Our Favorite Teams
It's not whether these teams won or lost, it's how much fun they had playing the game -- and how much fun we had watching them
Posted: Tuesday August 31, 1999 02:17 PM
By Richard Hoffer
Every great team is a condition of circumstance, not management. The scouts can identify the talent and the accountants can pay it and the coaches can motivate it, but the creation of an enduring -- and endearing -- group personality is entirely accidental.
Understand, when you ponder this list of our favorites, that we don't mean championship teams or, rather, only championship teams. Every season has one of those in every sport -- they're a dime a dozen. And we don't mean heroic teams or only heroic teams -- although those are much harder to come by. What we mean are teams we'd like to have been a part of. Think you could have had some fun playing with those 1955 Dodgers? Or would you rather have been a Met in '62? Or maybe you'd have preferred to help define some style all your own -- say, scoring 21 baskets on 21 assists as Princeton did against Niagara in '97. That would have been fun, too.
It's no use trying to divine any additional ingredient in the lasting appeal of these teams. There's no other organizing principle here. Some were effortless, some scrappy, some efficient, some contentious. You want to put a face on these teams? For the 1974 A's it would have a waxed mustache. For the '54 Milan High kids, peach fuzz. You would have had fun on either team.
The one thing we should point out is that none of these teams were chosen because they were overpowering. (That was a different list, remember?) The 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers were a pretty fair collection of ballplayers, but what we appreciate most is the Gashouse Gang thing they had going on: Mean Joe Greene, mean Mel Blount and really mean Jack Lambert. For that matter, how about that Gashouse Gang? What would you give to have hung out with ol' Diz?
So it wasn't the assemblage of talent, or rather not only that. It wasn't the surprises these teams sprung on us (or didn't -- the Globies kind of kept to a script), or not only those surprises. When you think about even the most successful of these teams, you'll realize we're recognizing their conspiracy of fun. That's the thing we're talking about here. They all enjoyed an unspoken collaboration -- Hitless Wonders and Boys of Summer -- to work hard at their play. Teams like that, we've learned, you just can't draft.
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