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Archive for January 2nd, 2007

Sports fans are stupid.

I hate to say that, being a sports fan myself, but it’s true.  We’re dumb as rocks.

Just check this article.

There’s a vote counter on that page which allows one to cast their vote for the “most unbreakable record of all time” out of the ten that they’ve highlighted.

Of the ten, five are relics of eras that are unlikely to return, generally because of rule changes.  These records are, then, by definition, highly unlikely to be broken.  Way to go sports fans for getting these five at least into the top six.

Unfortunately, the number two vote getter (with 25%!!) is Cal Ripken’s consecutive games streak – a record that requires only health and desire.  A record that is so bland and lifeless that we never even bother to mention that a player from Japan is actually the one whose record Ripken broke.  (He doesn’t even get mentioned in this article; his name is Sachio Kinugasa – 2216 consecutive games – by the way.)

There is absolutely nothing “unbreakable” about Ripken’s streak in the modern era.  It’s unlikely, but it’s certainly more likely to be broken than Wayne Gretzky’s 215 point season (only Gretzky ever crossed 200 points in a season; he did it four times), or Ty Cobb’s .366 career average (only two players in the last thirty years have finished within 40 points of this record).

Granted, nothing says scoring records are impenetrable.  Look what happened to 60 homeruns in the past ten years…  But it’s going to take a player of monstrous skills to topple these records.  Ripken’s record requires only enough skill to keep one in the major leagues.  That’s not a knock on Ripken, just on the frivolous nature of the record.  If it hadn’t been for Gehrig’s tear-jerker of a story, we probably wouldn’t even care about 2,000 consecutive games.

Perhaps the most stunning thing about this vote is that the fans apparently think that Cy Young’s 511 wins (a record that is the very definition of impossible to break, thanks to changes in the game) is only one percent more unbreakable than Ripken’s streak…

(Even Roger Clemens, the rootinest tootinest pitcher of the last few generations, is a mere 170 victories short of Young’s record.)

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Of course, the real problem here is the intermixing of impossibility with improbability.

Under no circumstances should Cy Young’s record even be on that list.  It is an impossible relic of another era.  If it is allowed to be there, then there are some far more unbreakable records than what is actually listed.

There’s a reason why we separate baseball records into pre and post 1900.  Just because Cy Young retired in 1911, does not mean he holds a post-1900 record in anything other than a literal sense.  He won 267 games before 1900.  He won over thirty games in a season 5 times.  Such a thing is impossible now.

The problem with sports statistics is that they are not really able to be compared from era to era.  If a modern player breaks a record, it actually says nothing about which of the two players was better.  It’s simply a new number.  But our need for the records to be challenged and broken leads to distinctions like ‘pre-1900’ baseball records.  Things like this keep the record books available as a topic for discussion, pushing impossible records to the side.

Unfortunately, we still have writers like this who don’t know where those lines are.

I could accept everything else in this article.  The inclusion of Cy Young is what makes me want to pick it apart.

And the fact that fans can’t pick up on the error, and instead consider Cy Young and Cal Ripken to be comparable is what makes me believe that sports fans are, in fact, rock stupid.

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