One of the greatest things about sports is its constant modernization. Every sport has advanced with time, as athletes have become even more athletic, equipment has advanced lightyears and anylytics have become a major part of every sport.
As fans, we are constantly in awe of what our athletes are doing — whether it be Steph Curry making a ridiculous shot, Cam Newton running through a linebacker or Jordan Speith beautifully hitting an iron within two feet of the hole — athletes astonish us every single day.
Why then, do we, as a culture, constantly feel the need to compare our current athletes, and their success to athletes of past generations?
This is a conundrum that has arisen more than ever in an era of social media and 24/7 sports coverage.
The Golden State Warriors have had a record breaking season this year.
They now hold the record for most wins in NBA history and have one of the most exciting players in league history in Steph Curry.
And yet, the most talked about question during their historic run is whether they would be able to beat Michael Jordan’s 1995-96 Bulls team. That Bull’s team is regarded by many to be the best team in NBA history, and finished that season with 72 wins and only 10 losses. There is no denying that that Bulls team was great; however, there will never be a completely fair way to compare the two teams and therefore any discussion on the matter is futile.
Every round-table debate, or bar argument over the teams are an absolute waste of time.
Similarly with Jordan Speith, who is only twenty-two years old and has won two major championships, pundits immediately beginning wondering if he could potentially be the next Tiger Woods. In golf, it is never good enough to just be yourself, you must aspire to be Tiger Woods — at least according to sports analysts.
Every golfer, whether it be Speith, Rory McIlroy or Jason Day is compared to Tiger Woods as soon as they win a major. TV hosts can’t help themselves from yearning for the past.
Lebron James has been compared to Michael Jordan since the day he stepped into the NBA spotlight — so much so that his own ability has been criminally unappreciated.
Rarely do you hear a conversation about James’ legacy without hearing Jordan’s name in the very next sentence.
We, as a society, get so caught up in comparing our current athletes to athletes of the past that we never allow ourselves to appreciate what we are currently watching.
Yes, Woods was the greatest golfer of all time, but there will never be anyone else ever like him, and that’s okay.
Speith doesn’t have to be Woods to be great and entertaining.
James doesn’t have to be Jordan for us to appreciate his greatness.
As a culture we would get immensely more enjoyment out of sports if we simply allowed ourselves to appreciate the greatness that is occurring instead of comparing it with everyone of our past heroes.
Much of this discussion seemingly stems from older generations refusing to believe that anyone could ever be better than them, or that today’s athletes have way more advantageous than they once had.
The simple truth is that the majority of todays athletes are simply in better shape and are better overall athletes than their predecessors.
While that may be something past generations dispute, it is undoubtably true.
Sports are constantly evolving and I for one would prefer to look towards the future, instead of into the past.