Steph Curry (Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
At the moment, the New England Patriots, partially fueled by a gaggle of sociopathic self-righteousness after being “vindicated” by Deflategate, are undefeated and would seem to be the early favorites to win the Super Bowl. This information should come to no surprise to anyone who’s even a casual fan of the NFL. Because that exact same thing could have been said in 2014. Or 2013. Or 2012. Or 2011. Or, damn, any year that Tom Brady has been quarterback. Perhaps they wouldn’t have been undefeated at this point in those other years, but they would have been an early Super Bowl favorite, and they would have been partially fueled by a gaggle of sociopathic self-righteousness after being “vindicated” by…something. Because no one does fabricated vindication like a Boston sports team and their fans.
Now, the Patriots are generally recognized as a dynasty in today’s NFL. Which seems to make them an anomaly in a league where the concept of professional parity isn’t just paramount, it’s a part of its identity, etched into the thinking behind everything from its collective bargaining agreement to its television deals. If the NFL had a Tinder profile, “any given Sunday” would be listed in its bio, right underneath “fuck bitches, get money” and “support breast cancer research.” Its popularity is also related to this concept. Fans existing in cities with eternally shitty franchises like Tampa Bay and Cleveland keep hope alive by making that their own personal mantra. “Maybe, just maybe we’ll fart around and win nine games this year, and sneak into the playoffs. And then ANYTHING can happen.”
It is also a lie.
There are 32 teams currently in the NFL. Yet, since the 2000 season — a span of 15 years — the New England Patriots have won four times, and the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Baltimore Ravens, and the New York Giants have each won two. That’s 10 championships won by 1/8th of the league. And, in the 49 years that there have been Super Bowls, six teams (the Steelers, the Patriots, the Giants, the San Francisco 49ers, the Green Bay Packers, and the Dallas Cowboys) have combined to win 28 of them. This is not parity. This is oligarchy.
It is also, for many, the reason cited when they explain why they can’t stand NBA basketball. Because “it’s so predictable.” And because “the regular season doesn’t mean anything because you’ll just see the same teams in the playoffs this year.” And because they “miss the 80s and 90s” — a memory that doesn’t make any sense when you remember that three teams (The Chicago Bulls, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Boston Celtics) won like 982% of the championships then.
Now, I will not dispute that these claims have some merit. The unique nature of basketball means that a dominant player will have more opportunity to provide an impact on the outcome of the game than he/she would in any other major professional team sport. For instance, as good as Tom Brady is, he doesn’t play defense, so he’s only able to have an effect on half of the game. Lebron James, on the other hand, can conceivably play every minute. This makes the outcome inherently less random, and the length of the NBA’s schedule and the playoffs series format make it even less random. These dynamics combine to make the NBA the sports world’s truest meritocracy. This is why, barring injury, you will undoubtedly see Lebron James in the finals again this year. And, he will be matched against another team with a marquee star. Maybe Stephen Curry, again. Maybe Tim Duncan, again. Maybe Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, again. Maybe James Harden, again.
But while some NBA distractors cite this as the reason why they prefer the NFL, they’re conveniently forgetting that the exact same dynamic exists in the NFL. And in college football. And even in college basketball. The same five or six teams win the title every year. Look it up if you don’t believe me. The only thing separating how these sports are perceived from how the NBA is perceived is the concept of hope. Which basically just means that they just have better PR.
And this is the second dumbest reason to hate NBA basketball.