- Jul 18, 2005
I think this is very astute.
I also wonder how much the relatively recent phenomenon of media and fans being hyper-aware of "legacy" and "place in the history of the game" plays into this.
20, 30 years ago, I simply don't recall fans and media trying to classify the "legacy" of a player or team until that player or team was either about to retire, or a few years after they had faded from relevance. When people talked about Larry Bird in 1987, they talked about him being fucking amazing, and that he had led some C's teams to championships; would he do it again? They compared him against his peers. I don't recall people wondering in any serious manner about how many championships he'd need to win to be considered the best forward ever or anything. People wondered if Lemieux was as good as Gretzky, but nobody (to my knowledge) sat around and calculated how many more years, and how many goals, Lemieux would need to put up before he could be conclusively crowned "THE BEST". Cal Ripken was simply an amazing short stop until he broke Gehrig's record; there was no rush to consider what "tier" of the HOF he'd end up in.
And, so, I think people simply observing greatness and enjoying it for its own sake will never happen again. That horse has left the barn. It's the downside to the pseudo-intellectualization of sports that guys like Simmons and Klosterman made really popular about a decade ago. We talk about legacies and compare eras as if everything is occurring all at once; everything is meta.
So, yes, you have sports writers and ex players and fans of other teams trying to pre-ordain the Patriots legacy before the book on it is even closed. It's like watching a movie and having someone interrupt every 5 minutes to tell you how derivative and predictable it is even before the end of the second act.
I'm not sure if the hyper-awareness of legacy is the chicken or the egg. Part of the "we must write the history now" (rather than enjoying/experiencing and writing the history later) syndrome is that everyone has a platform, and there is a finite amount of stuff to say about what just happened.
When Bird, Gretzky Lemieux and Ripken were doing their things, 50 million monkeys didn't have 50 million typewriters. I think we saw the beginning of what we see now when there were polite whispers about whether Ripken should have taken a day off for the good of the team. But it never reached a crescendo, because there really weren't any outlets available that would "debate" the "issue." If 2015 was starting with Cal Ripken at 2075 in a row, it would be deafening.