Please Join Us On Our New Sports Then and Now Site

We have redesigned the Sports Then and Now site and moved to a new platform. Please change your browser URL for this site to:

We will be keeping this site updated through July, but beginning in August all content will be on the new site only.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

What Does "Best Ever" Mean?

Over the last couple weeks, I have started following and submitting material to a web site called “Bleacher Report”. It is a sports web site full of user generated content that provides a forum for bloggers and sports fans to post material about sporting events, players and sports news that are of interest to them.

For the most part, the people who submit to this site seem to be dedicated sports fans, rather than actual members of the mainstream media. Some, like myself, are trying to break into the field of sports blogging and looking to increase exposure for themselves and their own sports blogs, while also creating a following of readers.

There are also a large number of high school and college age young men writing for the site who love sports and like the opportunity to show off their knowledge and abilities to a potentially large audience. I can tell you if this kind of opportunity had existed 25 years ago when I was in high school, I would have been all over it.

While I applaud the concept and embrace the opportunity to have some of my thoughts and opinions spread to a larger audience, I also am starting to see some of the potential traps that come with the growing trend toward sites that emphasize user generated content.

There is no question that everyone is entitled to an opinion and the opportunity to express such, but the prominence of web sites that provide anyone with an interest and something to say with a platform as well as a measure of instant credibility also has the potential to assist in the dissemination of inaccurate or flawed information.

I encountered one such example when checking Bleacher Report this morning.

As a life-long football fan and connoisseur of the NFL’s 90-year history, I am always interested to see lists that claim to give a comprehensive history of something by using the moniker “Greatest Ever” or “Best of All Time.” For that reason, I was immediately drawn to an article entitled “The NFL’s 25 Best Undrafted Players of All Time.”

The picture slideshow that followed was nicely presented, but it basically was a chronicle of the best undrafted players of the last 15-20 years, rather than a truly comprehensive list of the greatest undrafted players of all-time.

The list included only two players, Warren Moon and Dick “Night Train” Lane, who started their careers before 1990. It excluded 11 undrafted free agents who are members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, including Emlen Tunnell (79 interceptions, nine Pro Bowls), Willie Brown (54 interceptions, nine Pro Bowls), Marion Motley (4,720 rushing yards, two-time All-Pro), Joe Perry (9,723 rushing yards, three Pro Bowls), Lou “The Toe” Groza (1,608 points, nine Pro Bowls), Larry Little (five Pro Bowls) and Jim Langer (six Pro Bowls).

It also did not include four undrafted players from the 1970s who were all part of Super Bowl Championship teams and arguably belong in the Hall of Fame. Omitted from the list were Drew Pearson (489 receptions, 7,822 yards, 3 Pro Bowls) and Cliff Harris (29 interceptions, six Pro Bowls) from the Dallas Cowboys, Donnie Shell (51 interceptions, five Pro Bowls) from the Pittsburgh Steelers and Bob Kuechenberg (196 career games, six Pro Bowls) from the Miami Dolphins.

The list did include current Green Bay Packer running back Ryan Grant, who has rushed for 2,159 yards in his two-year career, as well as defensive back Nick Harper (20 interceptions, no Pro Bowls), linebacker Bart Scott (16 career sacks, one Pro Bowl), linebacker Antonio Pierce (7.5 sacks, one Pro Bowl) and wide receiver Wes Welker (319 career receptions, 3,461 yards, one Pro Bowl).

I applaud the author for picking an interesting subject and doing a nice job identifying current players for the list. However, I wish he would have either done the required research needed to recognize that NFL history is full of great players who were undrafted or that he would have narrowed the scope of his title and called it the “Top Undrafted Players of the Last 20 Years” or something else that better articulates the reality of his list.

In my opinion, this slideshow illustrates both the danger associated with the lack of checks-and-balances for sites that emphasize user generated content and the even greater issue that young sports fans of today –as well as many members of the media– seem to forget that there is a plethora of history that occurred prior to the last 20 years.

Since the slideshow was posted, it has been viewed more than 3,500 times, which is a very impressive number. The slideshow also has received more than 75 comments and only three (including one from me) expressed any significant concern that the list missed players from the pre-1990 era.

This perfectly illustrates why I created the “Sports Then and Now” blog earlier this year. Too often the media and fans of today forget that sports actually started before 1990. Most of today’s top stories and great moments can be tied to moments and stories from the past to provide context and history. That element is often missed in the rush to brand something that happens today “the best ever” or “greatest of all-time” when in reality something pretty similar has probably happened before.

While my focus in this particular column is a slideshow created by a 25-year old sports fan, veteran members of the national media –who should know better– are also guilty of throwing around superlatives as if they were free t-shirts.

The first column I posted on “Sports Then and Now” back in February focused on the declaration by several members of the mainstream media that with their sixth Super Bowl victory the Pittsburgh Steelers cemented their claim as the “Greatest Team in NFL History.”

My question then was exactly when does sports history start given the fact that while the Steelers now have more Super Bowl victories than any other team, the NFL held annual championships for nearly 50 years before the first Super Bowl was ever played and the Steelers never even played in one of those title games.

Through this column I am not at all trying to dismiss the great talent of today’s athletes. Athletes accomplish amazing feats every day and I think they deserve to be celebrated. However, rather than just recognizing them “in the moment”, it is my hope that the media and young sports fans will look at them in context with the past and therefore celebrate not just the current player or accomplishment, but also remember those who came before.

In my opinion, looking at the today’s greats in context of the past makes their accomplishments all the more impressive and special. That is what I will continue to do with “Sports Then and Now” and I invite you to continue checking in as I look at today’s sporting events, players and news with a historical perspective.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Site Meter