Bored With the Best


We shouldn’t get tired of greatness when we see it; we should celebrate it. (Courtesy of Flickr)

By Jimmy Sullivan

Over this holiday weekend, I had a particularly illuminating conversation with my grandmother.

On Easter Sunday, we were talking about professional sports gambler James Holzhauer, the man who has broken “Jeopardy!” to the tune of over a million dollars over the past 14 days. If you haven’t seen Holzhauer in action, just realize that he knows absolutely everything and isn’t afraid to wager accordingly. On his off nights, like the one he had last Friday, he still rakes in over $80,000. He is likely the greatest player the show has ever seen and yet, my grandmother can’t watch him because she hates him.

I then rebutted that we were in the presence of greatness and should enjoy his run, because we may never see anything like it again. Quickly though, I realized that was a hypocritical statement.

You see, I root for the Jets. It isn’t a fun thing to do, and I don’t love myself for doing it. All my life, I have held a burning hatred for the New England Patriots, with their evil emperor head coach Bill Belichick and cold-blooded quarterback Tom Brady. New England has won six Super Bowls in the last 17 seasons, and yet perhaps more amazingly, the Patriots manage to sell us on a “plucky underdog” narrative each season. But we have seen a level of dominance from the Patriots we will never see again, and that should be appreciated.

That being said, I have rooted for the Falcons, Eagles and Rams in the last three Super Bowls because the Patriots have been involved. This is partly because I need to have a rooting interest in the Super Bowl because I can always count on my team not being there, but the other part of it is because I really didn’t want the Patriots to win. Despite the hatred, which I am not alone in, one has to respect the franchise’s ability to reach or come close to the pinnacle of the sport year after year, with 31 other teams trying to do the same and often failing.

Another example I’ll cite when it comes to sports hatred in modern times is the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors lost the NBA Finals in 2016, after winning 73 games in the regular season and taking a 3-1 lead over LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers. After blowing their shot at a second straight title, the Warriors vowed to never let it happen again, and they ensured it wouldn’t by snatching the league’s second-best player, Kevin Durant, away from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Golden State did what it was supposed to do the next two seasons: win a championship. They did so as the most talented basketball team ever assembled, and the construction of their roster was a result of masterful salary cap navigation, combined with the willingness of superstars to take less money than they were worth.

Instead, most people you’ll ask will be rooting against the Warriors this spring in their attempt to become the first NBA team to three-peat since Kobe and Shaq’s Lakers. The Twitter Gospel says that Durant was a snake for leaving the Thunder and the Warriors are the abomination of the sports landscape, and while this has settled down with time, there is still a degree of anger from some fans, most of whom already know who’s going to win the title. While this near-predetermination is a problem for the NBA, the Warriors rose out of a system that allowed them to construct a Death Star roster after nailing first round picks and convincing the likes of Durant and DeMarcus Cousins to take major pay cuts. That should be celebrated, not derided. While I rooted for teams like the Rockets and Cavaliers to take them down in the playoffs the past couple of seasons, it’s hard to overstate how dominant the Warriors can be and how talented their roster is.

I’m not saying that you should immediately stop rooting for underdogs in sports. Perhaps the greatest quality of the games we watch is that anyone can win at any given time, and even the unlikeliest of teams can spring upsets that can shock an entire country. That being said, with salary caps and revenue sharing designed to give everyone an equal playing field, we should have a much greater appreciation of the teams that are still able to tilt that playing field in their favor.

After a few years, can it get boring to watch the same teams dominate a sport? For sure, but their supremacy only means that they were better at talent evaluation and manipulating their roster for maximum benefit than the other teams were.

So the next time you encounter a sports dynasty, celebrate it. Enjoy it. Appreciate it. Such a run of dominance is hard to conceive and even harder to sustain, and the energy you waste hating on it could be used more positively.

Anyway, the Warriors are about to vanquish another overmatched first-round opponent, and by the time this has article has been printed, Holzhauer will have vanquished another two overmatched “Jeopardy!” players. You can find me celebrating his true Daily Doubles and endless knowledge of everything, and I’ll try to apply that same mindset to the Warriors’ title defense.

You know why? Because things like these only come around once in a generation, and we should realize that before it’s too late.