ON THE SIDELINES:  Unfair to compare athletes of different generations

by Jun 15, 2015SPORTS di-ne-lv-di-yi0 comments






The movie, “Rocky Balboa”, is centered around Rocky’s comeback of sorts to fight current champion Mason Dixon following a computer simulation showing the two fighting.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I won’t give away spoilers, but the premise of the movie is not uncommon in that we frequently question how athletes of different generations would fare against each other.

As I write this column, the Cleveland Cavaliers are in the middle of a run at the NBA Championship which, if they are successful, would make the third ring for superstar LeBron James.  My favorite basketball player of all time, like millions of other people around the globe, is Michael Jordan, but I am also a fan of James.

James has been compared, sometimes unfairly, to Jordan since he hit the NBA in the 2003-04 season.  “I was a Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan fan growing up,” James once said.

The debate has raged for years.  Will James ever surpass Jordan?  Could Jordan dunk over James?  Could James dunk over Jordan?  Who is the real King?

Who cares?  They’re both great basketball players, but in sports, comparisons seem almost obligatory.

When he retired (officially and finally), Jordan had amassed six NBA championship titles, six NBA finals MVP awards, 5 NBA MVP awards, and two Olympic Gold Medals (1984, 1992).  To date, James has two NBA championship titles, two NBA finals MVP awards, 4 NBA MVP awards, and three Olympic medals (bronze in 2004 and gold in 2008 and 2012).  That’s a lot of hardware, and James is still adding to his so time will tell how they stack up in the trophy room department.

Last week, I saw a video on YouTube where someone had superimposed the 1973 Belmont Stakes, won by Triple Crown winner Secretariat, over the 2015 Belmont Stakes which was won by Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh.  The premise of the video is that Secretariat would have beaten American Pharaoh.

True, Secretariat posted better times in each of the three Triple Crown races than did American Pharaoh (Kentucky Derby – Secret.: 1:59, AP: 2:03.02; Preakness Stakes – Secret.: 1:53, AP: 1:58.46; Belmont Stakes – Secret.: 2:24, AP: 2:26.65).  But, what does that prove?  Those are just times.

Secretariat ran against four other horses.  American Pharaoh ran against seven others.  It’s just so hard to say that Secretariat would win just because the times are different.  What about track and weather conditions?  They would have to be identical to make a true comparison.

As long as there are sports though, sportswriters and commentators will analyze and compare athletes.  Pro football great Eric Dickerson put it best when he said, “Them sportswriters don’t even know how to put uniforms on, most of ‘em.”


“So, I would say ‘Omaha’, and I would say it again and then say ‘set hut’ and do whatever you think you need to be doing and let’s go play football,” Eli Manning said in explaining the meaning of “Omaha”.