Max: I can’t say I watched much of Tuesday night’s MLB All-Star Game, but I was watching when David Ortiz was subbed out and walked off the field to applause and handshakes from everyone on the AL roster.
Watching it, I felt the kind of generational shift I’ve noticed only a handful of times before. It felt like Ortiz officially handed over baseball to the next generation of stars, guys like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado.
So many of the legends I grew up with- Jeter, Peyton Manning, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant- are gone. It’s a strange time in my sports-fan life.
Kelly: Is it weird to say that at the ripe age of 22 I feel old? I became a Yankees fan at 7 years old because of Derek Jeter. I watched him lead the 2000 team to victory as the Captain and anchor of that team. I watched Kobe lead the Lakers to 5, count that 5, NBA titles. I watched Duncan build San Antonio into a place basketball players wanted to be a part of. As a Jets fan, I loved watching the Peyton Manning-Tom Brady battles, because Manning stood as the one guy who could pose a challenge to Brady’s dominance. I rooted so hard for him to win that Super Bowl with the Colts, because I thought no one deserved it more.
Max: At the same time, I’m now entering that point where a few of the best players are my age or just a few years older. I’m a full three months older than Anthony Davis!
I do wonder how this is going to affect the way we view these players in the future. We’re now fully sentient, educated sports fans for this generation. Will that increase our appreciation of what they do and dismiss older generations like Duncan and Jeter’s? Or do we move even sooner than we want into that “get-off-my-lawn, those guys are good, they’d have been scrubs back in my day” trope?
Kelly: Thank goodness he’s still got a few months on me! But as for viewing these athletes, I think we might view them through a bit of a rose colored lens. I overrate Jeter tremendously and to be honest, I probably do the same with Peyton Manning. I think that might hinder how I view some of the younger generations, like Andrew Luck. He might eventually put up better numbers for the Colts than Peyton did, but in my eyes he will never be as good unless he let’s say demolishes them and goes on a five Super Bowl run.
It’s the same thing we see with the guys who were just slightly before our generation, like the Magic Johnsons and Larry Birds of the world. I probably put Kobe and Duncan higher a list because I vividly remember what they did. I have a hard time ranking guys – unless they were the greatest ever ala Michael Jordan – high up unless I’ve seen them.
Max: I tend to agree. I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to use what Manning did as the standard of incredible quarterback play. Bill Russell’s career was maybe more incredible, but I think I’m more likely to use Duncan’s career as a measuring stick going forward.
Kelly: Despite their greatness, I think I still feel a sense of loss. I know people mock the ESPY’s – ESPN’s award show – but they did a really great thing honoring Peyton, Kobe and Abby Wambach of U.S. Women’s Soccer who all retired this past year. I can’t imagine a weekend of NFL football without the glorious “Omaha’s” echoing out. I can’t picture an NBA season without Kobe OR Duncan in it. Heck, I can’t imagine the U.S women’s soccer team competing with their captain Abby out there. Jeter’s retirement has been the last great moment for the Yankees and they’ve fallen off a cliff since then. These legends have left an empty hole in their respective leagues and I’m not sure where we go from here.
Max: I think the hole Kobe leaves will be talked about more, but Duncan leaving is the strangest of this group. The Lakers have a plethora of legends we look back on with awe, but Duncan WAS the Spurs. He built that team and it’s hard to imagine them still playing basketball next season and not having him.
Kelly: I think that’s something we might have to look forward to – who will step up as the new faces of these franchises? Will that be Kawhi Leonard for the Spurs? Can he, another soft-spoken top-NBA talent, become the embodiment of the Spurs culture and continue the greatness Duncan left?
Max: Whatever happens, I’m sure the sports world will discuss it with civility and won’t rush to judgement at all!