Thursday, June 5, 2008

Dynasty Versus Parity

With last night's win by the Detroit Red Wings (their fourth in the eleven years), Lord Stanley's Cup will return to "Hockeytown." "Dynasties are good for the sport," I have heard sportscasters proclaim. Of course, I've also often heart the opposite: "Parity is good for the sport."

So which is it?

It depends, of course, on which team has gone dynastic. If the Yankees or Lakers are piling up championships, dyanasties (read "$") are, indeed, good for the sport. If, however unlikely, the Utah Jazz or Kansas City Royals go on a championship streak, the league will undoubtedly make moves to increase parity.

One of my MA students, Carlos Amado, who is researching European soccer leagues for his thesis, told me of an interesting case in point. For many years there were several professional soccer clubs in Paris that split all that city's huge revenue sources. As a result, teams from relatively small cities were able to compete and win championships. The Football Club of Saint-Etienne (population 175,000) won 10 championships between 1957 and 1981. To put an end to this dynasty, the Parisian clubs merged and the new Paris Saint Germain was born. Since then, big market teams from Paris (PSG won their first championship in 1986), Marseille and Lyon have dominated play.

So parity is good when small teams trade off winning, spreading the wealth and bringing in new fans from different places each year. And yes, dynasties are "good for the sport," but only when they happen to teams in the biggest markets.

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