What is Dynasty/GOAT discourse?
By Maddy Sperling
Unlike the famed stories of Rocky, Miracle, Robocop and Blade Runner, where the struggling, working class hero rises up to defeat the oppressive status quo of power, many popular stories today in both Hollywood and sports media center around already powerful and dominant individuals and groups grow and prove their superiority in the face of doubters.
For the last few years, we’ve seen several sports franchises make recurring back-to-back appearances in their respective championships such as the Patriots, the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Golden State Warriors, and whatever team Lebron is on. This often triggers a very reactionary series of arguments between fans and writers on social media and web articles calling a team/athlete overrated and broadcasters aggressively yelling stats and titles at each other.
I call this Dynasty/GOAT discourse, enduring and ceaseless arguments about whether an esteemed and accomplished athlete, coach or team deserves the title of GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). In the story of “the GOAT” their biggest obstacle to overcome is proving the naysayers wrong and establishing themselves as the undisputed greatest of all time, especially against legends of the past. However, unlike Rocky and the 1986 US Hockey team, these teams and individuals have already established a legacy of winning and often hold significant advantages over their opponents.
Despite being an Alabama fan myself, even I have to admit that with millions of dollars in annual revenue, the Crimson Tide has a huge advantage in recruiting, training, and coaching (e.g. Nick Saban’s salary) that most NCAA programs just can’t compete with.
By no means am I dissing any of these dynasties or diminishing their accomplishments, but I think it should be mentioned that some of these teams even resort to cheating to maintain their status of GOAT. And yes, that is Colin Cowherd calling Patrick Mahomes disrespectful for referring to Tom Brady as 'one of the greatest.'
Vs. The Underdog Story
While these dynasties and winning legacies seem to dominate national discourse, underdog stories are often limited to a certain area and only a few days of coverage and media attention. This past Saturday, an unranked Purdue trampled on the No. 2 Ohio State. This triumph by a 4-3 team was even more moving as the courage and strength the Boilermakers displayed mirrored that of Sophomore Purdue student Tyler Trent in his battle with cancer. However, following this stunning upset, the national conversation seemed to be centered around Urban Meyer and his future at Ohio State. Trent and the Boilermakers' story demonstrates exactly why underdog stories are so important and why they should not be pushed aside so that Colin Cowherd can talk about Tom Brady for the 700th time.
A true underdog story is not just a team predicted 15-points beneath their opponent, it's a team or individual that has overcome years of adversity through bravery and determination, and by adversity I don't just people trash talking you online. Think of the Chicago Cubs winning their first World Series in 2016 after their 108-year drought. Baseball fans consider game 7 of the 2016 World Series one of greatest of all time in terms of drama and tension, and the subsequent celebration of more than five million people was one of the largest gatherings in human history.
Why We Need Underdog Stories
One of the reasons underdog stories are so appealing is because they’re super relatable and remind us that we can overcome obstacles in our lives that also seem impossible to us. Are we so numb to the status quo of power that we’d rather engage in stories about “dynasties” and people who dominate the game for decades than a team or individual who defied the odds and triumph over them? Is it just easier for us now to accept that the big guy wins and the little guy loses?
Even our president, who amassed significant support from middle and lower class Americans during his campaign, was born to a wealthy family, was always financially supported by both his family and the government and was even able to avoid the draft. Like The Patriots and Lebron James, Trump was still the son of wealthy parents who became a tycoon billionaire who then became even more wealthy and more powerful. The same goes for popular Country music, a genre that originally represented the plight of the working class man, has become increasingly about relishing in the comfort of middle and upper class life. Popular Hip Hop has also strayed away from its roots in shedding light on poverty and racial inequality in favor of luxury items and making arguments for why they deserve the title of industry GOAT over their rival. This is not to say that their stories are invalid or that they shouldn't be told, but I think it's safe to say that the world will always need underclass heroes to remind us that hope, faith and hard work do pay off and that any giant can still fall to an underdog.
Dynasties & Underdogs in College Football Today
This season in college football has seen a lot of surprising turns at the hands of plucky underdogs like Washington State, Purdue, Tennessee (who beat Auburn week 7), and many other teams that have been disrupting the college football hierarchy week in and week out. Unfortunately, in college football, only the top 4 teams, usually dynasty teams with NFL-sized budgets, get to compete for the chance to hoist the CFB National Championship Trophy in January. Hence, underdog discourse doesn’t hold as much significance when you look at the bigger picture. I think we can all agree that stories like UMBC and the college football freshman from a 2A schools in the middle of nowhere are more enjoyable and inspiring than another Lebron vs MJ debate.