In every sport there is always going to be the element of compare and contrast in terms of how the media brings up stories or debates, whether its over different eras, players, coaches or teams.
This isn’t a new phenomenon, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird–who didn’t even play the same position–were scaled down side-by-side after every game. Who was better at this, who was better at that and where do they fit in with the great ones before them? Bill Walton was compared to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar because of their UCLA link, Bill Russell to Wilt Chamberlain because they seemed to be the only star players winning championships.
Pete Rose was compared to Ted Williams in the 1970′s when the gambler was becoming one of the best hitters to ever play in the MLB–similar to Williams in his time. How about Barry Bonds to Hank Aaron, Aaron to Babe Ruth, David Eckersley to Jack Morris, Willie Mays to Jackie Robinson? We can’t forget about the plethora of New York Yankees to Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio–who I’m sure were analyzed side by side worse than Johnson and Bird were.
The NFL–Americas top sport at the present time–is definitely no different. There is the Randy Moss and Terrell Owens to Jerry Rice debate, Walter Payton to Jim Brown, Barry Sanders to Payton, Peyton Manning to Joe Montana, Montana to Bart Starr or Johnny Unitas, Donovan McNabb to Steve Young to Randall Cunningham, and Michael Vick to all of the scrambling quarterbacks of the past, including: McNabb, Young, Cunningham, Fran Tarkenton and Roger Staubach.
The point is, as a sports fanatic and fellow media member, when do we draw the line in all of the compare and contrast hoopla and just enjoy the player for who he is? When do we give the utmost attention to right now instead of what happened 30 years ago?
A perfect example is Chris Paul.
He is having a spectacular season for the Los Angeles Clippers right now and is rightfully in the MVP conversation. Paul is scoring, dishing out passes, dictating the tempo of every game he is in and playing above average defense.
In all honesty, watching Paul this season has been a fantastic form of basketball played at it’s purest, most pristine level.
However, instead of sitting back in my chair I call the bubble (very comfortable) and relaxing as I watch a game with excitement and wonderment of what Paul is going to do next, I’m a play behind since my mind is trying to figure out a comparison. Who could have done the spin move, two dribbles with the left hand, switch to right and slip between two tree trunks to get to the rim for a layup?
Could Steve Nash do it? Maybe John Stockton? Then I spend the next 15 minutes searching YouTube for clips of Pete Maravich, Bob Cousy, Tiny Archibald, Mark Jackson, Isiah Thomas, Byron Scott, Doc Rivers and whoever pops to my mind during the given game.
Let’s keep in mind, it happens every game, not just once a month or once a week. The compare and contrast era we’re in–probably won’t get out of until the Internet crashes–has deluded the absolute awesomeness of sports.
The moments we once yearned for are now just another normal event because didn’t someone else do it 50 years ago? We might never see it happen again in our lifetime and our children might not either, but does it matter because we can talk about the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls 72-10 season, watch video clips–and it’s like we were in the front row of the United Center during every memorable game of the historic season.
If you don’t find the clips yourself, ESPN is sure to remind you of someone or something that did it better or did it first.
I’m 600 words into this post and I haven’t even mentioned the biggest comparison topic to date–Michael Jordan. How many times have we heard “this is the new Jordan”? How many times have we heard the names Jordan and LeBron James in the same sentence since the Miami Heat won the 2012 NBA Championship? We can’t forget the craziness of Kobe Bryant moving one ring behind MJ two seasons before James officially took himself off of the list of great players who didn’t win a championship.
Has anyone really became Jordan? No. Have we lost out on some key moments of James’ career–sure to be in the Hall of Fame in 20 years–because we were caught in the Jordan-James debate? Yes.
There is no doubt in my mind Bryant is a top eight player to ever grace the NBA, but just because he wasn’t like Mike, he’ll be denounced and his overall greatness overshadowed.
Paul is probably the best point guard right now and will eventually be in the conversation of all-time greats such as the previous mentioned guards and many more one-guards already in the hall. I don’t know of anyone who will dispute this. But while he is displaying a season every Clippers fan will never forget, the rest of the sports world is missing bits and pieces of it because we’re listening to Magic compare the Clips to the “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers of the 70′s, 80′s and very early 90′s during the ESPN halftime show.
Which in turn means, Magic is comparing Paul to himself. Instead of letting Paul have the spotlight for the great things he’s doing on the court, Magic ruined the rest of the game and my time in the bubble because I was contrasting the two players size, strengths and weaknesses. My focus and attention span for the actual game–in 2013, not 1980–was gone.
While we’re busy finding and reliving moments from the past, we’re missing out on the importance of what we’re witnessing right in front of us. Paul’s amazing season is just another example of how we are overlooking a sensational season in order to prove to people we know more history about the game of basketball than the next guy.
Can we please let sports live in the now instead of the then?