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The good old days weren’t always good

In the comments to this post, Jeff Cooper says

I’m surprised to see you so cynical about [baseball’s] “golden age.” After all, one of the defining characteristics of that period is that the Yankees were in the World Series almost every year (and usually won it).

It’s certainly true that the immediate post-WWII era was a great time to be a Yankee fan. I read Peter Golenbock’s Dynasty many times as a kid, and I can relate some of those stories as if I’d experienced them myself. That helped me get through the lean times of the 80s and early 90s, let me tell you.

That said, even if the Yankees go on another championship drought I’d still rather be a fan today than back then. For one thing, if I’d moved away from New York like I did when I went off to college, I’d never get anything more than wire reports on games, plus the occasional Saturday afternoon national telecast and maybe a regional broadcast when they played the Rangers. With cable and the Internet, I can follow my team as closely as I want, as if I were still on Staten Island.

Heck, even when I was growing up in New York I’d suffer separation anxiety. Every time the Yankees visited the West Coast, I’d have to wait until the afternoon paper came out to find out if they’d won or lost. What kind of way to live is that? Let’s not even talk about the offseason, which is gloomy and grey enough as it is.

I agree with those who say that there’s no better time than now to be a baseball fan. I can follow my team wherever I am. I can keep up with minor leagues, college teams, even baseball in Japan, if I want to. Statistics, analysis, profiles, box scores – it’s all there for me.

Some people will try to tell you that today’s players aren’t as good as those who played when they were kids. (Note: Just to be clear, I’m not saying that Jeff is making this claim.) I say baloney. The talent pool is deeper than ever, and the best players are setting new standards. We overvalue players from the past for the same reason that we overvalue old movies – we only remember the few great ones that are worth remembering. We forget that for every Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays, as for every “Casablanca” and “Rear Window”, there were dozens if not hundreds of mediocrities that have long since slipped into a deserved obscurity. Today’s undistinguished masses, like movies that star Jennifer Lopez, are right there in front of us where we can’t conveniently overlook them, and this warps our perspective.

I’m a student and a fan of baseball’s history. I look on baseball’s past with fondness and admiration. I believe baseball is adding to its lore, not living off of it, and I believe that overhyping the glory of the past is counterproductive. The best is yet to come, and I believe that will be the case for a long time.

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3 Comments

  1. dmm says:

    They say that the last Golden Age in sports was whenever you happened to be ten years old. When you’re ten, sports heroes are Giants Among Men. When you’re older they’re skilled athletes with the same flaws that bedevil the rest of us.

  2. Rob says:

    The past decade or so to be one of the greatest in baseball given that during this time we have seen some of the most dominant pitchers who ever played along with some of the greatest hitters. In general you only get one or the other, but we got to see both Randy Johnson and Barry Bonds.

  3. cheera says:

    I think baseball players of today are better tahn those of the past because we have better stadiums~