Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Quickie: Most Memorable Champs Ever?

The Saints win was pretty monumental, on a lot of levels:

*I can't remember a more universally liked champ -- or a more universally appealing story of a city and fan base.

*The way they won -- including what I would argue was the gutsiest single play-call in Super Bowl history -- was admirable.

*And, from what we found out yesterday: It was the most-watched TV show ever. Not most-watched Super Bowl -- most-watched TV show, displacing the MASH finale.

All those things are packed into today's SN column lead, but it all begs what I think is a pretty interesting question, which I don't cover in the SN column but open up here:

Who was the most memorable team sports champ of all time?

Factors to consider (and this is intentionally related to the details above): Backstory of the team, how they won, how many people were watching (or: how many people were paying attention).

This goes way beyond the avid fan's recollection of a particular champ -- or their ability to reel off champs in whatever sport, year-by-year.

This is about which champs the casual fan -- even the NON-fan -- will remember most. I think these Saints have to qualify at or near the top.

I was curious if you had any other ideas for contenders: The 2004 Red Sox immediately come to mind. If you head back into the '90s or earlier, you start to (a) lose the ubiquity that comes with being a champ in the digital age and (b) lose the 20- and 30-something fans. For example, the '85 Bears were insanely memorable... but if you're under the age of, say, 33, you mostly likely have no memory other than some hazy notion of the Shuffle and "The Fridge."

I'm going to try to figure out the quintessential, most-memorable champion, team sport-by-sport, and I'd love your input/corrections/etc in the comments:

NFL: '09 Saints
MLB: '04 Red Sox
NBA: '96 Bulls
CFB: '05 Texas
CBB: '85 Villanova (?)
NHL: Yikes. You tell me. ('94 Rangers?)

If the input in the Comments helps me work this out, I think I'll try to make it tomorrow's lead item in the SN column. Here's today's version. More later.

-- D.S.


SP said...

CBB: Valvano's NC State, whenever that was.

SF said...

1980 Men's Olympic Hockey Team = Most memorable champion ever!!!

As for NHL, I think you hit the nose with the '94 Rangers, which is probably the last Cup run in which non/fringe hockey fans or sports fans were genuinely invested in the event. The '93 Canadiens run with Patrick Roy and Kirk Muller was quite memorable as well and if you ask Canadian people this question that country was bonkers over the event, as they were over Gretzky's first Cup in Edmonton. (Note: the '93 Cup win by the Habs, who are the NHL's Yankees, was against LA's Gretzky, back when hockey was poppin' in the States).

Greg said...

For context I am an above average (but not rabid) sports fan and 47 years old. I enjoy watching many sports and follow the major leagues but do not (as in my younger days) know every player on every team of every sport nor participate heavily in fantasy sports.

That said, I just don't feel the overwhelming sense that you do for the Saints this year. I appreciate the joy they bring a city that has been downtrodden, but I just don't agree that their victory is elevated above all others.

Even though it was mostly before my time, and certainly before the time of many sports fans today, I'd have to say Namath and the Jets win in Super Bowl III has to be the most significant. It caused leagues to merge!! It was a huge upset and changed the course of the NFL and AFL. While I agree that many were rooting for the Saints this year, it won't have that long lasting impact on the sport.

bobmc said...

Anyone old enough to remember has to include the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team on their list.

Anonymous said...

Regarding memorable NHL teams, how about the '01 Avalanche? Not the team, mind you, but a single player: Ray Bourque.

The '94 Rangers would be a decent choice too.

(Either way, I can't appreciate these choices since both were at the expense of the Devils!)

Goberry said...


The Jets from Super Bowl III come to mind as being far more memorable than the 09 Saints.

Unknown said...

I would argue for the '98 Bulls as much as the '96 Bulls. Everyone was invested in the 'Last Dance'. Everyone knew this was it for the Bulls. Outside of Utah, and the usual crop of winning-haters, who wasn't rooting for the Bulls?

bubba0077 said...

As much as it pains me as a Devils fan, I think the '94 Rangers are correct for the NHL. It ended a long drought (54 years) without a cup for an original six team. Both the conference finals and the Stanley Cup finals went seven games. In just the conference finals, there were three double-OT games (including game 7) a Messier guarantee that he backed up with a third-period hat trick in an elimination game (G6), and a series that elevated Rangers-Devils to a legitimate rivalry. While the individual finals games weren't quite as high tension, the series still went seven with the Rangers clinging to a one-goal lead to win.

Eric said...

Can't be the Sox. There are Boston haters all over the US. When's the last time you saw or heard about New Orleans haters?

Chaddogg said...

I gotta say that the 2009 Saints have NOTHING on the 1985 Bears in terms of popularity, or being the "quintissential" sports champion.

The Punky QB.
The Fridge.
Buddy Ryan and the 46 Defense.
Samurai Mike Singletary's Crazy Eyes.
The Shuffle.

I mean, can ANY player on the Saints compare to Walter Payton? And while I love Sean Payton as a coach, he is NOWHERE NEAR the icon that Ditka was. Plus, The 1985 Bears just dominated in the playoffs -- 2 shutouts, and then the 46-10 thrashing of the Patriots.

Saints are a very good story, and a very big feel-good story....but the Bears were on another planet.

Aly said...

i agree with erak on the 01 avs...there was not a more universally well liked hockey player than ray bourque. plus you had 2 whole cities rooting for him to win a cup and 2 cities who threw a parade. yes boston hockey was a sad state of affairs they threw a parade for mr bourque!

Mister said...


It was a magical year.

R Stuart said...

I'd me cautious about that phrase "of all time". There is a lot of great, great sports history that extends back decades before the earliest example on the list, which I think was 1985. I have great memories of the 1980 USA medal winning hockey team. And the amazin' Mets back in the 1960s. Perhaps my point is that I am not sure that the Saints caught the imagination of the people at large to the same degree they caught the imagination of the sports press. There is a difference

85 said...

I think the '85 Bears are the answer for the NFL. Think about it - that team and the '72 Dolphins are the two teams where you automatically remember the year they won, no matter who your team is. And while the Saints' story is memorable, the '85 Bears team is memorable because of their dominance. Every great defense is still compared to them. Every great running back is still compared to Sweetness. No doubt, it's the Bears.

Boris said...

I think that in basketball the most memorable team, and maybe from all sports is the Original Dream Team....

bird said...

Okay, I'm really dating myself here, but I would say that the 1969 New York Mets winning the World Series qualifies as the most memorable championsip (aside from the three football and two basketball national championships for the Gators!!). :-)

The Marion County Line: said...

CBB: 96 Kentucky Wildcats!