The downfall of dynasties

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By: Stephanie Walstrom <s[email protected]>

Consider the dominance of the Chicago Bulls between 1991 and 1998, with six championships, or that of the New York Yankees between 1996 and 1999 with three straight World Series wins. Take the 10-year-old Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference (MIC) and its supremacy over the other conferences in Indiana. Look at the dynasty built by Carmel’s women’s swimming and diving team, a team that boasts a 21 consecutive State Championships.

       Despite the fact that dominance is difficult to maintain, we grow complacent about the successes of teams, like our women’s swimming and diving team, that seem incapable of losing. We even come to expect those successes. But what will be the reaction should the women’s swimming and diving team eventually and inevitably—gasp­—lose?

Many issues build up, hold up and press down upon a dynasty. I played soccer my freshman year, the year the varsity team clinched its fifth consecutive State Championship. Along with pride for that team’s successes came a mounting pressure to live up to them. For a professional analogy, take a look at the Indianapolis Colts. A Indianapolis Star column stated that prior to the team’s loss to the Chargers said that if the Colts couldn’t clinch another Super Bowl appearance then the team would be unable to leave behind the legacy it deserves to leave. Perhaps that is true; perhaps the Colts will go down in history as a team that had only one success story under Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy’s leadership. Yet doesn’t that seem like an unfair way for such a talented team to be remembered?

Everyone’s a Colts fan, or for that matter, a fan of Carmel women’s swimming or soccer, when that team is on top. And as annoying as the fair-weather-fan syndrome may be, it offers insight into how we view athletes. After all, what should really be honored and respected: a record of consecutive State Championships or the integrity and strength of a program? Which athletes can sell out games, or which athletes exhibit a genuine passion for the game? Sometimes what we say we value isn’t what we actually value.

The distinction between the politics of professional and college sports and the “wholesomeness” of high school sports should be clear. But the lines get fuzzy.

High school sports should be more about pride, pure competition and passion and building foundations, and less about money and reputation. After all, professional and college athletes receive money or scholarships for playing, so in some way they should be held to different standards. But in an age where some high schools cough up more dough for gyms and stadiums than for education and where athletes must give their life over entirely to their sport for a shot at a scholarship to a Division 1 school, we need to question where our values actually lie.

Carmel has been the MIC All-Sports Champion since 1996. I’m confident that almost all Carmel athletes, students, staff members and alumni are proud be part of a school with such an impressive record. But what if we didn’t have these standings? After all, a school of 4,000 has a large pool of athletes to draw from, a factor that influences, though does not secure, dominance. Would we still have school pride of we attended a school more like, say, University High School, which had a student population of 171 last school year and doesn’t even have a football team?

Carmel, and any other school that can boast such an impressive athletics reputation, should by all means be proud of its accomplishments. But we cannot lose sight of what matters. It is doubtful that Carmel’s women’s swimming and diving will never again fail to win a State Championship, and though the MIC has been one of the top conferences since its creation, it may not always be so. Brownsburg, the team that took out our women’s soccer team in Semistate this season, may have been a formidable foe this year, but starters will graduate and a new batch of freshman will arrive next fall. Every season offers a new chance.

But what matters aren’t hallways of State plaques, getting coverage in The Indianapolis Star or selling a record amount of Colts jerseys. How empty would victories be if that’s all they were about? What matters is pride for the school, passion for the sport, and a drive for excellence regardless of success. What matters is what’s left behind when the dynasties fall.