Two thoughts

Sometimes, you realise you’re halfway through a point that you think will make an interesting blog post, only to realise that you’ve reached the end of your point and only written about half a piece. Fortunately, two of these half-baked ideas – however unrelated they may be – can be thrown together, allowing one to pretend that a full piece has been constructed.

-1-

The regular criticism of the Selfie Generation has always appeared unjustified in some way. For one thing, it’s difficult to understand the perceived difference on the Scale of Narcissism between extending your arm so as to take a photo of yourself in front of a location and doing what we old-timers have done for years in handing our camera to a stranger so that they could take our picture instead. When taking photos in public, it seems that selfies should be seen less as the iconography of a self-obsessed generation and instead be seen as a sign that the youth of today aren’t as trusting as their predecessors in allowing strangers to handle their electronic equipment.

At times, some of the world’s selfie takers have been publically called into line via sites such as the Tumblr “Selfies at Serious Places” for taking photos of themselves deemed inappropriate, and such shaming has been picked up by more reputable media outlets such as the Fairfax press in Australia.

Indeed, dodgy selfies in which people deemed to be morons take seemingly happy, commemorative snaps of themselves at their grandmother’s funeral, or at Aushwitz, or in front of a guy about to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge appear bound for a place in the Internet’s public-shaming hall of fame. The most bizarre and insensitive recent example was just this past week during what is now known as the Sydney Siege.

What’s most interesting about this from a sports history perspective is the landmark in front of which the most selfies are taken according to a recent study of 6.3 million social media messages from Twitter, Facebook and Instragram. For defeating the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, London Eye and Times Square for the most-popular landmark in front of which to take a selfie is the Colosseum.

It must be asked why is this, one of the world’s biggest graveyards where it is claimed that over half a million people died, not only seen as an appropriate place to take your own photo, but the most popular place in which to do so? This is the place where some men allegedly committed suicide rather than being forced to fight to the death against wild animals; where screaming audiences literally called for the heads of slaves; where on one day, 5,000 men were killed purely for the entertainment of others.

Beautiful old ruins, though – they look great in the background of a selfie.

-2-

When Major League Baseball opened its past season in Sydney in March, the American commentators spoke about Sir Don Bradman. They compared Bradman to his baseball contemporary Babe Ruth, but struggled to comprehend just how much more dominant Bradman was on the cricket pitch than Ruth was on the baseball diamond.

While writing a piece for US sports-fans in Sports Illustrated, Aussie journo Richard Hinds introduced Americans to Bradman by saying: “imagine Babe Ruth, but with some real game.” And he’s right: implying that Bradman and Ruth are comparable is relatively ludicrous – Graham Pollock’s batting average of 60.97 is as close as anyone in history has come to Bradman’s 99.94. While the baseball-world has a different range of batting statistics, a player would need 0.601 batting average to have a Bradman-equivalent in their sport – Ruth currently lies tied for ninth all time with .342.

All of which begs the question as to why North Americans attempting to comprehend the most-likely-never-to-be-surpassed record of Bradman don’t turn to their own equivalent from a different sport: ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky.

Australian sports fans scoff at those from other lands – especially arrogant Americans – suggesting that a sportsperson has ever been as dominant as Bradman. However, taking a broad look at the record of The Great One, the man who was named Canada’s greatest athlete of the 20th Century, it’s hard to argue against him being regarded as a North American equivalent to The Don.

Ice hockey players amass points through scoring goals and assists – an assist being recorded when a player makes one of the final two passes before a goal is scored. Gretzky holds the records for most goals (894), assists (1,963) and points (2,857) in NHL history. To provide some context, Mark Messier has scored the second most points in league history with 1,887. Yep, Gretzky had more assists during his career than anyone else had assists and goals combined. There are only 13 players who scored 1,500 points in their career and 12 of those scored between 1,500 and 1,887 points. Gretzky scored 2,857. He tallied 33% more points than the second-best scorer in history. In fact, if you add the 2nd highest scorer and the 85th highest scorer in NHL history together, they still wouldn’t have scored as many points as Gretzky.

Another sportsman as far ahead of his competition as The Don? He’s pretty darn close.

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