One of the great things about sports are the debates it can fuel among its fans.
Who was the better player — Hank Aaron or Mickey Mantle? Who’s the best college football coach of all time —Joe Paterno or Bear Bryant? Should we have the designated hitter rule in baseball? And who would you rather have on your team — Magic Johnson or Larry Bird?
But one of the best topics is to try and determine who were the greatest teams in their respective sports. We can look back at the history of sports and select various teams and say that they, perhaps, were the greatest but I would rather view a team over several years to determine if they were the greatest. When a team wins several consecutive championships or at least several over a short period of time — then we can call them great.
When teams do this we, the sports fans, start calling them a dynasty and based on Webster’s definition of the word, we are correct in doing so. A dynasty is defined as: “a powerful group (team) that maintains its position for a considerable time.” So, today I thought we’d take a look at some of those great sports dynasties and determine what made them so great.
One of the criteria that I think we must use to evaluate these teams are championships, therefore, I will probably stir up a good bit of controversy when I say that I cannot and will not consider the Atlanta Braves of the 90’s and early 2000’s a dynasty because they only have one World Series ring to show for the 14 consecutive division titles they put together. Yes, you could look at that definition and tell me that they maintained their position for a considerable time but sports dynasties must have championships to truly be called great.
As much as I hate to say it, the New York Yankees can be called a dynasty on two different occasions. From 1936 to 1943, the Joe Dimaggio years, the Yanks amassed 799 wins, seven American League pennants, and six World Series titles. Then, to prove that wasn’t a fluke, from 1947-1962 they won 10 championships. And even more amazing is that during this stretch they lost game #7 of the World Series in ’55, ’57, and ’60. They only missed 3 Series during this stretch; ’48, ’54, and ’59.
College football has produced several teams that have put together impressive consecutive winning seasons. Nebraska of the 70s, Alabama of the 60s, Notre Dame of the 40s, and Southern Cal but the best college football dynasty has to go to the Oklahoma Sooners, 1953-1957. Coached by Bud Wilkinson, Oklahoma won a record 47 consecutive games and back-to-back National titles.
Let me quickly list some other great dynasties before I detail my top three sports dynasties. Some of these come from sports that we don’t follow as much as the big three but when you see their accomplishments, I think you will agree that they were definitely dynasties in their respective sports.
After a successful personal career including winning the 1972 Olympic Gold Medal, Dan Gable became the Hawkeyes coach in 1978. He proceeded to lead them to nine straight NCAA team championships and then Iowa won six more in the 90’s.
The Habs have won 24 Stanley Cups since 1916 but starting in 1956 they won five straight Cups. These were the years of Maurice Richard, Bernie Geoffrion, and Jacques Plantes.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Vince Lombardi arrived in Green Bay in 1958 taking over a team that had gone 1-10-1 the year before. Only two years later, the Pack won its first title and followed that up with four more over the next six years.
Led by Wayne Gretzky, the Oilers dominated the NHL during the 80’s. They could certainly score goals but they didn’t start winning Stanley Cups until they learned how to play defense. Once that discovery was made, they won five Cups in seven years.
NORTH CAROLINA WOMEN’S SOCCER
The success of this program started long before Mia Hamm-Garciaparra played there but she certainly enhanced its legacy. Coach Anson Dorrance has a record of 442-17-11 with 15 national championships. Pretty impressive, huh!
Yes, the Cleveland Browns were once a dominant force in professional football. Starting in the All American Football Conference (AAFC) and carrying over once they joined the NFL, the Browns, led by quarterback Otto Graham, running back Marion Motley, and a kicker named Lou “The Toe” Groza, they won seven titles in ten years.
US MEN’S OLYMPIC 4 x 100-METER RELAY TEAM
After apparently winning the Gold in 1912, the US was disqualified for a questionable exchange violation.
This must have upset future relay teams because the US runners won 14 out of 17 Gold Medals after that. It could have been 17 for 17 but they were disqualified in ’60 and ’88 and the US boycotted the ’80 Games. I’ll never forgive Jimmy Carter for that.
The NFL team of the 70s, the Steelers had an All-Hall of Fame squads. Maybe it was good luck that Joe Paterno turned down the offer to coach them in 1969. Instead, the Steelers turned to Chuck Noll who led them to four Super Bowl victories in the next six years.
Well, as the TV industry likes to do — I’ve just given you a teaser.
You’ll have to read next week’s column to see who I’ve chosen as the three greatest sports dynasties of all time.
Interestingly, they all come from the same sport. See ya then!
Randy Blalock is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.