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Hickok SportsThoughts

Sports historian and author Ralph Hickok of www.hickoksports.com sometimes meanders on about current happenings in sports and sometimes looks back in languor.

Friday, January 20, 2006

When Does a Dynasty Begin? Or End?

It's impossible to tell when a sports dynasty begins. And it's almost as hard to tell when one has ended.When UCLA won its first NCAA basketball championship in 1964, no one said it was the beginning of a dynasty. How could anyone have known that UCLA would win nine more titles during the next eleven years?UCLA won again in 1965, and still it wasn't considered a dynasty. Then came that Texas Western upset over Kentucky in the 1966 finals (the game that inspired the movie "Glory Road"). Only after UCLA won its third and fourth championships, in 1967 and 1968, did the sports world see a dynasty at work.The dynasty went to win the next five NCAA titles, making it seven in a row and nine over a 10-year period.That string ended in 1974; that seemed, to many, to mark the end of the UCLA dynasty. But the Bruins came back to win one more, in John Wooden's final season as their coach. And then the dynasty really was over.The story was pretty much the same with the Boston Celtics. They won their first NBA championship in 1957, their second in 1959. No dynasty there. Or, rather, no perception of a dynasty. After they won a couple more, though, the lightbulb went on: Oh yeah, that's a dynasty.Of course, they made it eight in a row and nine in ten years. But they didn't even reach the finals in 1967 and it seemed obvious that the dynasty was over.Woops! They came back to win two more, in 1968 and 1969. The dynasty ended only in 1970, when the Celtics failed to make the playoffs for the first time in 20 years.There have been a lot of stories this week about the end of the New England Patriots' dynasty with their loss to Denver. But how can anyone know that it's over?If the Patriots come back to win Super Bowl XLI, giving them four championships in six years, surely that will be a continuation of the dynasty. And this season will be looked back upon as an interruption, not an end.