From The Inbox

Judge an athlete by his play against peers

Any discussion of a sport’s GOAT must be evaluated based on relative dominance within his era

Different times, different equipment, etc., make comparing athletes and teams from different eras an unfair, if not impossible, exercise (“From the Morning Read inbox,” Jan. 24).

How does one compare 1940s-era center George Mikan to the 1990s’ Shaquille O’Neal? Or the 1920s’ Bobby Jones to 2010s’ Brooks Koepka? Of course, today’s athletes are bigger, faster, and stronger than their predecessors, but is it fair to say they are “better”?

Players must be examined by their performance relative to their peers. How did they perform and dominate versus their contemporaries? By that standard, two athletes jump immediately to mind: Babe Ruth and Wilt Chamberlain.

In 1921, Babe Ruth hit 59 home runs. That total was more than five American League teams hit that season. Ruth clearly was ahead of his time and era, which gives him a great argument for being the GOAT for Major League Baseball.

When Wilt Chamberlain came along in the 1950s and 1960s, the basketball world never had seen a player of his capabilities. A 7-foot-1-inch, 280-pound center, he also was a track high jumper who could clear 7 feet. No one could guard him in basketball. He scored 100 points in an NBA game. He averaged 50 points and 25 rebound per game for an entire season. He was so dominant that several rules were changed in an attempt to limit his dominance (lane rules, goal tending). He was way ahead of his time. Looking at his size and athleticism, Chamberlain easily could be envisioned playing in today’s NBA game, even though he came along 60 years ago. So, there is a very good argument to be made for Chamberlain as the NBA’s GOAT.

Lew Alcindor also comes to mind as someone who was so dominant in his era that rules had to be changed to limit his dominance. Because of Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the dunk was outlawed in college basketball for a time.

I’m not recalling players from recent years who either were so far ahead of his or her contemporaries or that the rules of their sport had to be changed to limit them. In my view, this is the fairest way to compare athletes from different eras.

Jon Lucas
Little Rock, Ark.

Only number that matters in Jack vs. Tiger: 18
The list of comparisons between Jack and Tiger (only one name needed in this discussion) is vast and heady (“Happy 80th, Jack … you’re still better than Tiger,” Jan. 21).

Jack has won the most majors; yeah, but Tiger has won the most tournaments.

Jack’s Ryder Cup record is far superior; yeah, but Tiger won three U.S. Amateurs to Jack’s two, and three U.S. Juniors.

Jack was more beloved; yeah, but Tiger was more dominant.

We can go on and go with the back and forth, but it all boils down to one number: 18.

Until Tiger ties and or leaps that number, Jack is the GOAT.

One thing that we all can agree upon: there are no other names in the discussion, with all due respect to Arnie, Sam, Ben, Byron and Bobby.

Frank Blauch
Lebanon, Pa.

Don’t be blinded by barriers to golf business success
Profitable (and fun) golf is where an 18-hole round can be played in 4½ hours or less. Anything longer and the course is either poorly laid out, contains blind shots or is poorly managed (“Bottom line: Golf must be profitable to survive,” Jan. 24).

At the courses with blind shots over a hill, foursomes wait extra time to avoid hitting into the foursome ahead of them. The design often adds much more time than required.

Poor course management includes not having "ambassadors" driving around the course, ensuring that all golfers keep pace with groups ahead of them. Golf courses with lax management apparently fear upsetting and losing a foursome, but what they do not see is the fact that other foursomes grow frustrated and will not come back. It’s the fear of losing one foursome versus 18-plus foursomes.

The percentage of utilized starting times is one measure for a golf course, but a course also should measure the time per round that its patrons must endure. This metric might be a leading indicator as to why utilized starting times are going down.

Bill Martin
Quitman, Texas

A loss felt by all
The slow closing of great old golf courses is a loss to all golfers who appreciate the character of the game (“Old bones being put to rest,” Where To Golf Next, Jan. 21).

Perhaps more articles similar to Dan O’Neill’s covering this sad trend will help wake up the golfing public, and the courses can be saved.

Mitchell Sklare
Chicago

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