by Chris Foss
As the NBA opens the season today, the headlines revolve around predictions of another Cavs-Warriors final, finishing a new collective bargaining agreement, and player protests of the national anthem. At The Tattered Pennant, however, we look beyond the big headlines and the top teams to examine the fate of four clubs that had decidedly mediocre 2015-16 seasons. Last year, the Portland Trail Blazers overcame 25-win odds by Las Vegas to get into the playoffs, where they won a round and went toe-to-toe with the Warriors. Who will be the Blazers of 2016-17? The following teams could significantly shape the new season:
New York Knicks (32-50 last year): Every year, seemingly, pundits wait for the Knicks to make a real run. With the exception of the 2012-13 season, when they lost to Indiana in the Eastern Conference semifinals, the Knicks have been out of contention this entire millennium. The additions of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah give them some real hope this season, however. Whereas Rose and Carmelo Anthony suffered under the burden of being the alpha with the Bulls and the Knicks, now they can share the effort. Kristaps Porzingis should continue to emerge as a star, perhaps transcendent, player. The Knicks will have a big frontline, with young guys Willy Hernangomez and Marshall Plumlee joining Porzingis to provide some real matchup problems for teams favoring Warriors-style small-ball. Tonight’s opener against Cleveland will provide some clues as to what the season holds, but give Jeff Hornacek—also in his first season in New York—some time to show what this club can do. Although Hornacek flamed out at the end of his tenure in Phoenix, he did win 48 games in his rookie season as a head coach, so there is some potential there. Another good sign comes in reports that Knicks president Phil Jackson is willing to let Hornacek use less of the complicated triangle offense. This should make the players happier and more productive, and give the Knicks a better chance to win.
by The Tattered Pennant Staff
As your friendly neighborhood sports historians, we like to think that we know a little something about athletics in America. We try to write articles you won’t find in other outlets, all in the pursuit of helping fans be better fans. To that end, we’ve decided to offer our brutally honest assessment of what we don’t know. That’s right: the sports world is a big place with language, rules, and norms that are honestly impossible to master completely. No one knows everything in every sport, and we’re no different in that respect.
Each of the editors has prepared a little summary of at least one deficiency in their sports knowledge. You can make fun of us or commiserate with our knowledge gaps. We chose to do this is in the hope that you fans look honestly about the things in sports you don’t know, even if they’re obvious and embarrassing. Being a thinking fan is about confronting what you don’t know as much as it is learning something new.
So, without further ado, the editors share their sports insecurities:
This week we revisit an article from last year addressing a central concept for sports fans: the "dynasty." What is it, and what do your favorite sports historians have to say about it?
by: Keith Aksel
Americans have made arguing about what makes up a sports “dynasty” as much a pastime as watching sports themselves. The scene has played out in innumerable bar rooms and sports radio shows; while one person thinks a team must win back-to-back championships to qualify as a dynasty, another argues that a team has to win three out
of four years to be a true dynasty. And so the debate rages, until everyone loses track of the number of dynasty definitions that have been proposed. Fans seem to vaguely identify winning championships as main criteria for dynasty, but beyond that, defining dynasty looks like an ever-moving target, without any concrete meaning.
But, for a concept so burned in the minds of fans, the dynasty concept is almost universally misunderstood. As it turns out, the definition of “dynasty” is historically a very specific thing, and is not up for interpretation.
by Chris Foss
From 2006 to 2011, the prep football drama Friday Night Lights (now available for you to binge on Netflix) redefined the sports film/TV genre in many important ways. It maintained essential elements of the formula: the good, patriarchal, father-figure coach; the players who generally want to do right but have to overcome problems and distractions along the way; the supportive coach’s wife; the outside distractions that always threaten to dilute the purity of athletics. But in what sports show or movie has the coach been fundamentally wrong at times, called out on his crap, and then had to make amends? When has the sports wife gone beyond the support role and become a well-rounded character of her own? When have the kids traveled so far down the path of no-good and then come around in melodramatic, yet raw and believable circles of redemption? Beyond just sports, Friday Night Lights was five years of television featuring fantastic acting, a slice of Americana, and a little bit of football.
Make that a lot of football. The show takes place in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, where Dillon High School has just hired a new coach, Eric Taylor, played by Kyle Chandler (Wolf of Wall Street, the Netflix series Bloodline). Taylor is a vociferous defender of football as a forger of men and a pillar of society, giving the sport a prime catbird seat which is never questioned throughout the show’s run. Right off the bat, it should be noted that the show solidly posits football as a force for good and a force for unity. Although airing at a time when concussions and player safety were coming into public consciousness, this show has almost nothing to say on these issues. In the world of Friday Night Lights, injuries are just an unalterable, fact of life. Social Darwinism—the rule of the survival of the fittest—just takes over, and we are made to accept it. This is not a show that criticizes social structures or the idea of the game itself as a good thing—if you’re looking for an anti-football polemic or even a show that questions whether or not football is a good idea, this show is not for you.