Thursday, April 20, 2017

No Statute of Limitations for Sports Achievements

On June 23, 1934, Ed Thorp died from the effects of a stroke. He was a sporting goods dealer, a friend of some of the early NFL team owners, and a football referee. The NFL subsequently commissioned a championship trophy, and named it for him: The Ed Thorp Memorial Trophy. That's it in the photo, the 1939 edition, awarded to the Green Bay Packers.

It was last given to the Minnesota Vikings, after they won the 1969 NFL Championship, but lost Super Bowl IV. Vince Lombardi died on September 3, 1970, at the dawn of the season that marked the completion of the merger of the NFL and the AFL, and the Super Bowl trophy, now emblematic of the new, expanded NFL's championship, was named for him.

You probably haven't heard of Ed Thorp or his trophy. The passage of time will do that.

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Serious question. How far back does an achievement such as a Stanley Cup win have to be before it becomes devalued?

To use examples: The New York Islanders haven't won the Cup in over 30 years; Montreal Canadiens fans still talk about the great 1970s team that's now 40 years ago, but haven't won it in 24 years; the Toronto Maple Leafs haven't won the Cup, or even appeared in the Finals, since 50 years ago.

Do you lose the right to brag about an achievement if it happened before you were born, or before you can remember it? Is 50 years too many? Is it when there are no surviving players from the team that wins it? Or does it still matter if we have surviving footage from it to watch?

The reason I bring it up is that, being a Yankee Fan, I frequently bring up the 27 titles, and people say, "How many of those were you alive for?" Suggesting that they don't count if it was before. The answer is 7, which is still more than nearly every other team has in their entire history.

I hear Dallas Cowboy fans (and, presumably, we'll soon hear it from New England Patriot fans) say that NFL Championships won before the Super Bowl era "don't count."

The same thing happens in English "football," when Manchester United fans (who make Yankee and Cowboy fans sound humble and well-adjusted by comparison) say that anything before the Premier League era (beginning 1992, conveniently when they started winning like crazy and Liverpool stopped) doesn't count -- except when they tell us the greatest player ever was late '60s, early '70s legend George Best, a.k.a. the Mickey Mantle of soccer (great talent, drank too much, screw too much, wore Number 7, although Mickey had better hair).

On hockey pages, I hear Chicago, L.A. and Detroit fans dismiss all those old-time Montreal and Toronto Stanley Cups. At the same time, I hear Ranger fans say Devils fans like me are jealous of their history. But when I tell them, "77 years, 1 Cup," they tell me "4 Cups." As if trophies won before their grandpas were born matters as much as Cups won in 1995, 2000 and 2003.

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Here's some reactions I got from a baseball-themed Facebook page:

"Why would it ever be devalued? If you're proud of it, don't ever stop talking about. History was made for a reason."

"Wow. You win a World Series you can talk about it forever. So hard to do. Luck, health, talent and team chemistry from spring training on. Tough to keep. I was on three championship teams in minor leagues with the Mets and I still brag about it. Can you imagine winning World Series. Forever bragging rights."

"Life is too short. Scream about every win from the mountaintops."

"I wasn't around in 1920 and 48 but I brag about it. Those are wins Cleveland can hang its had on."

"No, 50 years is not too many. As an Orioles fan of over 60 years, I still very clearly remember the sweep of the Dodgers - with three shutouts - in the '66 WS ... and get excited every time I talk (brag) about it."

"the Big Red Machine .... yeah we get to chirp about those guys when all time great conversations happen."

"The 1963 Dodgers sweep is still magic to me. I was the only Dodgers fan among my NYC Yankee and Sf Giants friends. How sweep it was. And is."

"As long as you're not a jerk about it. If a Cubs fan celebrates their victory, don't say 'well, the Yankees have 85 more titles than you.' That's the only no-no. In my honest opinion."

(Ohio State) "As an OSU FOOTBALL fan I hear the same logic from Michigan fans. Tons of NC's in the leather helmet era but the bucks rule in the post 1940s era... plus the Wolverines just suck"

"1955 is still my favorite year !!!!"

(A Reds fan, when I answered his question of how I became a Yankee Fan) "Dude your grandpa watched them build Yankee Stadium.... That's a 'mic drop'. You get to claim all of it.... except 1961 and 1939. I don't wanna hear that shit!!"

"I will never lose the right to brag about the '68 Tigers... So the answer is there are no statutes. Want to make noise about the '69 Mets? Do it with gusto! It's up to us to keep our favorite teams in the past relevant."

"No such 'USE BY' date in Baseball.  It isn't broccoli."

"As a Phillies fan the 80 World Series win will always be special , the last weekend series in Montreal, the 5 gut wrenching games against Houston in the NLCS , and the come from behind wins against Kansas City . I value that championship more the 2008 , but I think you should have to have been alive and old enough to remember in order for it to have true meaning and bragging value ."

"I still think about the 1967 red Sox. One of the 1st years this old Boston fan remembers from happy kid time....Never gets old."

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Here's some reaction from a hockey-themed Facebook page, perhaps closer to the point I was making:

"I feel after about 25-30 years it's kinda devalued"

"It's all about pre expansion and post expansion. The original 6 Stanley cup wins pre expansion really aren't a huge deal given the size of the league."

"I think you have to value any Stanley Cup. But if the last time you won one was prior to color TV you might need to back it down a notch when talking shit!"

"Respect! If someone keeps talking about there teams past while they done nothing in years I guess that's what devalues the history. Hello stinkn Habs fans."

"Whoever won that Cup years ago they did it leaving it all on the ice. It just isn't right taking that away from the players."

"Compare contrast the now the future the past it don't matter Hockey is hockey everything else is just stuff The good ol hockey game it is LIFE"

"You can never devalue history. Montréal, Edmonton, Detroit are pretty much the best teams ever but are they the best teams today? No they are not, those teams would have to be Chicago, Pittsburg as of late. I'm a Habs fan and will tell anyone that my team is the best team ever but ask me if my team is the best team right now. Huge difference"

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I didn't get nearly as many responses on a football page, which, with the transition from "1965 NFL Championship Game" to "Super Bowl I," has the most obvious demarcation line:

"It's absurd, they all count. Are we going to dismiss all World Series won before 1967 too? Ridiculous."


One notable dissenter: "As far as I'm concerned, if your championship wasn't last season, it's irrelevant."

But the same guy said, "That being said, the Eagles 1st 2 championships are the only back to back chaps won by shutout, and he 3rd handed Lombardi's Packers their only playoff loss. That's impressive."

I didn't get any responses from an NBA page on which I posted the question.

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