The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl, again, and for Kansas City fans that result is even worse. The Chiefs were one offsides penalty away from winning the Lamar Hunt trophy for themselves on their home turf. Well, it was more than that, to be honest, but it was this close to happening.
Tom Brady, Bill Bellicheck, and the Patriots have now won six Super Bowls in the last 18 years. They have lost three additional Super Bowls, meaning that, for the span of almost two decades, a full 50% of Super Bowls have featured one single team.
This didn’t used to be a particularly big deal. Between 1949 and 1964, for instance, the New York Yankees appeared in 14 of 16 World Series, winning nine of them. But pro sports half a century ago are different than they are today. Today, the level of competition is infinitely higher. Today, there are more teams, lowering the chances of winning The Big One by pure math. Today, salary caps, both hard and soft—not to mention host of other modern rules—prevent blatant talent hoarding.
But it is the case today. And so the Patriots’ scourge over the last 18 years is a result of the construction of the NFL as opposed to pure genius. In the NFL, two individuals have extreme prominence: the quarterback and the head coach. The Patriots simply have perhaps the two best men at each job in the history of the league.
Great quarterbacks always put your team in a chance to win, which is self evident for Chiefs fans who have experienced both Tyler Thigpen and Patrick Mahomes. Great head coaches can squeeze the most talent out of rosters much moreso than bad ones—just look at the disparity between Jeff Fischer and Sean McVay in Los Angeles for a stunning example. If you’ve got both, you are equipped to win year in and year out. If you lack one, it is almost impossible to sustain success.
The beauty of baseball is that games can be won in a plethora of ways. The San Francisco Giants defeated the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 World Series in large part due to historical dominance by one of the league’s best starting pitchers. The Royals then proceeded to crush the New York Mets in the 2015 World Series on the back of an impenetrable bullpen.
Put it this way: the Chiefs were one score away from the Super Bowl because they had the best player in football—Mahomes—who was able to drag a cosmically inept defense on the strength of his brilliance. The Los Angeles Angels have the best player in baseball—Mike Trout—and have won zero playoff games with him.
Baseball is great for many reasons, but one in particular is that your team, whoever that might be, is fully equipped to win it all. You don’t need a superstar. You don’t need a specific player. Furthermore, thanks to the unpredictability of baseball and in short series, your team can win a playoff series as huge underdogs. Just getting into the playoffs can inspire hope.
The same cannot be said for the NFL, nor can it be said about the NBA. Do you think the freaking Los Angeles Clippers have a snowball’s chance in hell in a first round matchup with the Golden State Warriors? You think the Brooklyn Nets are gonna get to the Eastern Conference Finals? It’s just not going to happen.
In the NBA, you need stars. Period. If you don’t have them, you don’t win. This effectively rules out a huge chunk of the league who are unable to retain or attract stars to play for them if not for extenuating circumstances.
If nothing else, baseball fans ought to be thankful that any team can win it all. The league isn’t based on star power, nor is it based on excellence at a precious few positions. Small market teams can lure players with cash just like large ones can. Sports are built on hope. Baseball loves dashing hope on the rocks of reality, but at least every team can have those hopes for championship glory at all.