Sports achievements that aren't a big deal anymore

Inspired mostly by the recently-run Belmont Stakes and the current state of the PGA Tour.

There are many victories in sports that have always served as benchmarks for greatness and still do today, like the Super Bowl, the World Series of Poker, and the World Cup. However, there are also numerous achievements that, due to changing circumstances, changes in the nature of the game, fading viewer interest, etc. are no longer awe-inspiring, if not ignored completely.

The most obvious example I can think of is winning two legs of the Triple Crown. 20 years ago, winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in dominating fashion and then finishing dead last in the Belmont Stakes would’ve been a shocker. Debates would be raging for days, MAYBE weeks. In 2008? Barely anyone even blinked once the Preakness results came in, and I don’t even remembery any another-year-without-a-Triple-Crown laments. A little speculation as to how this happened, a little news about an upcoming race, and that’s it. SO many horses have won two…what is this, the 12th?..that it’s practically expected now, and not winning the third isn’t even a disappointment. It’s like the sun rising in the East; the natural order of things.

The next obvious example is winning one major. There was a time when major #1 was a headline-making achievement, and not so long ago when the “Best To Never Win a Major” albatross weighed several tons. And then Greg Norman got robbed in the 11th hour too many times to count, and we know far more about him than any of the fluke champs. And then the big turning point at Carnoustie. We’ve analyzed and critiqued Jean Van De Velde up and down…what about the guy who won (and in record-breaking fashion), Paul Lawrie? A complete nonentity now. And look at everyone who’s won a single major since then. David Duval. Angel Cabrera. Trevor Immelmann. This “Perks” I vaguely remember. Remember when the commentators said in all seriousness that Duval was finally living up to his potential. Heh. (And it’s going to get a lot worse after Tiger retires…three majors may not be enough to get the time of day.)

Major league baseball home run records should be somewhere around here, but I don’t know any specific examples offhand (whatever the circumstances, the all-time record is a HUGE deal). Maybe “two home runs in the same inning”…I remember Rick Reilly being bewildered as to how that wasn’t front-page news.

What else?

Well, as a quick addition to the OP, the baseball example that fits is hitting 500 career home runs. Once, this practically guaranteed your entrance into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, now, players with over 500 HRs aren’t even “border line” hall of famers.

The achievement has lost a lot of luster, and in this case, it doesn’t really owe that to a fading popularity in the sport itself.

Who can name the fastest man in the world, or the heavyweight champion of the world? The same thing has happened with the Olympics. People seem disillusioned with athletics in general for a number of reasons.

500 home runs? Hell, when I was a youn’un, 300 home runs was enough to get into the Hall of Fame.

I think NFL passing records are fast becoming old news. There are many more pass-oriented offenses than even 30 years ago. Given a young quarterback with good health and a reasonable pass protection, the odds are good he’ll flirt with some game, season, team or career passing record at some point.

Except for Jim Thome and Palmeiro ,who are certainly borderline,everyone else on the list is already in or would be a “lock” if not for steroid allegations.

My thoughts on the OP would be 1000 yard rushers or receivers for a season.

Just how old are you? :slight_smile:

Now, if you want to narrow the field, and win a bar bet, ask someone to name all the players who’ve hit 500 or more home runs, and hit every single one of them with just one team. It’s a very short list, because there’s only four guys on it:

Mike Schmidt (548 with the Phillies) Mickey Mantle (536 with the Yankees) Ted Williams (521 with the Red Sox) and Mel Ott (512 with the Giants.)

The other accomplishment people don’t seem to get all worked up about in baseball is the “30/30 Club,” hitting 30 homers and stealing 30 bases. In 1988, when Jose Canseco started the 40/40 club, people just about spunked their bunks. Nobody talks about it anymore in large part because it’s kind of stupid.

But, really, brickbacon won the thread. It used to be that the Heavyweight Champion of the World was the worst’s PREMIER athlete. Ali, Foreman, Louis, Marciano. Guys who only held it a little while, like Ingemar Johansson or Jim Braddock, remain legends. To be the world heavyweight champion was to be at the pinnacle of individual sporting excellence; it was the first really gigantic nternational sport of note, at the professional level. It was rude to refer to such a person as anything other than “Champ.” They were wined and dined as kings. My parents spoke of Ali, Frazier, Norton and Foreman as people today speak of Jordan and Gretzky. My grandfather was convinced Joe Louis was the greatest athlete who ever lived.

Today I don’t know any boxing fans - not even my Dad, who used to love boxing. The position of heavyweight champion isn’t a particularly amazing one because, frankly, it’s difficult to discern just who the hell it is. Right now there are, by my count, FOUR heavyweight champions. The last time there was any clear champion was a brief few months in 2000 with Lennox Lewis held four of the five titles; prior to that you have to go all the way back to Evander Holyfield’s first run, who inherited the title from Buster Douglas, who of course knocked out Mike Tyson.

In fact, that’s the point at which it all went to shit. The Douglas-Tyson fight was a huge, huge news item; it was a stunning upset, a masterful performance by a guy everyone figured was going to get his ass kicked. Douglas was then beaten up by Holyfield, who seemed a worthy champion, but after that it gets confusing, and suddenly there’s like 5 boxing federations and eighty-seven guys who held a belt at one point or another in a span of ten years.

There are 5 on the list, and the 5th is also in the Hall of Fame.

Heck, at this point, 600 homers is almost as meaningless. Ken Griffey, Jr. just hit his 600th and there was almost no news about it whatsoever. Was there even an SDMB thread or anything?

500 home runs isn’t quite meaningless today, but it means a lot less than it used to. But what about 50 home runs in a season? This used to be a big deal.

By my count and Wikipedia’s, until 1994, there were 18 50-home run seasons. (The first was Ruth in 1920, of course.) So that’s about once every four years. Since 1995, it’s been done 23 times, including 10 from 1997 to 2000.

Of course, I forgot Ernie Banks. My bad.

I suspect 600 will remain a big deal. Griffey’s accomplishment sort of hit a vortex of news-sucking factors:

  1. It came at the same time as some other accomplishments, and
  2. Griffey sort of crawled his way there.

Griffey is a funny case in that he was King of Baseball for a few years there, the young handsome guy who made the big leagues at 19 and was blasting homers and helped turn around a terrible franchise. Then he went to Cincinnati and spent all his time getting hurt. He has not driven in 100 runs in a season since 2000. Half the time I hear his name I’m mildly surprised he hasn’t retired, or that he’s not on the DL. He’s just sort of there. It’s been years and years since he was relevant. Compare that to Bonds, who was still a premier slugger through all his home run milestones, or Manny Ramirez, who hit #500 this year and is still a feared slugger.

It’s funny; when Seattle gave him up people wailed and gnashed their teeth there. But there are fewer cases in MLB history when giving up a star was a righter move. In one season (Griffey did have a solid first year in Cincinnati) Griffey went from being a perennial MVP candidate to being that guy on the DL, and the team he left behind continued to play well.

The 4 minute mile

I always say Cecil Fielder will be remebered way out of scale with his actual accomplishments, because for people of my generation he was the first one we got to see break 50 while being old enough to really understand, and it had been a decent while.

Rushing for 1000 yards in a season.

Used to be a big deal. Then someone whipped out a calculator and figured out that it’s a pedestrian 62.5 yards per game. Even the Lions manage the occasional 1000-yard rusher.

You do know that Greg Norman two majors, right? On top of that, he was the #1 player in golf for several years. I don’t think it has ever been the case that a single major would elevate you above the mainstays of golf.

David Duval was a hell of a golfer who ended up having some very serious physical ailments after he won his major. Using him as an example is ridiculous. Trevor Immelman just won his first one a couple months ago. Ben Curtis would be a better example.

I’m just imagining the looks on my kids faces when I tell them that Seattle once had a lineup featuring Junior and A-Rod with the Big Unit as the #1 pitcher and still couldn’t make the playoffs ('96 I think).

4,000 yards passing by an NFL quarterback. Used to be the kind of number that the best passers surpassed once in a career, or twice at most. It was a big deal when Favre did it twice in a row.

Peyton Manning has done it eight times in a ten-year career - and one of the two seasons he missed it was his rookie year. Trent Green was a lock to break 4,000 pretty much every year when he was with the Chiefs (and healthy).

Now, only Marino has broken the 5k mark - but I don’t doubt that somebody else will in the next five years.

Running a sub 4 minute mile. It’s pretty pedestrian (ha!) these days. The record for the 2 mile is 7:58.

For many years after Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first accomplished it in 1953, “Climbing Mt. Everest” was a phrase synonymous with achieving a gargantuan, heroic, nearly impossible goal.

But now we have guided tours to the summit of Everest, and the roster of climbers include (in just the past 5-10 years) a blind man, a double amputee with prosthetic legs, a guy who set a record by running up Everest in under six hours, and the Dutch “Iceman” Wim Hof who attempted to climb Everest topless and in shorts.

Sure, it’s still dangerous, and people die climbing Everest every year – about one in ten. That same source statistic mentions that 15 people died doing so in 2006, which means 150 undertook it in that year alone, with 135 surviving and/or succeeding.

Ooops. It seems I confused this guy, who climbed Everest and ran up Mt. Kilimanjaro, with the existence of something called the Everest Marathon, and came out with the idea that (a) there was a marathon up Everest and that (b) this guy had done it.

So, at least there’s that. Nobody has yet sprinted up Everest. But I suppose the day is coming.

Because of this, his #600 didn’t generate as much excitement, because everyone who cared was thinking, “that’s nifty but man, he should be at about 750 right now.”