The Perils of ‘Super Teams’ in Sports

With LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and the rest of the Miami Heat on the brink of elimination from the NBA Playoffs, much of the sporting world—even those fans who don’t follow the NBA—have become enormous Boston Celtics fans.  The reason?  They hate “super teams.”

America loves winning, but Americans also love underdogs, rags-to-riches tales, and the “feel-good” stories of hard work, dedication, and overcoming odds paying off in the form of championships.

We love the Milan High Schools of the world who pull off “Hoosiers”-like miracles.  We love the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that came out of nowhere to win the gold medal over several heavily-favored opponents, including the “evil” U.S.S.R.  We love the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals who made a stunning run at the end of the MLB regular season and wound up winning the World Series.

We don’t love it, however, when a championship is simply the result of stacking a team.  “Super teams” cheapen sports and their championships, so we take great pleasure in their failures.

The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles were supposed to dominate the NFL and win Super Bowl XLVI but instead bumbled their way to a 4-8 start and an 8-8 finish that did not include a playoff berth.

The 2011 Philadelphia Phillies were supposed to dominate MLB and win the World Series but were instead stunned by the aforementioned Cardinals, who barely made the playoffs.

The 16-0 New England Patriots of 2007 turned America into huge fans of the Cinderella-story New York Giants in Super Bowl XLII.

With every World Series title that the New York Yankees bring home, masses of baseball fans scoff that the team simply bought itself another championship.

Had King James stayed with the Cleveland Cavaliers and brought an NBA title home to that city, everyone would have adored him—even more so than he was already adored.  But in an incredible display of arrogance and greed, he took over ESPN and ultimately announced that he was joining forces with Wade and Bosh in Miami in a blatant creation of a “super team”—a move that turned him into one of the most disliked athletes in the country.

James, of all people, should be painfully aware of the perils of assembling a “super team.” He was part of the 2004 Summer Olympic “Dream Team” for the United States—along with Wade and Bosh—that embarrassed itself on its way to a bronze medal.  In James’ first season in Miami, America rejoiced when the Dallas Mavericks extinguished the Heat for the NBA Championship.

Should the Celtics eliminate Miami in the Eastern Conference Finals this season, Americans will undoubtedly rejoice again, even though Boston is something of a “super team” itself.  It’ll be a lesser-of-two-evils kind of thing, and almost all of us will relish watching James fail for the third time on a loaded squad.

So when LeBron and his “super team” take the court on Thursday night against the Celtics, expect most of America to be rooting for Boston to apply the kill shot to Miami.  And regardless of who wins in the East, expect Americans to side with either the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals.

With any luck, “super teams” will then start falling by the wayside as the failures that they are.