MARLBORO, NY– Today marks the first day of my 50th year on this earth and when you get to be this age you pretty much think you’ve seen it all if you’re a sports fan. Not that I consider myself a know-it-all, but a sports fan my age has witnessed some of the G.O.A.T. in their respective sport, team dynasties, and the greatest upsets as well. Here’s my personal 50 year sports retrospective.
Hockey I have and always will be a hockey first guy. From the age of four I have seen all the greatest players: Bobby Orr (#1 on the list and I can write a thousand words on why he is #1), Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, and Sidney Crosby. The dynasty years of the 1970’s Montreal Canadiens, the early 80’s cocky New York Islanders and immediately following them, the high-scoring Edmonton Oilers are also etched in my mind. I’d also make the argument that no team sport has changed as much as hockey. Fighting has curtailed compared to the 1970’s when the almost extinct team brawls often happened, the game has “opened up” with the elimination of the two-line pass, and everybody can skate like Bobby Orr. Luckily, I’ve also seen my team hoist the Stanley Cup twice (1972 and 2011) in eight tries which is not a good percentage but makes the wins that much sweeter. And the greatest upset of all-time in anything? The 1980 United States Olympic hockey victory over the Russians will never be duplicated.
Baseball My generation has seen the home run record fall twice–once in 1974 by Hank Aaron (still the King in my estimation) and then by the chemically enhanced Barry Bonds. Thanks in part to the steroid era, power numbers are up over the years while the emergence of pitch counts are down as new members to the 500 HR club dot the landscape more than 300 game-winning pitchers. Baseball’s G.O.A.T’s are more debatable than any other sport and I won’t even get into that argument but superteams that I’ve seen are the 1970’s Swingin’ A’s, the Big Red Machine teams, and the 90’s New York Yankees. Old farts like me have seen a couple of more noteworthy records fall: Don Drysdale’s consecutive scoreless innings streak by Orel Hershiser, Lou Gehrig’s Ironman Streak by Cal Ripken, and the Seattle Mariners modern-age, winningest season in 2001.
Basketball The ABA was my basketball league but they folded so I had to follow my favorite team, the Denver Nuggets, into the NBA. Dr. J and David Thompson kept the NBA afloat until Larry Bird and Magic Johnson arrived on the scene in 1979 and then came the influx of freakish athletes in what became the Golden Age of the NBA in the 1980’s and into the 90’s when Michael Jordan ruled the roost. Super rivalries added to the excitement of the NBA: Celtics/Lakers/Sixers, Knicks/Bulls, Knicks/Pacers, Pistons/Bulls. Now we have Warriors/Cavaliers after the San Antonio Spurs had a good run of championship seasons. The greatest basketball upsets, namely the 1983 North Carolina State Wolfpack and 1985 Villanova Wildcats, have happened in the NCAA Tournament.
Football This sports league has grown like no other major team sport and I’m not liking the NFL nearly as much as I used to because of its economic growth. The money grab is ruining the game as constant rules changes have opened up the offenses in order to showcase the sport’s stars. Offensive records seem to get broken every week and makes it easy to forget some of those special players of yore. I’ve seen a perfect season (’72 Dolphins), a perfect season ruined (’07 Patriots) in the Super Bowl, a player paralyzed (Darryl Stingley) and some dominant teams (70’s Steelers, 80’s Niners, 90’s Cowboys, 00’s Patriots).
That’s it for now, comment below and come back tomorrow for DJ Eberle, who will hopefully piss off Angry Ward for another 50 years.