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    New Era: Analyzing Franchise-Shifting Changes in Sports

    Revolution or evolution?

    Both are change, and one often more desirable than the other in life as well as in sports. That’s all well and good, but what we have witnessed in the last month or so extends beyond the routine changes accompanying a typical season. Across all four major sports, culture sweeping changes have been cemented, like Timothy Chalamet placing his hands on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. From a few key adjustments (Knicks and Celtics) to complete demolitions (Chicago Cubs), teams and their fans prepare to embark on a journey into a whole new era. Whether these new eras will pay dividends or necessitate further change, remains to be seen.

    Let’s start with the aforementioned Chicago Cubs, who took a figurative bulldozer to Theo Epstein’s 2016 curse-breaking championship nucleus of Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Baez. This was a cataclysmic move by Tom Ricketts and the Cubs’ front office that will not soon be forgotten. It had Cubs fans saying, “we can’t have another century-long curse, right… right?” Well, that depends on how long Trea Turner and Max Scherzer stay with the Dodgers. Shocking as it may be, what transpired on the northside of Chicago was but the first proverbial domino to fall in a free agency season that has played out like a SpaceX rocket launch.

    Taking off with a new team is a vexing prospect filled with anticipation, anxiety, and the perpetual scrutiny of the social media soundbite culture. This offseason had more personnel changes than you can shake a stick at. By the way, how the hell is shaking a stick considered intimidating? Unless the stick in question is a lightsaber. It’s becoming clear that a few teams will need more than just “The Force” to enjoy a return to prominence. Take the New England Patriots, whose QB1 ain’t like the guy from before. Yes, the newly anointed Mac Jones has the superstar pedigree, but he’s got no experience in The League just yet.

    A team like New England does not rebuild, it reloads. Cam Newton blew it like a nervous teenager on a first date. Now the onus rests on Mac Jones and his mighty Crimson Tide swagger to restore prominence to the illustrious New England franchise, lest they become a mighty also-ran like the Dallas Cowboys. Other NFL teams have also shaken things up like a martini in the hopes tasting the sweetness of their old winning ways. How do I know this? Look at the Aaron Rodgers’ saga in Green Bay or Matt Stafford’s new LA digs. Stafford should start preparing his trophy case for a Lombardi trophy like Matt Damon would for an Academy Award. The Rams will win the Super Bowl this year, trust me.

    Change is necessary. It’s not always for the better, and sometimes the wrong reasons provide the impetus for change, but it makes teams and people alike feel a sense of hope for brighter days ahead. This same energy manifests sports-world rattling moves like Russell Westbrook to the Lakers, or Kemba Walker to the Knicks: a player whose last NBA success came when you had to buy a Rolex to see a “TikTok.” As sports fans, we are not foreign to blockbuster deals designed to shift paradigms. Hell, college athletes are allowed to profit off of their own work now. People love what’s new, but we also love familiarity. To this day, it still pains me to watch Anthony Rizzo stride up to home plate in Yankees’ pinstripes. Not only because New York just won like thirteen games in a row, but it feels out of place. It feels like living in someone else’s dream.

    Waking up to a new reality is an adjustment to be sure. But thinking back to some of the key free agent acquisitions of the past, like Rasheed Wallace to the 2004 Pistons, proves that change is essential to the transition into new eras for teams: whether they’re perennial powerhouses or fringe teams, looking to breakthrough. The trick is making the new chemistry work. And of course, staying healthy from season to season. This is what dictates the lasting impact of these moves and draws the line between evolution and revolution.

    mm
    Thomas Domol
    Tom is a Chicago-based freelance journalist and an avid sports and pop culture enthusiast. Podcasts can be found @domtomol on SoundCloud.Feedback: Contact my email @ [email protected]

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