Nostalgia in sports is a two way street


Justin Thompson


Last night I sat down to watch a basketball game with my dad. The Toronto Raptors were playing against the Miami Heat, and soon the topic of discussion turned to the viability of Canadian professional sports teams. Aside from pro hockey, Canada boasts few teams in the American-dominated world of pro sports. For example the Montreal Expos thrived for decades in their northern nook before moving down to our nation’s capital and changing their names to the Washington Nationals. This move occurred in 2004, so for the last 12 years the Expos have been a footnote in baseball history. My dad was flabbergasted when I told him this. “What! The Expos are gone! Since when!” Any young sports fan has probably encountered a situation similar to this. Older fans fail to appreciate the value of, and often completely ignore, modern sports. While younger fans refuse to acknowledge the talent of yesteryear. Just as any 12 year old baseball fan should appreciate the incredible hitting of Ty Cobb and Ted Williams. 80 year old fans should appreciate the value of today’s players like Bryce Harper and Clayton Kershaw. This is a disturbing disconnect where the present and the past are, unfortunately, working independently from one another.

One sport where this disconnect is most evident is in boxing. Your father will probably tell you that Muhammad Ali was a much better boxer than Floyd Mayweather. His father will tell you that Joe Louis was better than Muhammad Ali. And his dad will discount both fighters and tell you that bareknuckle boxing was the heyday of the sport, and that John L. Sullivan is truly the greatest fighter to ever live. The thing is, all of these opinions are valid. Sports are still sports no matter when the games are being played, and different demographics need to realize that there is a common link that bonds sport fans of all generations. A competitive spirit and a love for the game.

This is hardly anything new, as the bright lights of social media shorten our modern memories, the mythical figures of the past fade further and further from our collective memories. The issue of violent plays at the plate is at the forefront of today’s baseball conversations, but Ty Cobb was known to spike opposing players with his cleats way back in 1908. Before Yasiel Puig was unloading his cannon arm on unsuspecting base runners, Carl Yasztrzemski was doing the same for Boston in the 1960’s. And while pundits gush over J.J Watt’s pass rushing ability, the sports world watched in awe as Lawrence Taylor did the same to opposing offenses in the 1980’s. Young fans could learn a thing or two by brushing up on the history of these players and hundreds of others who laid the groundwork for the games that they love today.

But young fans aren’t exclusively to blame. History is being made every day in the world of sports and many old-timers refuse to acknowledge it. This year Stephen Curry made 402 3-pointers. Not only was he the first player to surpass 400 made 3’s in a season, no one had even hit 300 3’s in a single year. The old record had been 286 made 3’s set by, well, Stephen Curry. Today’s hardwood heroes are reshaping the game itself, and many older fans don’t seem to care.

If there’s one thing to learn from The Sandlot, it’s that “heroes get remembered, but legends never die.”  The landscape of the sports world might change drastically from year to year, but the players and personalities that define it should never be forgotten. So, maybe next time your dad starts on a rant about Sandy Koufax and his exceptional fastball, don’t ignore him, cause you just might learn something.