Life is full of questions. Questions without answers. People devote their entire lives in pursuit of answers to these many questions. They debate and argue over answers that can’t be found. Wars are fought, relationships broken and families torn apart as people seek eluding answers.
Why are we here? Is there a God? What is love? Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
The reality behind so many of these questions is that the answer is subjective. The answer often times is found in a belief that belongs to a single person or a group of people. Mormons, Christians and Buddhists answer religious questions differently, yet all believe their answer is truth.
The world of athletics is no exception to lifelong questions. Arguments and fights can begin and end around sports questions with truly subjective answers.
Who’s the greatest of all time? Is Wooden the greatest coach ever? Are the 1985 Bears the best defense in history?
Debates have raged on for years and years and will continue long after this article is published. Either way debates and arguments in the realm of sports can be intriguing and stimulating.
Intrigue and stimulation after the jump.
Are we living in the greatest sports generation?
Generation – MTV Generation. These are people born between 1978 to 1987. This makes any athlete that played post 1978 eligible. The athlete or team did not have to begin their career in this generation, as long as they were playing post 1978.
Greatest – In this scenario, greatest has two categories. 1. Greatest players. 2. Greatest Teams.
For length purposes only the following major sports are eligible. Baseball, Basketball, Football, Golf, Tennis, and Hockey. There is no soccer, because I don’t like soccer.
Football will be broken down into the following positions, quarterback, running back, and wide receiver. Baseball will have two positions, pitcher and positional.
Being a member of the MTV Generation and loving sports I obviously believe this to be the greatest sports generation of all time. It comes without saying that my evidence will support this generation being the greatest.
Let’s begin with a few statements. I am not a stats guy and this article will not be loaded with stats. Numbers do not define greatness, they do reinforce it and I will use numbers only as reinforcement and nothing more. There may be more than one person or team in a category because there is much debate between the two athletes or teams. Remember, this is not defining the greatest in each sport, rather that collectively this generation is the greatest. As long as the athletes participated in this generation they meet the necessary criteria. That being said, here goes.
Pitcher: Roger Clemens. Nolan Ryan.
Clemens should go down as the greatest to ever pitch. Never has someone been so dominate for so long in a career. He has it all, wins, strike-outs and championships. Clemens has 7 Cy-Youngs and ranks 8th all time in wins and is 2nd in career strike-outs. Of course he ranks second in strike-outs to only Nolan Ryan. In all major categories concerning pitching, both Clemens and Ryan are in the top 10 in more categories than any other pitcher.
Positional: Pete Rose. Alex Rodriguez.
Pete Rose is the all time hits leader. People will always remember him for the gambling controversy but what people should also remember was the effort and integrity with which he played the game. Yes, I said integrity. Winning was important to Pete Rose whether it was a playoff game or the All-Star Game, he wanted to win. If not Pete Rose, then it will be, when his career is over, Alex Rodriguez. Never-mind his post-season woes, by the end of his career he will finish hitting over .300 and will be the all time home run leader.
Team: New York Yankees 1927. New York Yankees 1961.
Yes, I realize that neither of these teams are a part of this generation but wow, they were good baseball teams. The 1927 including Babe Ruth and Lou Gherig. The 1961 with Mantle and Maris went 109-53. Both teams swept the World Series. Baseball like all sports has changed and the chances of ever seeing a truly dominate team from a stand point of wins and losses is highly unlikely.
With Baseball the MTV Generation goes 2 for 3.
Player: Michael Jordan. LeBron James.
How much really needs to be said about Michael Jordan? 6 Finals MVP awards. Once Jordan started winning he never stopped. A small case could be made for LeBron James but only the future will reveal his greatness, either way, the greatest basketball player of all time played in this generation.
Team: Chicago Bulls 1996.
This Jordan led team tore through the NBA regular season amassing the highest win total in league history with 72. Their dominance continued throughout the playoffs. A team that also included All Stars Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman. Even more amazing is the fact that this team did all of that without a dominant post player.
Basketball gets the sweep 2-0.
Quarterback: Peyton Manning. Tom Brady. Brett Farve. Dan Marino
Manning will have the numbers. Farve has in the intangibles. Brady has the rings. Marino has the numbers. The debate will rage on for years upon years about which of these four is the greatest ever. Marino is on the outside because he never won the Super Bowl. The other three are in a tight race. Manning and Brady have the most upside because they have time to break records and win more Super Bowls. Whomever you like of these four, they all played in this generation.
Running Back: Emmitt Smith. Barry Sanders. Walter Payton.
The top 3 in career rushing yards, these 3 were virtually unstoppable in their primes. Smith gets an edge because he has the most career rushing touchdowns but he also played the majority of his career on some great teams. Payton and Sanders were the focal point for many many years on one dimensional teams. A more balanced attack or better quarterback play and they could easily have surpassed Smith. No matter how you slice it, all three of these guys played in this generation.
Wide Receiver: Jerry Rice.
Career leader in receptions, yards, touchdowns, and yards from scrimmage. He has championships, numbers and an unmatched work ethic. No question on this one.
Team: Miami Dolphins 1972. New England Patriots 2007.
Perfection in football is often measured in wins and losses. Since the 1972 Dolphins went undefeated they are the greatest team in football history. The Patriots of this year have the best chance of matching the 1972 Dolphins as any team in the last 20 years. Until someone goes undefeated and wins the Super Bowl the 1972 Dolphins will remain the best team in football.
Football goes 3-1.
Player: Tiger Woods.
By the time his career is over Woods will retire with the most Major Championships. He has single handedly taken golf to another level as a sport and a business.
Player: Annika Sorenstam.
Sorenstam has finished first on the money list 8 times in her career. Sorenstam is well on her way to having all the major records for wins in the LPGA. Want to know what her numbers are and how close she is, look it up. I don’t like women’s golf.
Golf 2 strokes up.
Player: Roger Federer. Pete Sampras. Jimmy Connors.
Sampras is the greatest right now because of his record 14 Grand Slam Titles. Jimmy Connors has to be mentioned because of his astounding 109 open era titles. The best, however, may still be playing. Federer is on pace to catch Sampras in the next few years and will, barring injury, shatter the Grand Slam Titles record. By the time Federer retires he will be the greatest to ever play the game. If not, it comes down to Sampras or Connors and they both played during this generation.
Player: Martina Navratilova. Steffi Graf.
Navratilova holds the record for most open era titles and has 18 Grand Slam Titles. Graf holds the record for most weeks ranked number one in the world and has 22 Grand Slam Titles. This is a toss up, but the edge goes to Graf with more Grand Slam Titles.
Tennis is up 2 – love.
Player: Wayne Gretzky.
Not real sure if I even know another hockey player. Gretzky is the all time leader in goals scored and a Hockey icon.
Team: Edmonton Oilers 1984.
Edmonton set a record for most goals scored in a season with 446. They grabbed 54 wins on their way to the Stanley Cup Title. Gretzky played for the Oilers.
Hockey goes up 2-0.
Crunching numbers puts the MTV Generation up 13-2, batting a softball like .867.
Answers to so many questions are subjective. The last few hours spent typing do not make what I’ve said fact, it is 100% opinion and subject to my personal beliefs. One must at least consider this generation to be the greatest in sports history. Now that we’ve put that debate to rest we can move on to less important questions, like What is love?