Tuesday, November 13, 2007

11-13-07: Why Modern Day Professional Athletes are Better than Past Athletes

In a conversation at lunch, I got to thinking of something that I’ve pondered from time to time. With the infusion of so much money and resources into professional sports, it seems obvious to me that modern teams (i.e. teams within the past decade) are better than teams of old. More specifically, the average professional athlete is better.

There are various reasons why this is so. With modern training techniques and the myriad of technologies that go into the game planning and execution, it allows the athlete to improve their skills and overall performance far easier and in greater depth than ever before. A great example is in baseball. It took the likes of Tony Gwynn to make video big with batters. Today, both batters and pitchers can get customized compilations of their past performances against that day’s opponent. Pitchers can see how they pitched to the other team’s batters, and vice versa. It makes both pitchers and hitters better.

But, the source of all this is money. If teams weren’t raking in billions of dollars per year in revenue from ticket sales, marketing programs, and merchandise sales, they wouldn’t be able to afford all the bells and whistles. On top of that, they couldn’t afford to pay their players the millions of dollars to play for their team. Part of this was the invention of free agency, but a lot of it was just good marketing. People are willing to pay the exorbitant amounts of money it takes just to get in the park, so why not pay the players more?

The high salaries are the key. My grandfather was an All-American football player for Holy Cross back in the early 50’s. He played professional football for the Marines. He even tried out for the New York Giants (baseball team), and was offered a contract. But the money was no good, so he became a teacher. How many top athletes stayed away from professional sports before it was such a lucrative occupation? There’s no way of knowing. I doubt the very best athletes didn’t play at the top level, since they’d be recognized as great players, but you never know. Let’s say Joe Schmidt from Port Lexington, Kentucky would have been the best football player in history back in 1958. But, he knew that he would never make any money then, so be became a lawyer after college. He could have been the best had he tried harder, but he didn’t. He knew football would have its limits, and his dream school had a lousy football team (or none at all).

With the higher salaries, today’s players also have more competition for each position. You’re not just going against other excellent American players. You’re playing against the best from Europe, Asia, South America, or anywhere in the world. So much money is going into sports that scouting is a worldwide profession, so the undiscovered talent is now being tapped. Teams are competing against each other for market domination, and fans are eating it right up. It’s a system with a great deal of positive feedback, and it makes the games more exciting and the athletes better every day.

Who do you think would win in the following scenarios?

2007 New England Patriots vs. 1982 Miami Dolphins

2007 Boston Red Sox vs. 1975 Cincinnati Reds

2007 Ottawa Senators vs. 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens

1 comment:

scycle said...

Eddy Merckx would win, hands down!