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Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Updated: June 5, 12:47 PM ET
1980s vs. Today: Dynasties

By Jonah Keri
Special to Page 2

The 1980s vs. Today
Was the sports world better back in the 1980s? Or are we better off today? Page 2 has the answers, specifically looking at …

Weinreb: Comparing/contrasting cheating in the '80s versus today

The ballpark experience
The sports media
The SI swimsuit issue
Sports video games
Superstar athletes
Dynasties
Fantasy games
Uniforms
Endorsements
Activism
Lakers vs. Celtics

1980s
The Lakers and Celtics combined for eight NBA titles, with the Pistons taking over at decade's end. The 49ers won four Super Bowls, in an era that also included some dominant Bears, Giants and Redskins teams. The Islanders and Oilers reeled off back-to-back dynasties, keeping the Stanley Cup on Long Island and in Alberta for nearly the entire decade. Baseball lacked a true dynasty, with the Dodgers the only team with multiple World Series wins in the decade.

Pros: Dynasties create villains, and fans of three of the four major team sports had teams they could love to hate in the '80s. The NBA ruled for sources of hatred: Celtics fans hated the Lakers, Lakers fans hated the Celtics, and everyone else hated both of 'em. Some of the '80s dynasties also changed the face of their sports. The Oilers boasted the best offensive teams ever seen in the NHL, while the Lakers brought Showtime to the NBA, running the fast break like no team had in years -- maybe ever.

Cons: If you like parity, this wasn't the decade for you. For all of Bud Selig's misguided, present-day "hope and faith" speeches about parity and payroll disparity, fans of most basketball, football and hockey teams went into each season in the '80s knowing their team had no chance because their teams were outclassed by unbeatable championship-winning robots. Or at least that's what it must have felt like, going up against Magic's Lakers, Montana's Niners and Gretzky's Oilers.

Tom Brady
Brady's Patriots are the closest thing we have to a dynasty right now.
Today
The Patriots are the team of the decade, with three Super Bowl wins. The Red Sox aren't quite a true dynasty, but two World Series titles in four years and a shot at a third in five years make it a possibility. The NBA looks dynastic again, with the Lakers and Spurs trading championships for most of the decade. Another Lakers win this season would raise the dynasty meter to near-'80s levels. Parity has returned in earnest to the NHL.

Pros: Each of the four major team sports can claim more parity now than in the '80s, unless the Red Sox reel off a few more World Series wins or the young Lakers run roughshod over the NBA. The team that may have the best claim on a dynasty, the Patriots, are delightfully hateable, an intelligently built team that evolved into the 18-1 SpyGaters that everyone outside New England wanted to see lose.

Cons: Dynasties tend to give sports a historic feel. With fewer of them now, this sports decade might lose a lot of its luster over time. Even the losing dynasties aren't as accomplished as they were in the '80s. You can't beat the sad-sack Clippers in their heyday, not to mention the sack-wearing Saints fans of yore.

VERDICT: The '80s. Of all the categories we're covering, this is the one where the '80s dominates the most. People fondly remember the Celtics, Lakers and Oilers of the '80s. Will you remember the Marlins, Hurricanes and Buccaneers of this decade?

Jonah Keri is a regular contributor to Page 2 and the editor and co-author of "Baseball Between the Numbers." You can contact him here.