Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Starving for Success

It is difficult to define a “successful” season in sports.  The very definition of the term seems to vary from team to team on a seasonal basis, making it difficult to pinpoint the exact characteristics that come to define a successful season.  For some long-suffering fans a successful season may simply mean a winning record.  If you don’t believe me ask any Pittsburgh Pirates fan if finishing the regular season with a higher number in the win column than the loss column would qualify as a success and I bet most would salivate strictly at the thought.  However for others, anything short of hanging a championship banner falls to failure (Lakers anyone?).  Which is truly success? 

Since sport is largely based on winning, championships seems to be a suitable measure of success.  After all, a championship is the ultimate goal and for many in the hyper-competitive world of sports, anything less is a disappointment.  Sadly, if this is the case, then all but a handful of teams can be eliminated for contention of success in the upcoming season already.  It seems almost kobe trophiestaboo to so drastically trim the number of true contenders, especially months before the start of the season, but the truth is that for a League where the number of total champions of the past thirty years can be counted on two hands,  the pool of potential winners is smaller than ever.  Only a handful of teams will truly compete for a title this season (Lakers, Mavericks, Spurs, Heat, Magic, Celtics, give or take a couple), leaving the rest of the fan base wondering what exactly they have to be excited for.  Pardon the pessimism, but fans of a squad outside of this pack of powers have either already accepted their franchise's fate or are in denial. 

The NBA playoffs, more so than other sports’ postseasons, are a true test of the talent of a team.  The outcome cannot be blamed on a computer system, nor can a single game in bad weather alter the outcome an an entire season.  To take home the title, a team must survive four best-of-seven series against the League’s toughest teams; a feat that most often leaves little doubt of who the year’s best team truly was.  This is why there is often very little debate surrounding the merit of a championship NBA team as opposed to other sports ( ‘07 Giants anyone?).  So, although the system is adept at allowing the strongest team to emerge victorious, it also eliminates some of the excitement of the chase, and leaves Toronto Raptors fans wondering when they are going to get theirs. 

Last year’s Oklahoma City Thunder team was a great surprise to the NBA world; a young, enthusiastic team led by an emerging superstar who pushed their way into the Playoffs in a packed Western Conference; a great story all around.  However, did this team have a legitimate shot at beating the Lakers in a seven game series?  Of course not.  Maybe in one game, but a series, no way, and that’s just how the League is structured.  Maybe it’s good, maybe it’s bad.   LeBron James had a chance to push parity in the League this summer, as did lwbthe rest of the free agent class, and many thought that this summer of 2010 would shake up the landscape of the NBA to an extent not previously seen.  However, as all of the pieces begin to fall into place the picture is starting to look extremely similar; a few familiar teams sitting at the top, looking down  upon the rest.  Sure some players got moved around, and LeBron and wade are going to form arguably the most talented twosome of all time, but the rest of the landscape looks largely unchanged.  So while the rest of the world prepares for an epic Finals battle Kobe and the Lakers and Miami’s new super-trio, I’ll just sit back and hope for a winning season from the Sixers.


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