If you are a fan of, “parity,” pro sports is feeding your fandom right now.
There will never again be any great teams or dynasties in pro sports, at least North American ones, so close scores will have to make up for the mediocre skill sets on display in both the regular and post seasons.
Free agency, combined with salary caps, means that mediocrity will be the norm ad infinitum.
Consider the NHL, where competing to a good record in the regular season meant exactly zilch during the playoff round. The 10th-place Kings just defeated the 12th-place Rangers after having exactly one home game advantage in four series. The Rangers never had the extra home game in any of their rounds. So much for playoff positioning.
The Kings, of course, will have to jettison some of its slightly better than mediocre talent to fit under the salary cap, just as the Black Hawks before them, because other teams will be better able to afford the raises that talent rightly feels it deserves.
“Cap Compliance,” managers, charged with manipulating the payrolls – regardless of the competitiveness of the rosters – are now perhaps the most important members of an NHL team’s executive.
In baseball, despite the fact its cap is slightly more malleable to the whims of big spenders, there is a similar theme. It is a maxim in major league lore that any team within eight games of the lead in their division at the trade deadline which arrives in about a month is, “in contention,” to win their division and strongly alive in the wild card races.
As of today, only five teams in all of major league baseball are considered, “not in the running,” and a good week can change that for most of them. Six clubs playing worse than .500 baseball are among the, “legitimate,” contenders.
The NFL , with teams cutting pro bowl players to save dollars every year, is obviously in the same mediocrity boat. Even though the NBA, more likely to be impacted by one or two superior talents than the other big American sports, is more predictable than the other leagues, at least at the top ends, it, too, has been watered down. Expansion will compound that issue there, too.
Only big time soccer – not in America, where the MLS has very stringent spending rules, but in the big leagues of Europe – still allows for big-spending ownership regimes to collect outstanding rosters. That, too, will soon change because UEFA is bringing in strict spending control in its effort to achieve, “parity,” among its leagues in both wealthy and poor countries.
So, if you enjoy watching supremely talented teams play your favourite games, be prepared to lock in on the World Cups (there may be one in hockey soon, too) and, unfortunately, the slime-ridden IOC events.
There will never again in pro leagues be the matchless equivalents to the 70s Canadiens or 80s Islanders and Oilers. Instead of skill and flash, we will be forever urged to support grinding and defense as, “great,” play.
Owners are making more and more money from their pro sports holdings, and seeing franchise values rise by the minute – and players are making pretty good coin still – so none of this will ever change back.
Kings fans can rightfully issue the heartfelt cheer, “We’re number 10,” with the Cup in tow. At least, anyway, until next year.