Last night, two super teams commanded the national spotlight in professional sports.
One — the Golden State Warriors — is in search of redemption, aiming to meet historically high expectations. The other — the Chicago Cubs — is in search of validation that talent, passion and execution are eventually rewarded with a championship, regardless of any goat or Walkman-listening spectator.
Two super teams, built in two different ways, yet on two similar paths.
The public perception of star athletes colluding to create teams once thought only possible in video games can be disillusioning to fan bases. Where’s the competitive drive? Where’s the desire to prove you’re the best of the best, not just the best when playing alongside the best?
As of late, those questions have all been directed at Kevin Durant.
National Basketball Association enthusiasts are upset that Durant, the man who gave Golden State all it could handle in last season’s Western Conference finals, followed the path of least resistance to give the Warriors what many believe to be a clear path to the championship. Disgruntled fans claim they won’t sit around and watch a Warriors team set the best record in NBA history … again.
But these disillusioned fans can learn from supporters of Major League Baseball.
Baseball, with its cap-free payrolls, was the birthplace of super teams, represented most prominently by the oft-reckless spending of the Evil Empire that was the New York Yankees of the 2000s.
Fans resented the Yankees, claiming they were bad for the sport, for small-market teams and for competition. But fans quickly learned that they needed the Yankees. Love is strongest when there is someone to hate, and no one is more hateable than the Bronx Bombers, a collection of New York’s elite playing to the soundtrack of Sinatra under the baton of George Steinbrenner.
Super teams quickly become super villains: think the Yankees with A-Rod, the Heat with LeBron and now the Warriors with Durant.
The Cubs, too, would fall under that header if it weren’t for a 108-year curse, even though they were manufactured more organically through smart drafting and personnel decisions. The Chicago super team is easier to digest, but ultimately if a team continues to win, they become a villain.
Before the Yankees were the Evil Empire, they were built around the Core Four, homegrown talent that flourished into superstardom.
Mark my words, if the Cubs win the World Series and are back in the hunt next season, they will no longer be lovable losers or the public’s sympathetic choice: Even if they were built the “right way,” they will become villains.
Fans need villains. Fans love to root against villains. And if you happen to not buy into the hero-villain dynamic, super teams provide bandwagons that accept all comers.
Super teams at once inspire awe with every blowout victory and command disbelief with every shocking defeat. If they win the championship, you witnessed history. And if they fell short, well, you witnessed history, too.
Super teams are exceptions to the rule, extreme ends of the spectrum. They offer greatness of historic proportions, and they draw the greatest emotions out of fans, whether through cheers or jeers.
Some think competitive parity is the key to engaging professional sports. But with parity comes a dilution of talent and a watering down of the very best teams. Rare excellence is superseded by redundant mediocrity.
Instead of watching jaw-dropping greatness and the never-before-seen — think the 73-win Warriors or the 16–0 Patriots — fans are left with a subpar product, the sub-0.500 Carolina Panthers that still win a division. Fans are left without the villain they need.
So here’s to the super teams. Here’s to unprecedented success and unthinkable failure, to 74 wins and possible redemption or devastation, to a magical World Series or a reason to believe curses might actually be real.
James Badas is a senior in Calhoun College. Contact him at