HOUSTON, TAMPA AND BOSTON: A TALE OF THREE CITIES

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” — -French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, 1849

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Turbulent changes affect reality on no deeper level than to reinforce the status quo.

There are some constants that accompany the many changes which run along life’s pathway.

In the world of sports — and with particular respect to winning and losing — historically, there have been constants galore.

And plenty of changes.

The NHL offers an apt jumping-off point when examining the winners.

The Montreal Canadiens have been considered a dynasty no fewer than three times in the organization’s rich and storied past.

Beginning in 1956, they won five consecutive Stanley Cup championships.

From 1965-’69 they won four more in five seasons (1965; 1966; 1968; 1969).

And between 1976–1979 inclusive, they won another four in a row.

With a total of 24 Cups, they have nearly twice as many as their closest competitor, the Toronto Maple Leafs (13, but none since 1967).

The New York Islanders (1980-’83) and the Edmonton Oilers (five in seven years, 1984-’90) are also more than worthy of mention.

The NBA’s Boston Celtics set the gold standard for winning and their arch-rival Lakers (Minneapolis/LA) have kept pace.

Each organization has 17 titles to their credit, accounting for 45.9% of the 74 Finals won.

In 30 years — 1956-’86 — the Celtics won 16 NBA championships.

In those 30 years they had 26 winning seasons and claimed 20 division and 18 conference flags.

In the 13-year stretch from 1957-’69, they won 11 championships, including 8 straight from 1959-’66.

The Minneapolis Lakers, featuring the league’s first true dominant center, George Mikan, rattled off 5 championships in the span of six seasons (1949; 1950; 1952; 1953; 1954).

From West, Baylor and Chamberlain (1972) to Magic, Kareem and Worthy (1980; 1982; 1985; 1987; 1988) to Kobe and Shaq three-peating (2000; 2001; 2002) to Kobe and Pau (2009; 2010) and finally to LeBron and AD (2020), the franchise and the word dynasty would be forever linked.

Jordan’s Bulls weren’t too shabby either, winning six NBA titles in 8 seasons, including a pair of incredible three-peats (1991; 1992; 1993 and 1996; 1997; 1998).

The San Antonio Spurs were NBA champs four times in nine years and three times in five (1999; 2003; 2005; 2007).

The Green Bay Packers of the ’60s — NFL champs in 1961, ’62, ’65 and Super Bowl winners in ’66 and ’67 — were legendary.

As were the Cowboys, the Steelers, the 49ers and the Patriots in their respective eras.

Then there is baseball…

Salute the Cincinnati Reds (1970-’76); the Oakland A’s (1971-’75); and of course, the God-like Yankees with four separate dynasties etched in the record books (1920-’32; 1936-’43/’47-’51; 1951-early ’60s; 1996–2003) which helped to produce 27 World Series winners.

Lest we forget college sports dynasties such as USC Baseball (1958-’78); UCLA Basketball (1964-’75); Oklahoma Football (1953-’57); Alabama Football (1961-’66; 2009-’17); Miami Football (1983-’92); North Carolina Women’s Soccer (1979–2012); and UConn Women’s Basketball (2000-’14).

But alas, for every winner, there must be a loser.

The 1936 Philadelphia Eagles: 1–11.

The 1952 Dallas Texans: 1–11.

The 1960 Dallas Cowboys: 0–11–1.

The 1966 New York Giants: 1–12–1.

The 1971 Buffalo Bills: 1–13.

The 1972 Houston Oilers: 1–13.

The 1973 Houston Oilers: 1–13.

The 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs: 0–14.

The 1980 New Orleans Saints: 1–15.

The 1981 Baltimore Colts: 2–14.

The 1990 New England Patriots: 1–15.

The 1995 New York Jets: 1–15.

The 1999 Cleveland Browns: 2–14.

The 2001 Carolina Panthers: 1–15.

The 2006 Oakland Raiders: 2–14.

The 2008 Detroit Lions: 0–16.

The 1970-’71 Cleveland Cavaliers: 15–67.

The 1982-’83 Houston Rockets: 14–68.

The 1986-’87 L.A. Clippers:12–70.

The 1988-’89 Miami Heat: 15–67.

The 1992-’93 Philadelphia 76ers: 9–73.

The 1992-’93 Dallas Mavericks: 11–71.

The 1995-’96 Vancouver Grizzlies: 15–67.

The 1997-’98 Denver Nuggets: 11–71.

The 2004-’05 Atlanta Hawks: 13–69.

The 2009-’10 New Jersey Nets: 12–70.

The 2010-’11 Cleveland Cavaliers: 19–63.

The 1943-’44 New York Rangers: 6–39–5.

The 1972-’73 New York Islanders: 12–60–6.

The 1974-’75 Washington Capitals: 8–67–5.

The 1980-’81 Winnipeg Jets: 9–57–14.

The 1992-’93 Ottawa Senators: 10–70–4.

The 1992-’93 San Jose Sharks: 11–71–2.

The 2006-’07 Philadelphia Flyers: 22–48–12.

The Buffalo Bills lost four straight Super Bowls (1990-’93).

The Cleveland Indians have not won the World Series since 1948.

The Chicago Cubs went 108 years between World Series wins (1908–2016).

The Seattle Mariners, established in 1977, have yet to reach the World Series.

The 1899 Cleveland Spiders: 20–134 .130; 84 GB.

The 1916 Philadelphia Athletics: 36–117 .235; 54 ½ GB.

The 1935 Boston Braves: 38–115 .248; 61 ½ GB.

The 1939 St. Louis Browns: 43–111 .279; 64 ½ GB.

The 1942 Philadelphia Phillies: 42–109 .278; 62 ½ GB.

The 1962 New York Mets: 40–120 .250.; 60 ½ GB.

The 1952 Pittsburgh Pirates: 42–112 .273; 54 ½ GB.

The 2003 Detroit Tigers: 43–119; .265; 47 GB.

The 1976–1982 Northwestern Wildcat Division I-A College Football Team: 6–70–1.

The 1989–1999 Prairie View Panthers Division I-AA College Football Team: 2–89.

Interestingly enough, nearly all of the aforementioned teams mired in ignominy at one time or another, have also tasted championship champagne, at one time or another.

“What goes around comes around.”

“Good things come to those who wait.”

“If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.”

Life is cyclical.”

Which brings us, at long last, to the fortunes of Houston, Tampa and Boston in the context of sports.

Houston…

Lost James Harden.

Lost Russell Westbrook.

Lost Gerrit Cole.

Lost George Springer.

Lost DeAndre Hopkins.

Lost J.J. Watt.

Will lose Deshaun Watson.

The NBA Rockets won back-to-back championships (1994; 1995) and current renditions get close, but the franchise seems to be in a state of perpetual flux.

The Astros win, but they cheat.

The NFL Texans are grossly mismanaged.

Tampa…

Lost Blake Snell.

The Rays, long an AL East doormat, went to the World Series in 2008 and returned in 2020, handing it to the Dodgers when manager Kevin Cash gave Snell the hook in the 6th inning of Game 6, leading 1–0, sparking great controversy around baseball, regarding the balance between analytics and traditional hardball savvy.

Their franchise is strong.

The Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2020’s truncated NHL season and have been perennial contenders for years.

The Bucs, led by Tom Brady, won Super Bowl LV played on February 7, 2021, and they won big.

Boston…

Lost Tom Brady.

Lost Rob Gronkowski.

Lost Mookie Betts.

Lost David Price.

Lost Gordon Hayward.

Lost Zdeno Chara.

The 2020 Patriots (7–9) missed the NFL Playoffs for the first time since 2008.

(And they were 11–5 that season).

The Red Sox — World Series winners in 2004, 2007, 2013 and 2018 — have blown up the roster and are clearly engaging in what could be a very lengthy rebuilding process.

The Celtics — NBA Eastern Conference Finalists in 3 of the last 4 seasons — are underachieving and playing with no urgency; they are a mystery.

The Bruins — Stanley Cup winners last in 2011 — compete every night, and always have.

Bottom line?

Tampa has become championship Boston; Boston has become the downtrodden version of Tampa; and Houston is a pro football town in disarray, competing at a high level in the sports landscape, it seems, only when they circumvent the rules.

[Editor’s Note: This piece was written by Mr. Kaplan in February 2021.]

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Peter J. Kaplan

Peter J. Kaplan

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