Why watch classic games?

The Coronavirus has seemingly halted every aspect of life and, with that, sports has all but come to an end for the near future. Or has it? While this is certainly true of current live sports, the vast treasure trove of classic/past sports has filled that hole in our heart. While it may seem, at first, quite boring to watch a game where the outcome is no in doubt — no stakes — there is, in fact, so much to gain from watching games of the past.

The fact of the matter is, that in every major sports league, the game you see in front of your eyes today is vastly different from the game you would see as recently as just a decade ago. Looking at basketball specifically, the rise of the three-point shot, and the death of the mid-range jumper have fundamentally changed how the game is played. The resulting playstyle is one the NBA has never truly seen before, meaning that younger fans might not even be aware of how professional basketball used to be played.

image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/93893852@N08/8645746456

When it comes to football, the unadulterated raw physicality of the past, is something you can only understand firsthand. The unmatched power of the hits that were allowed in the past of the NFL is truly something to see. Likewise, the absolute dominance of running backs like Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, and Jim Brown, is something the QB-driven NFL of the present has moved away from greatly.

On an overarching note for all major sports leagues, the greater globalization of the world has led to an unparalleled rise in international players coming to the US and achieving true dominance and this is something that American-based sports leagues of the past just did not have, so watching a much more U.S.-centric time in sports can be a very unique and interesting experience.

Classic games can also shape our understanding of the true peak of physical performance. When it comes to GOAT discussions, it can be easy to get tangled up in the recency bias, where you are weighing the current greats accomplishments significantly more than that of the past’s greats, because those are the accomplishments you experienced first-hand. To truly lay your claim on Jordan vs Lebron, Brady vs Manning vs Montana, or any of the other GOAT debates, the only way to back it up is to watch the tape and see these athletes at their peaks and in action. While you can gain great insight into these debates through statistical analysis, I think it’s more than safe to say that it’s hard, if not truly impossible, to weigh the all-time greats of a given sport if you have never watched said athletes at their best.

And when it comes to iconic moments like Michael Jordan in game 6 of the ‘98 finals, the Giants defeating the 16-0 Patriots against all the odds in the 2007 Superbowl and Gretzky breaking the record for all-time goals scored, moments like these can only be appreciated with your own eye. Words and stats just cannot do these miracle-esque events justice. This is truly where the games of the past can give much greater insight and knowledge into the sports that are so near and dear to our hearts.

21st-century analytics has changed every sport. The farther back you go in your classic sports game binge, the greater you will realize just how deeply analytics impacted everything. Historically, teams were built much more on instinct and the obvious tangible qualities (size, points per game, athleticism, etc). Now, statistical analysis has taken over and the role it has played in shaping the very nature of the way modern sports are played cannot be understated and that’s why seeing classic games before the drastic takeover of big data can show a much simpler more novel time when teams were formed through gut instinct and something about that to me is special.

So, in these truly boring and lonely times, while you are locked away from the rest of the world, classic sports can help you relive the glory days of your favorite team, or to witness the greats battle it out. You can learn so much more than you would ever think from them. Personally, I’m gonna go watch some 90’s Bulls so I can relive the glory days I wasn’t around to see. Stay safe and try not to lose your minds in these trying times.  

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