By Jason Menard
The Super Bowl is over, the New England Patriots are victorious, and with the cacophony of voices are bandying the word dynasty about in a way not seen since John Forsythe, Linda Evans, and Joan Collins shared the small screen.
Somewhere, the ghosts of the truly great teams are sitting back and laughing at us. What does it say about a culture when winning two out of three is considered dominant?
Put it this way, the Ming Dynasty didn’t just last for a few years, with a few changes of political leadership and social direction thrown in for good measure. A dynasty, by its very nature, combines ultimate dominance with longevity.
To return this to a sports level, the Montreal Canadiens of the 50s and 70s, with multiple Stanley Cup runs, were a dynasty. The New York Yankees of the 30s and 50s, they were dynasties too! The Patriots? Didn’t they miss the playoffs last year? Hardly the stuff of legends. Worst of all, we now come armed with ready-made excuses to qualify our hyperbolic statements. How many times have you heard the term “modern-day dynasty” lately?
Why do we feel compelled to anoint moderately successful teams with the moniker dynasty? Perhaps it’s a lack of self-confidence. Our incessant need for cultural self-validation has permeated almost every aspect of our lives and threatens to swallow us whole.
We live in a time where we feel the need to justify the actions of the here and now, all the while stumbling over each other in the desperate attempt to find the “next” big thing. It’s like a sixth-grader proclaiming that Justin Timberlake is the greatest artist ever, and that John Lennon guy is just so yesterday. It’s something we’ve all done, but fortunately we all grow up and gain perspective.
Why is it that we can’t appreciate the accomplishments of the past for what they are? Instead of trying to overwhelm historical dominance with over-hyped mediocrity, why can’t we instead raise the bar and hold ourselves to a higher ideal?
Turn on the TV and what do you get? Multiple versions of the same concept, from channel to channel. And don’t get so smug thinking that this is a dismissal of reality shows. In fact, reality shows are at least in touch with today’s cultural environment and are self-aware enough to know their place.
No sooner had the last American Idol wrapped did advertisements for the next round begin to crop up on our screens. Ruben, Clay? They’re over and done, who’s next? However, you watch the more critically acclaimed shows and they’re the worst sinners of all. How many versions of the same thing are there? We’re up to, what, 10 Law & Orders and 8 CSIs? How many sitcoms about dysfunctional family situations are there out there? Can you really tell the difference?
Our modern society is rapidly becoming the equivalent of a cultural garage sale. Shows casting a sly, sarcastic eye at the shows and personalities of the 80s and 90s are phenomenally popular. Movie adaptations of 70s TV shows abound – S.W.A.T., Charlie’s Angels, Starsky & Hutch (do we really need to relive that?). In 10 years, what are we going to look back on? Retrospectives of retrospectives?
Our cultural frame of reference is postcard sized. And that’s why we’re so quick to proclaim our current crop of cultural icons as the greatest. The problem is that the situation will not get better until we start looking at the bigger picture.
As long as we’re proclaiming every half-decent accomplishment as the Second Coming, then there’s no impetus to strive to new levels. However, when we start holding our cultural icons to a higher standard, then we will truly be able to hold our collective heads up high. There will no longer be a need to diminish the past, but rather we will be able to proudly stand side by side with them as equals.
The more we toss around the word dynasty, the cheaper it becomes. Let’s save the word for those that truly deserve it.
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