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Athletes Of Today Vs. Years Gone By  
User currently offlineER757 From Cayman Islands, joined May 2005, 2510 posts, RR: 7
Posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 2711 times:

BMI727 and I were having the following discussion on the NFL playoff thread and before it gets hijacked further, I thought it might be a good topic for another thread


Quoting ER757 (Reply 35):
I never saw Sid Luckman but understand he was pretty darned good.

...for the time. Being a quarterback in those days was a completely different proposition. Luckman attempted 1,744 passes in 128 games. Aaron Rodgers has amassed nearly that many passing attempts in just 83 games while Tom Brady eclipsed that in about 60 games. Modern quarterbacks are just on another level.

When it comes to physical quarterbacking ability, Cutler, and a lot of good modern quarterbacks, blow away any of the old Bears QBs. There aren't many guys from that era who would stack up these days.



He makes a good point that today's QBs are far more prolific, but does quantity equate to quality? There's little doubt in my mind that today's players are much better athletes than in the old days, but stacked up against the competition of their day, can we measure them against one another to decide who was "better?" This would apply to almost ay sport and I think makes for a lively debate. Was Babe Ruth, for example, a better hitter than Hank Aaron? Yes, Aaron played in an integrated era against a higher level of competition, but does that make Ruth any less great because he faced people of equal ability to himself?
Is it realistic to even try to compare athletes of different areas to one another to determine "Greatest of All Time?"

16 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineBMI727 From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 15735 posts, RR: 26
Reply 1, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 4 days 16 hours ago) and read 2681 times:

Quoting ER757 (Thread starter):
He makes a good point that today's QBs are far more prolific, but does quantity equate to quality?

I think that in many cases it does. That's not to say there weren't guys from the old days who could play today, like Johnny Unitas for example. But for such things it's really hard to compare across eras simply because the game has changed so much.

As far as the NFL and especially offense goes, I would nominally place the tipping point as being Steve Walsh, Joe Montana, and the West Coast Offense. Since then, we've seen more and more teams go passing heavy and rules changes that favor offenses. These days a star quarterback is practically a prerequisite to competing for a Super Bowl. There are the Trent Dilfers and Brad Johnsons that win with great defenses, but that's relatively rare.

On the other side, with the quarterbacks becoming more important, running backs have become less important. They come and go. Running backs tend to have short careers and it seems that quite a few just don't produce after getting a big contract. Even with all of Adrian Peterson's production, the Vikings are still a pretty average team but the Patriots and Packers continue to win even with a string of unremarkable running backs. If I were an NFL general manager, I would have a general rule of "Never pay a running back."

And, since it popped up in my head just now, medical care is another big change in sports over the past few decades. Adrian Peterson is 294 yards away from breaking Eric Dickerson's rushing record with two games to go after suffering a major knee injury. The injury Peterson suffered is rather similar to the one that effectively ended Gale Sayers' career.

Quoting ER757 (Thread starter):
Was Babe Ruth, for example, a better hitter than Hank Aaron? Yes, Aaron played in an integrated era against a higher level of competition, but does that make Ruth any less great because he faced people of equal ability to himself?

Maybe. Baseball comparisons hold up better than other sports, even with the steroid monsters factored in.

With basketball the level of athleticism is higher than ever. Again, you have some guys from years ago who could still play today, but overall guys have gotten better. My all time team would be Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Tim Duncan, and Wilt Chamberlain. Obviously that skews modern, but I think that the totally exceptional players are just more common in the modern era. Wilt Chamberlain was just a superhuman, but there weren't many people with abilities like James and Durant in that era.

Also, comparison across eras in basketball are possibly the worst thanks to changes like the shot clock and three point line.



Why do Aerospace Engineering students have to turn things in on time?
User currently offlinebrilondon From Canada, joined Aug 2005, 4209 posts, RR: 1
Reply 2, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 2660 times:

Quoting ER757 (Thread starter):
Was Babe Ruth, for example, a better hitter than Hank Aaron? Yes, Aaron played in an integrated era against a higher level of competition, but does that make Ruth any less great because he faced people of equal ability to himself?

Considering he was half tanked when he played, or so the story goes, he would have been the best the game had ever seen in this day in age, taking into consideration that he would have benefited from today's training, equipment, and most of all, he would not have been drinking and smoking as much. He is still IMO the second greatest baseball player ever next to Joe DiMaggio.



Rush for ever; Yankees all the way!!
User currently offlineER757 From Cayman Islands, joined May 2005, 2510 posts, RR: 7
Reply 3, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 2641 times:

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 1):
But for such things it's really hard to compare across eras simply because the game has changed so much.

That's true and one reason this is an age-old barroom debate. As you pointed out there are some stars that transcend eras and would be great no matter when they played. I've been watching hockey since there were only six teams in the NHL, saw all the greats of the 60's (Hull, Mikita, Howe, Mahavolich, Geoffreon, Richard, Esposito) and am confident in saying Gretzky was better than any of them even though he played in a watered down league.

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 1):
The injury Peterson suffered is rather similar to the one that effectively ended Gale Sayers' career.

Sayers was the best running back I ever saw. And this from a guy who's the biggest Water Payton fan ever.


User currently offlineus330 From United States of America, joined Aug 2000, 3871 posts, RR: 14
Reply 4, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 4 days 13 hours ago) and read 2637 times:

Quoting ER757 (Thread starter):
Is it realistic to even try to compare athletes of different areas to one another to determine "Greatest of All Time?"

Yes, but you have to be wiling to look beyond the stat lines. Sometimes numbers are only a product of their environment or competition (ie you have complementary players who rack up a ton of points because they are playing with the best player in the league, versus someone who is a better player, but has horrible point statistics because of the team playing around him), others clearly demonstrate outstanding talent.

On the whole, I do think players of this era could generally beat players of the past, if only of because of the true professionalization of sports--nowadays, you have guys training year round, getting better coaching, etc., whereas in the earlier eras, sometimes players had to work two jobs, or were more willing to indulge in certain proclivities. In a way, its almost two different games.


User currently offlineltbewr From United States of America, joined Jan 2004, 13078 posts, RR: 12
Reply 5, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 2594 times:

Another issue is race/segeration. Don't forget that MLB didn't allow African-American players until the late 1940's and some of the Black players in the 'Negro Leagues' were and are HOF quality and could beat the best 'white' teams and players of their day.

User currently offlineseb146 From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 11582 posts, RR: 15
Reply 6, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 2592 times:

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 1):
it's really hard to compare across eras simply because the game has changed so much.

I think it also has to do with hype. Roger Staubach, Bobby Orr, Ty Cobb... They were all great players in their day, but the names would not get anywhere without contract deals with Old Spice, Coke, Buick, etc. and their managers making themselves larger than life.



Life in the wall is a drag.
User currently offlineStarAC17 From Canada, joined Aug 2003, 3360 posts, RR: 9
Reply 7, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 2585 times:

Quoting ER757 (Reply 3):
I've been watching hockey since there were only six teams in the NHL, saw all the greats of the 60's (Hull, Mikita, Howe, Mahavolich, Geoffreon, Richard, Esposito) and am confident in saying Gretzky was better than any of them even though he played in a watered down league.

I'm not going to knock the talent of Gretzky because he was definitely one of the best there ever was. However I do think there are at least 2 better players that played around the same time that had more talent and they were Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux however both of them struggled with injuries and shortened their careers and in the case of Lemieux he is a cancer survivor.

[Edited 2012-12-19 20:42:51]


Engineers Rule The World!!!!!
User currently offlinezippyjet From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 5478 posts, RR: 12
Reply 8, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 2574 times:

Back in the Day: Hero's, almost God like, can't do wrong. They even named a tragic disease after Lou G.

Today: Stupid, off the chains, knock up legions of women and have babies out of wedlock, rack up DUI's, domestic violence is popular and in the case of one is still looking for the killer of his once hottie blonde wife and her friend!



I'm Zippyjet & I approve of this message!
User currently offlineBMI727 From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 15735 posts, RR: 26
Reply 9, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 2571 times:

Quoting zippyjet (Reply 8):
Today: Stupid, off the chains, knock up legions of women and have babies out of wedlock, rack up DUI's, domestic violence is popular and in the case of one is still looking for the killer of his once hottie blonde wife and her friend!

I don't think that's changed much as much as it's just reported more. I would point you to the mini-uproar that overtook the Chicago sports world when Jeff Pearlman wrote a book that dared mention that Walter Payton slept with women other than his wife and did drugs. It made moronic fans, Mike Ditka, and others angry with the revelation that shattered the myth of an ideal athlete. Of course, you'd have to look long and hard to find an athlete from that era didn't do those things and I recall an interview with a PR agent on Deadspin who estimated that 90% of athletes cheat on their wives.

For that matter, it isn't just athletes. David Petraeus got nailed for having an inappropriate relationship, but when you think about it, is what he did any worse than some of the things the Kennedys or J Edgar Hoover are said to have done?

[Edited 2012-12-19 23:17:32]


Why do Aerospace Engineering students have to turn things in on time?
User currently offlinebrilondon From Canada, joined Aug 2005, 4209 posts, RR: 1
Reply 10, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 3 days 21 hours ago) and read 2501 times:

Quoting seb146 (Reply 6):
I think it also has to do with hype. Roger Staubach, Bobby Orr, Ty Cobb... They were all great players in their day, but the names would not get anywhere without contract deals with Old Spice, Coke, Buick, etc. and their managers making themselves larger than life.

I have take exception to your mentioning Bobby Orr as hype. He redefined the position so much so now you can't be a great defense man with out having an offensive component to their game. Before Orr there were defense who were considered great yet only scored 2 or 3 goals per year because the were stay at home types who rarely went over the blue line of the opponent and often never scored if at all and were considered great.



Rush for ever; Yankees all the way!!
User currently offlinekiwirob From New Zealand, joined Jun 2005, 7273 posts, RR: 5
Reply 11, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 2492 times:

Take tennis as an example Roger Federer is the greatest player the world has ever seen, prior to Federer I would have said Rod Laver was the greatest ever. I'm happy to have watched the three greatest racing drivers/riders of all time Schumacher, Loeb and Rossi, we are also lucky to see Bolt undoubtedly the best sprinter of all time.

User currently offlineus330 From United States of America, joined Aug 2000, 3871 posts, RR: 14
Reply 12, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 2489 times:

Quoting StarAC17 (Reply 7):
they were Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux

Orr is the best defensemen in history because...

Quoting brilondon (Reply 10):
He redefined the position so much so now you can't be a great defense man with out having an offensive component to their game

When you have a revolutionary effect on a position or aspect of the game, that to me is a stand-out feature that separates greats of their time versus all-time greats.

Lemieux w/out injuries/cancer is one of the great what might have beens. He could have challenged Gretzky--but he was also a different type of player than Gretzky--Gretzky was a playmaker (and I realize how absurd that sounds when you realize he is the NHL's all time leading goal scorer--but his first instinct was always to pass), whereas Lemieux had more of a natural goal scoring instinct.


User currently offlineBMI727 From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 15735 posts, RR: 26
Reply 13, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 3 days 13 hours ago) and read 2452 times:

I just heard an interview with a guy who wrote a book about the NFL in the 1970s today. He was saying that during that time, the average size of an NFL player was 6'2" and 219 lbs. These days that would be just about the average size of a quarterback.


Why do Aerospace Engineering students have to turn things in on time?
User currently offlinesprout5199 From United States of America, joined Feb 2005, 1852 posts, RR: 2
Reply 14, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 2 days 16 hours ago) and read 2420 times:

You CAN'T compare the athletes of today with the ones from from more than 30 years ago. NFL players from the past had to have second jobs, not year round training. Players played with injuries that would sideline today's for the season, cause if they didn't they would get cut. ETC, ETC.... Its like comparing Tiger to Jack. You can't do it. Tiger flies to every tournament, Jack drove to most. And the equipment has changed, look what Tiger uses and then look at what Jack used. I bet if 3/4 of the NFL players from the 60's/70's had the same trainers/equipment/doctors/rules as now the records they would hold would be shocking.

Dan in Jupiter


User currently offlineaerobalance From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 4681 posts, RR: 47
Reply 15, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 2 days 15 hours ago) and read 2413 times:

Ted Williams. I hear stories about this guy and I'm amazed.


"Sing a song, play guitar, make it snappy..."
User currently offlinerfields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 16, posted (1 year 8 months 1 week 2 days ago) and read 2374 times:

Just my opinion, but I have no doubt that today's top players are much better than the older players. They would beat the older players head to head with no trouble.

However, the older players never had the advantage of the conditioning, training and other preparation of today's atheletes.

Someone like Johnny Unitas or George Blanda obviously had the TALENT to succeed at today's level of competition. They just need the years of preparation to be competitive.

As in the number of passes. Johnny U was very, very good. But he never played a game like we see today with the defenses, the receivers and the play calling. I'm sure he could match the numbers of Aaron Rogers if he played today.

The one factor which cannot be overcome is the physical size difference. That is where the older age basketball players would be at a disadvantage today. Basketball players are just so much bigger today.

That would also apply to positions like the linemen in the NFL.

But at most lot of positions, the older players would be outstanding with today's training and preparation.


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