Traverse City Record-Eagle


December 10, 2012

Mike Eckert: Another Barry, Bo won’t be seen for a while

This week, documentaries aired on the NFL Network and ESPN highlighting the careers of Barry Sanders and Bo Jackson, respectively.

While it was interesting to see the major accomplishments of both of these players, what stood out to me from both films is how much things have changed.

Some are obvious.

Gone are the days of the two-sport athlete, and I doubt we will ever see it again. While playing multiple sports at the professional level is a rarity, it's becoming less common at even the high school sports as athletes commit to playing one sport, and one sport alone.

And, we constantly hear how the NFL is now a passing league. No kidding. We haven't seen a Barry Sanders come along since, well, Barry Sanders.

Sure, Terrell Davis, Jamal Lewis and Chris Johnson have all rushed for 2,000 yards since Sanders did it in 1997. Adrian Peterson could do it this year. But none had the impact that Sanders had, or sustained it like Sanders did.

When teams are averaging more than 40 pass attempts a game, there simply aren't enough plays in a game anymore to feature a great back like Sanders or Jackson.

But the biggest change, to me after watching both documentaries, is how we view athletes these days.

Barry Sanders and Bo Jackson are remembered as legends. As they should be. Both have a plethora of jaw-dropping moments on their résumé that will stand the test of time.

I doubt we'll do that with today's athletes.

Commentators discussed some of Jackson's biggest highlights. His 90-plus yard touchdown against Seattle on Monday Night Football. His home run in the 1989 All-Star game. The run that ended his football career against Cincinnati in the 1991 playoffs.

These highlights stand the test of time, because they happened on big stages with everyone watching. And, we didn't see them every day.

Today, though, we watch everything. Technology allows us to see it all, react to it and move on.

Last weekend, I had prior commitments and wasn't around a TV for the Lions vs. Colts game. That didn't keep me from paying attention to the game, though. Alerts came through on my phone for every scoring play. And then I could watch replays of all the big plays.

I remember Andrew Luck's touchdown pass to win it for the Colts, but little else from that game. And that was just a week ago.

It's in one ear, out the other.That's why we don't have legends anymore.

Did people back in the day watch every play from Barry Sanders and Bo Jackson? No. It wasn't possible.

But we do now. And that makes it hard to fully appreciate what today's athletes are doing.

Only Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw have won more Super Bowls than Tom Brady. But when I think of Brady's career, the biggest thing to stand out is the year he blew out his knee in the opener and sat out the rest of the season. Not exactly the stuff legends are made of.

I appreciate the legends of Sanders and Jackson. Both were once-in-a-lifetime type of players that we'll still be talking about for generations to come.

I just hope we one day we can look back at today's athletes in the same way.

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