by Chris Foss
Now that the Super Bowl has ended, the only game the NFL plays is musical chairs. The St. Louis Rams (re)became the Los Angeles Rams after the season ended. The San Diego Chargers will likely join the Rams in Los Angeles, albeit—oddly—after playing the 2016 season in San Diego. The Oakland Raiders were rumored to be exploring a $1 billion stadium deal with a Las Vegas casino magnate, then suddenly opted to stay in the Bay Area—at least for one more season. This comes just after the San Francisco 49ers moved 50 miles down the road to the posh new Levi’s Stadium, the site of Super Bowl 50. Sports franchise relocation seems to be an almost constant threat, and occasionally, even in this era of multi-million and even billion-dollar teams and stadiums, a reality.
Sometimes teams don’t move, however. The city of Seattle has experienced the gauntlet of threatened team desertion. On the one hand, fans of the Supersonics still loathe owner Clay Bennett for packing up and moving to Oklahoma City in 2008. At 1.76 million “TV homes”, according to Nielsen, Seattle-Tacoma is the nation’s 14th-biggest television market, second only to Phoenix in the non-California West. But a big part of the problem there has been the stadium situation. The Sonics renovated the dank Seattle Center Coliseum into KeyArena in 1995, but just a decade later the building was considered antiquated and unsuitable for basketball. Meanwhile, as the Kingdome prematurely aged and crumbled, the city survived two close calls in the 1990s with the Seahawks and the Mariners.
by Keith Aksel
As a fan, how often do you actually want to win?
On the face of it, the answer to the question seems obvious. We all want our teams to win championships. For most of us, we aren’t shy about desiring that our team win more than one title in our lifetimes. After all, isn’t success the reason we root for sports teams to begin with?
But, at a certain point, is there a law of diminishing returns at play in fandom? Do we actually value championship seasons appropriately after our teams have won a bunch in a small length of time? Let’s use the Boston Celtics as our real-world example.
From the late-1950s through the 1960s, the Celtics dominated the NBA by winning eleven titles, at one point claiming eight in a row. With all-time greats like center Bill Russell on their roster, it is clear that Boston ruled the basketball world during that time. The franchise obviously benefited from a stunted number of competitors (there were only 8 teams in the NBA at the beginning of Boston’s run), but winning those championships mattered a lot to the city of Boston and its fans.
After that run of success, did Boston fans actually value those titles appropriately? Or, more generally, can any fan base absorb that amount of success without losing perspective? How do you know?
Certainly Boston fans would respond with some variation of “each one of my babies is special in their own way,” but questions like this are worth asking. Boston had definitely asserted itself as the era’s dominant power by title number five or six, yet the Celtics were merely halfway done driving the NBA crazy by then. Would winning fewer championships change the legacy of that Celtics team? Would Boston fans actually miss title number 9, 10, or 11?
Perhaps they would. Maybe there is deep fan significance in long runs of domination like the Celtics or UCLA Bruins had in the 1960s and 70s. These questions are meant to stimulate a kind of introspection in fans about whether winning championships at any point changes the significance of previous or future triumphs. Do we actually want our teams to dominate, or does domination make us appreciate the season less? Do we want specific memorable seasons to stand out in our memories, or would we rather get lost in the euphoria of almost-constant triumph?
For some fan bases, less success makes it easier to lift up specific great seasons above others. At the University of Colorado, any discussion about “greatest-ever” teams begins and ends with the 1990 National Champion football team. Colorado fans’ heroes are probably more limited in number than some fan bases, but those memories from 1990 are perhaps held more closely than fans of other teams who have a hard time choosing which titles really mattered among a wealth of championship seasons.
I’m mainly just spit-balling here; I want to press fans to think about the effects of winning and how they change a fan base’s outlook on the sports they watch. Maybe the focus on the championship itself is misplaced, and sports fandom needs to be about something else more holistic, or less goal-oriented. In any case, sports fandom draws on our thoughts, time, money, and feelings probably more regularly than any other single endeavor. Isn’t it time to think about it more critically?
by Keith Aksel
Sometimes a movie is released at precisely the right moment that you forever associate it with being at a certain stage of life. For me, Remember the Titans was that film. It was released in 2000, when I was in eighth grade at Gahanna Middle School East, in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. My life focus at that time was simple: playing and watching sports. And Remember the Titans scratched me right where I itched.
The film is set in during a football season in 1970s Alexandria, Virginia at the back end of Jim Crow. TC Williams High School is experiencing growing pains as two separate black and white schools had to integrate into a single institution. Although the two schools that merged to create TC Williams were already stocked with football talent on their own, combining both schools gave the new Titans football team firepower at all positions.
by Chris Foss
As we head toward the Super Bowl, I unveil what I believe to be the five greatest plays that ended up winning big games in big moments. The decisiveness of the play, the degree of difficulty, the amount of luck involved, and the magnitude of the game are all taken into account. As with last week’s column, a Week 1 play, no matter how dramatic, won’t make the list. Odell Beckham, Jr.’s catch last season against the Cowboys, as spectacular as it was, did not help his team out one bit and didn’t really hurt Dallas in the short or long term. Once again, my picks are below, accompanied by video and analysis, and topped off with some honorable mentions. Let me know what you think—agree, disagree, did I leave off your team’s great moment?
#1: David Tyree’s Catch (Super Bowl XLII, Feb. 3, 2008: Giants 17, Patriots 14):
This is the greatest and most consequential play in NFL history. As well as they had played in the game, the underdog Giants trailed the Patriots 14-10 with 2:39 to play and were about to hand them the first perfect season in the NFL since the 1972 Miami Dolphins. Facing 3rd down and 5 on his own 44-yard line, Eli Manning scrambled and flailed in the pocket for what seemed like an eternity—at one point narrowly avoiding a sack—before heaving a go-for-broke, jump ball Hail Mary in the direction of David Tyree, a wide receiver no one had heard of before and no one would ever hear from again. Tyree made a one-handed catch pinning the ball to his helmet, keeping it away from Rodney Harrison, somehow doing all of this without the ball hitting the ground. The jaw-dropping play kept the Giants alive, and they ultimately won the first of two Super Bowls in the Tom Coughlin-Manning era. The defeat also inaugurated a mild down period for the Patriots, who lost Brady to injury early the next year and did not return to the Super Bowl until 2011.