Sports have evolved over time and will continue to do so
Younger people have always had disdain for an older generation telling them what things were like in their day. “Back in my day” conversations typically end with the older person playing up how much better, or harder, they had things. Meanwhile, the younger person will more than likely roll their eyes or respond sarcastically.
When it comes to sports, we’ve seen things change tremendously over our lifetimes. While I can’t speak for others, I can only go with what I’ve noticed over the course of my life. Being an ‘80s baby, I have seen some unique things change and develop in sports.
In football, we’ve seen things change a lot. NFL and college teams have both gone to a more pass-based system. Teams would line up and pound the rock. Three yards and a cloud of dust used to be the philosophy. A quarterback could lead the league in passing touchdowns if he threw for 24 in a season. Nowadays, we’ve seen quarterbacks go for that amount in eight to ten games. College football has gone from teams using the wishbone triple option, to the spread/Air Raid offenses. Linemen have gone from an average weight of 260-280 lbs to now averaging at least 300 lbs or more.
When I look at baseball, it’s just as crazy, especially when it comes to pitchers. The league leader in wins in 1980: NL Steve Carlton had 24, AL Steve Stone had 25. Stolen base leaders that year had 100 and 97 in each league. Saves leaders in 1980 had 33 and 28. In 2018, saves leaders had 57 and 43. Home run, batting average (save George Brett nearly hitting .400 in 1980), and ERA were all pretty similar. The way pitchers are used now is way different. Starters rarely go deep into games anymore. There are even teams that use bullpen only approach and have guys pitch anywhere between a few batters to a couple innings now.
Basketball has a more varied difference. The 3-point line wasn’t even in play until the 1979-80 season in the NBA. Now, Steph Curry seems to break his own record for 3-pointers made every season and is already fifth on all-time 3s made list. He’s in the midst of his 10th season. All-time leader Ray Allen played 18 seasons. That will put it in perspective for you. Bigs no longer have a post game because they all shoot 3s as well. Even “traditional” bigs like Joel Embiid and Karl-Anthony Towns are respectable shooters from the outside. Long gone are the days of Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing. Not only because they are traditional centers, but because we saw them battle in college for years before they entered the league.
Please don’t take this as a “get off my lawn” post. I don’t want to be the crotchety old man before I turn 40. This is more of an ode to the evolution of sports. I happen to be in a unique position to fondly remember the old school way I grew up loving sports, and in a position to appreciate what they’ve become. Do I miss the bygone era? To a certain extent, yes I do. Am I happy where things are now? Yes, very much so. If you’re going to complain about the way the games are being played now as opposed to how they were in the past, shut up. Things evolve. People evolve. Societies evolve. Besides, nobody’s complaining about driving cars in traffic instead of horse and buggy-ing their way to work every morning.