Lawrence Dushenski, Contributor
No matter where you are in the world, you can always find someone to talk about sports. Every fan has spent a night in the pub arguing the merits of their favourite players, clubs and countries. We often try to compare modern day athletes to those that have passed us by – even ones that we never actually got to see play. There is a propensity to elevate the proverbial legends of the game to a level that modern day athletes can never reach, regardless of their accomplishments.
There is something romantic about previous generations of athletes. Some say that the game was as pure as when our parents were young, while others say that the games would not be where they are today without the work of legends. Names like Pele and Diego Maradona exist in a space of footballing folklore that is untouchable. Therefore we often overlook the greatness of those currently on the pitch as a result.
An argument can be made that we are in the midst of the greatest generation of athletes of all time, but we often don’t take the time to realize how truly great they are. Serena Williams might be the most dominant athlete of all time, regardless of sport and gender, but stories continue to be written that focus on her relationships and body, rather than her dominance on the tennis court, Cristiano Ronaldo and Messi are dominating football in a way that still leaves people speechless and Novak Djokovic is showing the world that this generation of tennis players are truly the greatest of all time.
But how do you contextualize modern day greatness in a world where greatness is defined by statistics? When referencing the greatest of all time, the first argument is always how many titles and championships they have to their name. Yet before a career is complete we simply do not know how high the total will soar for the current crop of athletes. However this should not dissuade us from appreciating the artistry that is the sight of athletic dominance.
Athletes today are bigger, stronger and faster than ever before. They train from a young age, have strict diets and personal trainers. Their every movement is tracked and each calorie is accounted for. These are many ways which make the modern day greats that much better than those of yesteryear. The greats of days gone by could get by on natural skill and ability while many of their compatriots treated their foray into sport as nothing more than hobby. But every professional and elite amateur athlete today is a well oiled machine operating at the highest levels. Being a truly dominant force such as Serena Williams today is so much more difficult to attain than it was in previous generations.
So next time you hear that Cristiano Ronaldo scored four goals in a match or that LeBron James won another NBA title, rather than rolling your eyes and ignoring it, appreciate the moment. Instead, simply consider the level of personal and professional commitment that is being made by these athletes to achieve and maintain such levels of success. These levels are continually improved to the point that the sporting world has never seen before.
We are lucky that we can watch any match from anywhere in the world at the snap of our fingers. This should help us appreciate sport rather than letting is saturate out consciousness. Make an effort to watch the greats while they are still around, appreciate what they are and how difficult is was for them to reach that level.