I’ll always love sports and struggle to connect with people who don’t.

Sports are the original reality television. They’re an invaluable learning tool, one that has given millions of children with mundane or even rotten childhoods the skills to lead prosperous adult lives. They unite us when everything else conspires to divide us.

Love, love, love sports. Respect the heck out of the people with the talent and courage to play them for my entertainment. Absolutely despise what has happened to the way we talk about them.

Yup, I’m completely done with athletic analysis, which is admittedly a tough spot for a sports editor and columnist to be hemmed. But I’m gleefully abstinent from sports talk radio and blissfully divorced from the talking head overload and out-of-context statistical comparisons that 24-hour sports TV has become.

Current fan goals: Watch and appreciate live games. Walk away. Spend quality time with family and friends or enjoying the great outdoors. Repeat.

On the surface that strategy probably saps some of the fun from social media, but it’s actually an enhancer. I save my likes and re-tweets for observations that are especially astute or deserving.

This past week was the final straw. Surely the NBA has enjoyed more prominent space on my radar screen at other chapters in my life. With both the finals and ESPN’s ballyhooed “30 for 30” about the Celtics-Lakers 1980s rivalry on the docket, however, I added to the audience.

By extension, I spent time watching and listening to others in that gallery, and all I saw or heard was them arguing. Constantly. Bitterly. Sarcastically. While committing every logical fallacy in the books.

Why is everyone so obsessed with delivering an up-to-the-minute discourse about who is or isn’t the greatest of all-time in every endeavor and category? It’s a pointless, protracted and unwinnable argument.

Marty McFly and Doc Brown aren’t walking through that door, guys. They aren’t rolling into town with enough plutonium to send LeBron James back to 1996 for a game of HORSE against an at-his-peak Michael Jordan. There’s zero chance that the flux capacitor can give the Golden State Warriors and their Big Three a soiree with the ’85-86 Green and its corresponding trio.

Neither side of the equation would know what hit them, OK? Human evolution being inescapable reality, neither Michael nor Magic nor Larry could hang with LeBron’s combination of size, strength and athleticism. Likewise, the Cavaliers’ much-maligned star would have no answer for the symphony of flying forearms and wayward elbows he would receive after taking his talents to the previous century.

Both sides of the wall have advantages that make it an inexact, impossible comparison. So please stop trying.

Stop telling me that LeBron is 3-8 in NBA finals, because I’m smart enough to know he’s a better player than Robert Horry.

Quit listing the numbers from his triple-doubles without adding a “W” or “L” at the end, because the letter is the bottom line.

Cease justifying the modern trend of star players forming dream teams by saying the Celtics, Lakers and Bulls started the trend, because building through the draft or by ripping off your competition via trade are vastly different (and preferable) ways to construct a dynasty.

Context matters, and yet conversely it doesn’t mean a thing. Neither LeBron James nor the Golden State Warriors needs to cross an imaginary line to achieve the same level of immortality as their predecessors.

If you can’t acknowledge their stand-alone greatness without attaching a bunch of yeah-buts and what-ifs, you’re really not so much a sports fan as someone who loves to argue and wants the last word.

God bless the people who have figured out that greatness is a horizontal spectrum, not a vertical ladder. It’s measured by how you perform against your peers. Here and now. Period. That’s the only test. It’s the only test time and space allow.

This same unfortunate phenomenon plagues all discussion of the New England Patriots’ decades of dominance. Too many fans have wasted time they should have spent enjoying the rare air atop the mountain by participating in foolish comparisons of Tom Brady with Joe Montana, Otto Graham, Peyton Manning, etc., or the Patriots’ reign to Steelers, 49ers or Cowboys teams of the past.

It’s all a hodgepodge of numbers and conjecture. Every decade in sports is a historical vacuum. Rules change. Fitness standards change. Distractions and a million other factors change.

I don’t care how the skill set of LeBron James or Tom Brady translates to 1984. I don’t care how physically outmatched Larry Bird or Joe Montana might be in 2017.

That’s because I was crazy enough to enjoy watching each of them in the era to which fate assigned them. My relationship with sports is assuredly stronger and better for it.

Kalle Oakes was a 27-year veteran of the Sun Journal sports staff. He is currently sports editor at the Georgetown (Kentucky) News-Graphic. His email is [email protected]

Los Angeles Lakers’ Earvin “Magic” Johnson scrambles for the ball on the floor of The Forum while surrounded by several Boston Celics during the NBA Finals, in, Inglewood, California, on June 2, 1987.
AP

Los Angeles Lakers’ Earvin “Magic” Johnson scrambles for the ball on the floor of The Forum while surrounded by several Boston Celics during the NBA Finals, in, Inglewood, California, on June 2, 1987.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: