6. Father: actor
Richard Jaeckel; son: Barry Jaeckel. 7. Father: reggae legend Bob
Marley; son: former Miami Hurricanes linebacker Rohan Marley. 8.
Father: actor Antonio Fargas; son: Justin Fargas (bottom).
Love means never having to say you're sorry--even if it's for
burning down your loved one's $1.3 million mansion. NFL
free-agent wide receiver Andre Rison announced on an Atlanta
radio station last week that he and singer Lisa (Left Eye) Lopes
are getting married. The on-again, off-again couple has a stormy
history: Following an argument in June 1994, Lopes, part of the
Grammy-winning trio TLC, started a fire that destroyed Rison's
Alpharetta, Ga., house. (Lopes pleaded guilty to arson and spent
time in a halfway house.) Rison said the ceremony would take
place on July 5 at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. However, the
garden's special-events coordinator told SI that the couple is
now considering another site, and Rison's agent, Charles Tucker,
says of the wedding news, "I'll believe it when they walk down
the aisle--whenever that is. I wouldn't put money on it."... As
any athlete can tell you, beware the wrath of Philly fans.
During the halftime show at Game 4 of the NBA Finals, Destiny's
Child was roundly booed by the First Union Center crowd. There
was grumbling that the pop trio had lip-synced its two-song set.
A spokeswoman for the group has no comment on whether the
performance was live or not, but does say the booing was in
response to the Lakers' jerseys worn by singer Michelle Williams
(above) and some of the dancers.... More of TV's reality-show
craze: ESPN has ordered 13 episodes of Sidelines, a half-hour
series that will follow a college football team through the 2001
season. The school has yet to be determined. Sidelines, which
premieres in September, is ESPN's first stab at an episodic
series. Not to be outdone, HBO has greenlit Hard Knocks:
Training Camp with the Baltimore Ravens. The hourlong show will
follow the Ravens' lives from the time they leave home until the
end of camp. Hard Knocks debuts in August.
Combined ages of Roberto Duran, 50, and Hector Camacho, 39, who
will fight on July 14 for the North American Boxing Association
super middleweight title.
Percent of major league managers with big league playing
experience, since Tony Perez was named Marlins skipper; it's the
first time since 1966 that this has been the case.
Percentage of 76ers merchandise among all NBA-licensed team items
sold this year, making Philly the best-selling club, ahead of the
Games behind the Mariners the Rangers will finish if both teams
keep playing at their current paces.
Amount H.J. Heinz Co. will pay over 20 years for naming rights
to the Steelers' new stadium; the company's slogan is "57
This Week's Sign of the Apocalypse
Biologists at Sweden's National Board of Fisheries have
discovered that female brown trout regularly fake orgasms during
spawning to trick males into releasing their sperm.
"Anybody who climbs a mountain isn't a sportsman. He's crazy."
They Said It
Journeyman pitcher, after he was traded from the Phillies to the
Royals: "Steve Carlton. Mike Schmidt. Now the Paul Byrd era in
Philadelphia comes to an end."