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We live in an asterisk sports world...or should

"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles, CEO Sports Network

Whatever accomplishments individuals are making in the world of sports these days, months and years necessitate an asterisk...some sort of notation, symbol or cipher. The playing field is not even remotely similar to that of their predecessors, the ones whose names adorned the record books, plaques, Halls of Fame and media guides...until now.

Barry Bonds can deny it until hell freezes over but working with Charles Atlas after someone kicked sand in his face on the beach did not turn him from a slight of build, but talented, baseball player into someone that bench presses Volkswagens before breakfast. His physical tools are superior to anything Hank Aaron ever saw in the locker room mirror, and the ones that are provided to him, the equipment used to send various baseballs to a more often than not watery grave in San Francisco, is state of the art. Each time his bat extends the record-setting pace he is setting, it is making contact with a baseball intended to travel farther than anything Ruth, Cobb, Gehrig, DiMaggio, Williams and others ever imagined.

Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez has averaged better than 36 homers a season during his 14-year career.
Oh yes, has anyone noticed the longer season(s) and number of games played? Baseball, like other major professional sports, has become a calendar marathon begat by greed of the teams and the hierarchy of the individual sport. Interestingly enough, putting the equipment aside for a moment, others like Ken Griffey Jr., Alex Rodriguez and Frank Thomas seem able to reach the first lofty plateau of 500 home runs without injecting their body with foreign substances that were gleaned from the Incredible Hulk.

On the professional gridiron, where mayhem and the mentality of the Coliseum in Rome runs rampant, there is a kill or be killed approach to what is allegedly a sport. Men suffer injuries that will alter their post-playing days and dismiss the fact that the median age for ex-NFL players going to the big stadium in the sky is 55...sort of like the speed limit. Interesting play on words there. You figure it out.

How do you compete at that level without some "medical support?" Tough, but one should and just hit the weights and exercise facility. Hell, I don't play, so who am I to talk, but what about the records being broken by guys making certain their bones are wearing gear that those who originally set the records never envisioned. Leather helmets?

If the NBA season was to be extended again, it would be year 'round with the playoffs ending just as the new season was about to begin. Consequently, scoring records are being set with a great many more games, three-point baskets, a shot clock to force more frequent attempts and training regimens that never existed decades ago. That is certainly not the fault of any of the athletes, before or after, but the game is not the same as it was and there should be some sort of "cut-off point" where old records are secured and new ones are recorded. The expectancy of improvement, as with anything at all...particularly in sports, is a natural evolutionary process. It cannot be denied nor stopped but that does not alter the fact that some records were recorded under a certain set of conditions and others under a distinctly different set.

(L-to-R) Player, Palmer, Nicklaus
How many more tournaments would they have won if they had the same type of equipment as today's players.
For example, Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Walter Hagen, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and countless other greats from the world of golf never had the equipment to which Tiger Woods has access today nor the computer technology that measures his every movement and creates clubs to suit each one. Nike has a staff of people that do nothing at all except work on his golf clubs. What might these others have accomplished with the same tools at their disposal?

It is inevitable that the level of play improves, the courses get longer and more difficult, balls are made to travel farther, clubs are designed to overcome any situation and someone, like Woods, still has to wield them to achieve the desired result. But, the fact of the matter is that Nicklaus never had that opportunity. Where would the asterisk appear? In all candor, beats the hell out of me. Then why bring it up? Because maybe, at some point, there should be timeline that "X" took place pre-2000 and "Y" after it. You tell me.

The cars that traverse the track at every NASCAR event are certainly not the same as those of decades distant or, frankly, even those of the past few years. Does that lessen the 200 career wins of Richard Petty? Of course not but, as with golf, there ought to be a cut-off point at which speeds went from a high of, say, 150 mph to close to 200mph. The dynamics and technologies put into racing today make what took place as recently as the Nineties seem archaic and out of a factory servicing the Model T.

There's no end to it. Pole vaulters are going higher thanks to fiberglass or carbon fiber poles, something that the ancient Greeks, Cretans and Celts never had. But, moving the arms of the clock to high speed, as in a science fiction movie, neither did the participants of years past (circa WWII) that thought going over a bar 15' high was astounding. The sixteen-foot barrier was broken with a fiberglass pole and then new all-weather runways were introduced, replacing the cinder and dirt or clay runway. This brings us to the present era of the pole vault where new poles are made out of a mixture of carbon and fiberglass and men are going up, up and away at 20' with women focusing on 15' to 16'.

Should the inescapable conclusion of progress, the inexorable improvement in physical prowess, the indisputable and inevitable betterment technologically give rise to a flurry of asterisks all over sports record books? I'm not really certain. I think so. What someone did under a certain set of conditions, the accomplishments within that era and sphere, is admirable and ought not to be passed over by betterment of the record, eclipsing it, through the use of all that was not available to the record- setter of years past.

What now? You gotta be kidding! I am running out of asterisks so you tell me.