Maybe Evil Empires Like the Yankees Are Actually Good for Sports

Jake,

Give me Los Galacticos. The millennial New York Yankees. The Hydra Miami Heat. The Constructicons-form-Devestator Los Angeles Lakers. Give me superstar recruit-studded Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke—apologies in advance to Hampton's beloved Kansas Jayhawks—in college basketball, and USC versus the SEC in college football. Give me UConn and Tennessee in women's college hoops. Give me The Avengers. Give me the top, and just the top, the way Mitt Romney likes to eat his muffins. I, for one, welcome the Los Angeles Dodgers' attempt to spend their way into baseball overlord status: Gaze upon my mighty payroll, ye Padres fans, and despair! Fact is, I love superteams.

I love 'em because I hate 'em.

I'm not sure when it happened—possibly when I was watching Arizona smash Duke in the 2011 NCAA tournament; probably when I was giggling at New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's sullen interview after Super Bowl XLII—but at some point in my fandom, I realized I want and need blue bloods. Teams and franchises so good, loaded, and lucky that they make sports seem totally unfair. Big, bad, privileged bullies. The reason? Rooting against them is too much fun. For one, superteams are easy to detest. Familiarity—like the Blue Devils being on national television basically every week—breeds contempt. Success breeds obnoxious, entitled fans. Moreover, superteams are like gambling: They provide a reflexive, convenient cheering interest for contests that I otherwise wouldn't care about. That St. Louis-Tennessee Super Bowl? Great game, but yawn. Meanwhile, I watched the first Patriots-Giants super Sunday clash as if the fate of Western Civilization was at stake, as if Eli Manning was the only thing standing between Xerxes' armies and Sparta. And I usually don't even like New York teams.

Superteams—and really, let's just call them sports villains—create a comforting year-in, year-out continuity, which is one of the underrated pleasures of following sports. As a fan, you know that the Lakers are going to somehow end up with the best center in the league; you know the Yankees are going to outbid everyone for just about every player they really want; you know Kentucky is going to land a half-dozen high school All-Americans. You know this the way you know the New York Knicks will do something short-sighted and ill-advised. And all of this is good. It fashions order out of a chaotic, unpredictable universe. Better still, superteams are themselves unpredictable. They don't always win. They don't usually win it all. They often go down to underdogs—think the Detroit Pistons in 2004, or the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001—and when they fail, the failing is glorious, a soul-replenishing reaffirmation that life doesn't always play out according to the scouting report.

Star Wars needed Darth Vader. Batman needs the Joker. I need superteams. Hampton, where do you stand?

–Patrick

Presented by

Sports Roundtable

Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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