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Asking Sports Old-Timers about Kids These Days

August 7th, 2017 · No Comments · Sports Journalism

Asking sports stars of yesteryear what they think about the modern state of their game … more often than not leads to interesting reactions.

My experience was that former greats often are eager to answer that question. As if it has been something they have been thinking about and are eager to share with someone — especially journalists.

It is fair to say most old-timers decry the perceived downturn of their game — an “inattention to fundamentals” is a common refrain, as is suggestions that they turned over the game to guys who don’t care as much even though they make “all that money”.

The oddest part about this? It seems modern sports journalists think “what do you think of the modern game” is an invitation for a dinosaur to say something perhaps objectionable — or at least politically incorrect. Which should be avoided at all cost.

One of the writers on this topic, who tends to be wrong about things, said of asking the opinions of old guys: “There is no more eternal, and usually lousier, form of sports writing.”

(Actually, the most exhausted story in sports is the “no one gave us a chance” meme, which should be banned from journalism.)

Asking Charles Barkley or Rick Barry about today’s NBA stars about so disturbs journalism’s kids that they can’t help but write a thousand words describing why. Here is something old: “Methinks she does protest too much.”

What is being overlooked by some of the critics of Phillies Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt, etc., is that old guys crabbing about the inferiority of the modern game to the one they knew … knows no boundaries of race or ethnicity or uninformed world view.

One of the fossils cited for growing old is basketball’s Dennis Rodman, who at no point of his career was considered some sort of reactionary. He still travels to North Korea just to hang out.

Rodman had the temerity to suggest the current Golden State Warriors were not as good as the “Run TMC” Warriors of the early 1990s (when Rodman was playing for the Pistons). That would be the up-tempo Golden State trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin.

Rodman is demonstrably wrong, but his take hammers home the likelihood that old players will prefer the game as they knew it.

This is not a crime. Not by the players and not by the reporters who lob up the “compare and contrast” questions at the old guys.

It is human nature to think the world starts going to hell, along about a person’s 45th birthday, and that their industry has lost its way. (And, sometimes, the old guys make some good points.)

The agitated journos of today likely will find that they somehow have drifted into the Old School camp, same as the retired pros, reminiscing about times when the players were tougher and fundamentals were sounder and the game was more competitive.

The journos can chill out. Twenty-five years hence, they likely will find they have decided they liked the games of the 20-teens far better than whatever it looks like in 2040. It happens.



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