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Sunday, June 16
The Indiana Daily Student

Parity improves professional sports

Since I began writing this column in the winter of 2001, I have been an adamant supporter of higher degrees of competition in professional sports.\nComing off of a decade driven by dynasties in the NFL (Dallas Cowboys), the NBA (Chicago Bulls) and MLB (New York Yankees), being a sports fan in other cities was becoming a useless \nactivity.\nHowever, in the early part of the 21st century, the leagues have all been able to find ways to keep fans all over the country more interested, as their teams have begun to compete with the champs for their respective titles. It has happened more slowly in some sports than others (baseball), but the important thing is that sports are headed in the right direction.\nOther than the Los Angeles Lakers, who are currently trying to defend their third straight title, the last time that a team repeated as champion in any of the four major sports was 2000, when the Yankees beat the Mets in the Subway Series. In 1998, the Denver Broncos and Detroit Red Wings wrapped up their second straight titles, and Chicago Bulls won their third in a row. Since then, not only have there been consecutive championships, but only one team, the Red Wings, has been able to return to the top spot again.\nThis year, the trend appears to be on the verge of continuing down the path of parity. In the NBA, the Lakers are struggling as Shaquille O'Neal tries to return to his typical form. The Patriots, last year's NFL champs, are in the middle of a large pack of Super Bowl contenders, and the Red Wings, although on top of their division, are behind several teams in points in the NHL.\nThe simple point here is that because no team is currently dominating a sport, there is more interest across the country in the games. Watching games becomes more fun because there is a far better chance for an underdog to win a game than in the past.\nI am glad to see that my opinion on league competition has been shared by many others and has reached the top of the leagues. They too saw it as a problem and have been able to find ways to improve it. \nI understand that there are some benefits that come only with dynasties that may be sacrificed with new league setups. Players are forced to switch teams more often, fans cannot be as loyal to teams that are always changing personnel, and thoughts of dominating a sport over time are becoming less credible. Giving these up, however, is necessary when they mean greater all around competition. For too long, players would stay on the same teams, but they would be awful and unable to improve. If having different players every so often is a price for winning, then it is something that must happen.\nDon't get me wrong; I love it when a player stays on a team throughout his entire career. I hope that soon these leagues can find a way to allow for that to happen and keep the games competitive. The NBA has managed relatively well to balance the ability for that to happen with the ability to create equality in the league, but there still is a lot of trading that occurs simply due to salary cap issues.\nAs some negatives may have come from the new league structures, all a fan can really ask for is a chance for his or her team to win every game played. This is becoming more and more possible, and that seems to be the essence of sports in this decade -- the decade of competitive play.\nI would like to thank those of you who have read my column, even once, over the last five semesters. It has truly been a terrific experience for me, as I have been able to express myself, and I have learned quite a bit along the way.

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