All of history has not occurred since sometime in the mid-1980s. In the world of sports, that realization often gets lost as people focus on whatever happened in the previous 72 hours and try to proclaim that it is the greatest whatever that ever happened. As I mentioned yesterday, the focus yesterday was on LeBron James and the Cavaliers and their comeback from a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals to become the champions. The adulation hopefully reached its peak on ESPN’s Around the Horn yesterday afternoon. All of the participants used every superlative they could think of to describe what LeBron had done in leading his team to this title.
One panelist said that James and his teams are now 4-2 when they play a Game 7 of a playoff series. In the midst of all the ongoing adulation allow me to point out something that has seemingly been forgotten:
The Boston Celtics – led by Bill Russell – faced a Game 7 on 10 different occasions in the NBA Playoffs.
The Boston Celtics – led by Bill Russell – won all 10 of those Game 7s.
Those of you who have been reading these rants for a while know that I am a big fan of Ichiro. I like the way he focuses on the game, the way he plays the game and the results he gets on the field. Last week, he accumulated enough hits in MLB such that if you add his Japan League hits, the total surpasses Pete Rose’s record of 4,256 base hits. I am not going to argue that Ichiro is now the “Hit King” – or as Rose so inelegantly put it demote Rose to the status of “Hit Queen”. The level of competition in the Japan League is not what it is in MLB on a day to day basis.
Nonetheless, what Ichiro has done – and continues to do – is extraordinary. Consider:
Ichiro came to MLB at the age of 27. In his first year in MLB, he got 242 hits in 157 games.
In his 15.5 seasons in MLB, he has collected 2,980 hits and he had 200 or more hits in each of his first 10 MLB seasons. In those first ten seasons, he averaged 224 hits per season.
In 2004, he had 262 hits. That broke the all-time record for hits in a season (257) held previously by George Sisler since 1920.
This season – at age 42 – he is hitting .349 in his first 58 games.
Oh, by the way, he is an outstanding defensive outfielder; and even at age 42, a runner takes a risk challenging his arm.
Just because Ichiro is in the midst of doing something outstanding and we get to see it now does not mean that what Pete Rose did a few decades ago should be – or needs to be – degraded in some way. This is exactly the reason I do not like arguments about “the greatest of all time”. In order to make points in favor of one player or one team as the “greatest of all time” one has to find fault with some other player or team to undermine their claim to “the top spot”.
Pete Rose and Ichiro are both great hitters; there is no need to find reasons to denigrate either one. Michael Jordan and LeBron James are both great players; there is no need to find reasons to denigrate either one. Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem are all great centers; there is no need to denigrate any of them. John Elway, Joe Montana and Tom Brady are all great QBs; there is no need to denigrate any of them – or to try to justify why John Unitas is not on the list I just provided.
Bob Molinaro had this item in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot last week and it demonstrates what I mean about downplaying the achievements of others in order to prop up a claim to greatness:
“Throwing shade: The manner in which Ichiro and Rose moved to the top of the hit list – playing small ball and hitting ’em where they ain’t – recalls what Mickey Mantle said when Rose broke Ty Cobb’s record: ‘If I’d a hit that many singles, I’d a wore a dress.’”
Meanwhile, Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times ran the numbers and arrived at this conclusion last week:
“Entering play Friday, Marlins outfielder Ichiro Suzuki — just 21 hits shy of 3,000 — could go 0 for his next 448 and still be a career .300 hitter.”
Last week, I mentioned that the Detroit Lions will add sideline cheerleaders to their “entertainment experience” starting this season. If I have counted correctly, that means there are only 6 of the 32 NFL teams who do not have cheerleaders.
The Bears, Browns, Giants, Packers and Steelers do not have cheerleaders and never have.
The Bills do not have cheerleaders now but had a cheerleading squad from the time the team came into existence (1960) until 2014. Several former members of the squad sued the Bills claiming they were not paid for time spent on the job. The Bills responded by suspending operations/cutting ties with the cheerleading squad.
Then again, the Bills do have Rex Ryan as their coach and many of his pronouncements about the team and its prospects can be considered cheerleading.
Finally, here is Brad Dickson’s summation of the recently concluded Belmont Stakes in the Omaha World-Herald:
“Heavy favorite Exaggerator finished 11th at the Belmont Stakes. However, he told everyone he was fifth.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………