Here we go again: LeBron is to Michael as Rory is to Tiger

Over this past weekend, 22-year old Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy coasted his way to a US Open victory, leading by nearly double-digits for most of the tournament.  He became the youngest player to win a major since Tiger Woods, and set a number of Open records in the process, including most strokes under par (-16).

The comparisons became inevitable.  You could see them coming a tee shot away.

I heard friends say it.  I heard announcers say it.  I read bloggers writing about it.  It wasn’t good enough for Rory to just be Rory.  He had to be Tiger.  Excuse me, but… didn’t we just go through this a few weeks ago with LeBron James and Michael Jordan?  Someone get Scottie Pippen on the phone.

Why do we do this to the athletes we idolize?  Why is it not good enough for LeBron to simply be LeBron?  Not Michael, not Magic.  Just LeBron.  As most of us witnessed this NBA post-season, we still don’t even know who LeBron is anyway, never mind pigeon-holing him into some trite discussion about the greatest ever.  Within a single calendar year, LeBron went from being the next Michael to the game’s most hated player.

McIlroy is undoubtedly one of the PGA Tour’s rising stars but isn’t it possible for us to find another way to discuss or describe his game without putting unnecessary expectations on the lad?  After all, he’s a full thirteen majors (and one nasty divorce) behind the greatest golfer of our generation.  It’s no wonder professional athletes don’t read newspapers.

Every time McIlroy struck the ball his weekend, he did so to resounding cheers, just like Tiger and so many others used to.  Enjoy it while it lasts, kiddo.

I’m no psychologist, I just play one on this website.  I just can’t help but wonder why we build our athletes up, only to break them down.  Then we wonder why the Jennifer Capriatis of the world end up smoking crack in a Florida motel room.

We label our athletes as heroes or underachievers with little room for error.  Maybe we can’t help ourselves.  Maybe we just want to witness excellence at any cost or maybe, just maybe we’ve run out of creative ways to describe the next big thing.  If that’s the case, then shame on us.

All we do these days is compare athlete X to athlete Y without considering there might actually be a world of difference between them, which is ironic considering we all like to think ourselves unique and resent when we’re compared to others.  Don’t believe me?  Try telling a girl she reminds you of an ex-girlfriend and see how far that gets you.

For whatever reason, it’s still not enough for us to say LeBron is who he is, Rory and Tiger are who they are and Michael Jordan came and went without another athlete like him coming… ever.  We should be okay with that.

In the meantime, have fun comparing.  Just don’t expect me to listen.

44 thoughts on “Here we go again: LeBron is to Michael as Rory is to Tiger

  1. Pingback: Here we go again: LeBron is to Michael as Rory is to Tiger, Golf | BallHyped Sports Blogs

  2. Why is it that an athletes prowess, or lack there of, must always be compared to those from another era? I think its ridiculous! Chamberlain was a great player but he would have a much tougher go in todays NBA with several guys his size as opposed to no one his size when he played. He would have NEVER scored 100 points in todays league. Think Babe Ruth would have been able to hit todays 100 MPH cut fast balls and splitters with the same ease? Think Fran Tarkenton would have lasted all those years?? He was Doug Fluties size and had a similar skill set and for the most part Flutie had to go to Canada to get playing time. Even the great MJ did not have the depth of todays NBA with DWade, Lebron, Dwight Howard, CP3, Stoudamire, Carmelo, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo etc. The league wasn’t nearly as deep then, although he still would have likely been the best. The question is why compare?

  3. Well said Pep. It is a shame how we vicariously live through the experiences of others. As if we were even remotely qualified to be a judge of anyone’s athletic talent much less to perform the ridiculous comparative analysis over minutia just to keep folks interested. It does serve as a distraction which, for the most part, is welcomed by most, as it takes the weight off of having to look at ourselves. In doing so, my guess is most wouldn’t like what they see…or are compared to.

  4. HA! That’s pretty funny you posted this right around the same time I wrote mine saying wtf to all this comparison stuff!?!

    At this point in his career you’re right he just needs to be Rory. Not Phil, not Arnie, not Tiger, just Rory. I like how he was saying that the collapse at Agustua shouldn’t have been such a big deal to everyone. It shows he thinks all these comparisons are lame as well, and hopefully means he doesn’t read what people are saying about him at 4 AM.

    My guess is people just wrote what the announcers kept beating into their heads…

  5. I mean, it makes for interesting conversation, Seth, who would have won, Michael’s Bulls or Hakeem’s Rockets? But the point is, we’ll never know, so to argue one point with any certainty is pretty much ridiculous.

    I guess that’s why we hold titles and statistics so dear. It’s easier for us to say that nobody can touch Michael until they at least get those six rings.

    Oh yeah, and then there’s Bill Russell.

  6. Exactly the answer I was looking for, Mony.

    Leave it to the REAL psychologist of the bunch to keep it real.

    Remember, sir, the two most difficult things you have to do in life are know yourself and like yourself.

    A wise man told me that once.

  7. Well, Chap, they should have better sense than that in my opinion.

    I was waiting for more ‘professionals’ to just say ENOUGH with the comparisons.

    Never happened.

    The kid did draw a crowd though, huh?

  8. Yeah man, the kid really drew a crowd! We haven’t seen a crowd pull for anyone like that since Phil or Tiger was in the running at any event. I think the “professionals” are out to feed us what they think will bring in future ratings. If they can sell Rory as the next Tiger, they did their job in piquing interest from the casual golf fan…

    Remember when people were in love with Sergio and force feeding him to us? That sure turned out well for Sergio…

  9. This is one of the reasons why I decided just to troll around and be myself, you know, a goof. It’s sports people, have fun. Comparisons are for beer prices.
    I have to say it makes me kind of nervous to have a psychologist around. Afterall doctor sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

  10. I’m with Seth…why the hell does everything have to be “the NEXT” something?

    First of all, it is almost always a bullshit argument. McIlroy is the next greatest golfer in the history of golfers because he won one fucking tournament? Stop it.

    Secondly, this crap gets propagated in the media by lazy writers. By the way guys, where were the epic collapses early in Tiger’s career. Doesn’t that fact alone fuck up your analogy?

    Lastly, don’t hand me that shit about “it makes interesting conversation.” It makes lazy conversation. This is why turdloafs like Skip Bayless do it. There’s nothing interesting about this kind of comparison, other than to see how inane these sorts of comparisons can get.

    Chappy has the soul of what this is all about…McIlroy was such a compelling story that ratings for a Tiger-less U.S. Open were down 35%. Compare that.

  11. Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

    Where’s this hotel room?

    Is she still there?

    Have Tom Sizemore and Daniel Balwin heard about this?

    Maybe she’s just trying to be the next Tanya Harding.

  12. What’s interesting, Chap, is… why all of a sudden, did we start pulling for this kid?

    Why are we so willing to crown him the ‘newest thing?’

    And if and when Tiger comes back, how many of us will root for him to fail or succeed?

  13. J-Dub said “turdloaf” which I’m pretty sure is the first time said word has been used on this website in two plus years.

    Congratulations, sir. We’re always looking for firsts.

    Here’s hoping it’s whole grain and less nutty.

  14. Thanks to a high-fiber diet rich in grains and vegetables, my colon is the strongest muscle in my body. In fact, you should see the Skip Bayless I left this morning.

  15. Chris

    Have we got to have these comparisons ? Or is this the best that the media can come up with ? Oh now that we know that LBJ is is a poor imitation of MJ and whose (LBJ) traits as a player may well be closer to that of a gnat ! Let’s see how McIlroy does three or four years from now. Consider this many believe that Matteo Mannassero has just as much talent as McIlroy , if not more and he was even younger than the Irishman when he won his first professional title beating a world class field that included both Woods , Mickelson , Kaymer and Westwood .

  16. I think the main reason they are crowning him the “next big thing” is because he’s so likeable as a person, and very young so he’s got a lot of time to improve his game. My test for the likability of a player is whether I could see myself having a beer with them. I’d want to have a beer with Rory…

    I think everyone sees the potential in him, but talking about him with the all-time greats is irresponsible until he wins at each of the majors. That’s a big knock on Phil, that he hasn’t won all four majors, so that should be the knock on Rory until he does so.

    I have a feeling I’ll root for Tiger to continue to fail. Even before dubs skip bayless hit the fan I didn’t like Tiger, and don’t think he’d be that fun to have a beer with. Golf is looking for the clean cut guy that they thought tiger was to dominate the sport, so for now it’s Rory…

  17. Those are the two most difficult things in life?? I can think of about 100 others off the top of my head.

    Getting through more than 5 minutes of a Keeping Up With The Kardashians show…getting an erection while watching Minnie Driver on the silver screen or in a magazine picture…should I keep going?

  18. Who is “we” anyway? The overpaid analysts on TV? The plethora of writers of blogs (present company excluded, of course) whose opinions we take for news? Why do the rest of us “we’s” accept these folks’ dissertations as facts? Why can’t “we” decide for ourselves what we think of the talents of an athlete/celebrity/politician and stop giving lip (or eye or ear) service to those “we’s” who continue to compare, compare, compare? Personally, I LOVE the mute button on my television!

  19. As I’ve suggested, Al, I understand comparing styles to styles and statistics to statistics but there has to be a more interesting, and certainly more original, way to describe Rory other than simply saying “He’s the next Tiger.”

  20. Chap…

    Hope you like warm beer. Remember, he’s an Irishman. And get ready for plenty of Bushmills, and Jaeger which I’ve read is his beverage of choice.

    I also hear Tiger’s fun to have an omelette with.

  21. It’s true the game of golf and in particular the PGA Tour needs great rivalries and there hasn’t been once seen since Woods stepped unto the scene . But whose fault is that to begin with ? Players like Mickelson , Furyk and the rest of the also rans on the Tour simply cower the moment he’s in contention. The only player who’s played the guy and beaten him when it mattered most was Y E Yang .

    So Plax and Big Ben have met up and talked ? Rumor has it that two would like to play together again ? Oh yeah ! What a combo ! Long may they reign in the NFL .

    tophatal ………..

  22. Chris

    Have you been keeping abreast of the civil suit trial concerning the death of Eric Planscher ? That thing has become a complete nightmare for UCF . What the hell were O’Leary and his coaching staff thinking not having any water on hand for the players during their workout in 105 degree heat and humidity ? O’Leary is now trying to apportion blame elsewhere for his own lax judgment .

    Only one certified fitness trainer on hand and no medical professional but only the campus doctor who was in his office at the time who actually knew CPR and he himself although knowing that Planscher had the sickle cell trait said he was unaware what signs to look for had the player been in distress . I’d say some young kid collapsing to the ground in those sort of conditions gasping for air would be a sign of distress . Wouldn’t you have thought so ?

  23. Nice post, Chump. I do, predictably, have a couple of counters for you.

    1) Sports – and sports debate, in particular – are by and large about comparisons, rankings, legacies, best evers, etc. This is just the nature of things, and I feel like you might get bored (or not have a blog) if these types of discussions weren’t the things we indulged in.

    2) The difference between the two main comparisons you bring up is that McIlroy is now a champion. However, the fact that people like/liked Michael is an equally important distinction. The Rory comparisons, in my opinion, stem just as much from sports’ fans general backlash to Tiger as they do from Rory’s talent/popularity/demeanor. Whereas people hope for their next great basketball star to be just like Jordan, it seems they want their next great golf star to be THE EXACT OPPOSITE of Tiger.

    And when you say, ‘enjoy it while it last,’ I totally agree. People so soon forget that Tiger was every bit (and more) the breath of fresh air that Rory is now when he burst on the scene at the ’97 Masters. Now we see his greatest strengths – killer instinct, precision, machine-like repetition, intensity – as personality flaws. Jim Nantz didn’t start calling out Tiger for cursing… wait for it… until he started sucking.

    I also agree that both comparisons are unfair, but more so the Tiger/McIlroy one. Tiger, for my money, is not only the greatest golfer of all-time, but the greatest athlete of my generation (I include Jordan). I’m of the rare sort who believe he still has 19 in him, but break Jack or not, we will never EVER see another athlete pull off the impossibilities Tiger’s given us over the last 15 years. The ’08 Open was like Wilt’s 100-point game, only if Wilt scored all his points on half-court jumpers.

    Apologies for ending on a comparison.

  24. Al…

    I agree that golf needs rivalries but it also needs personalities.

    Look how we all still talk about John Daly like we talk about Mike Tyson.

    Guy hasn’t won anything important in years yet we still, for some reason, want to see him succeed.

  25. Al…

    A friend told me about that Bucs guy.

    Obviously, the franchise is in no way responsible. He’s just a sick, sick man.

    But you’re right. It certainly doesn’t reflect well on the franchise.

  26. Great post SC.
    I’m obviously not the sports expert in the family … but my guess is that ( as I believe someone posted) the comparisons started innocently, years ago, with performance stats. Just like people have been doing at the track for years.
    But this 24-hour tv coverage means a whole lotta air-time to fill & with it lots of “blah blah blah” in between commercials. Combine that with the on-camera egos / personalities & it equals some of the repetitive drivel U are all posting about.
    Yr points are always on-the-money. I think Sportschump should have his own show :). Watch out Jim Rome.

  27. Chris

    In the case of the UCF Knights and Erick Planscher’s unfortunate death it would’ve have been better had they settled out of court. Because with all of the improprieties , the utter stupidity being shown in O’Leary’s responses and the fact that he’s obfuscating responsibility for the actions that order he should have made his assistants accountable for. Now it paints a really bad systematic situation concerning the knowledge of the coaching and medical staff on campus .

    Planscher shouldn’t have died and that was down to the naivete of the coaching staff and athletics department of UCF.

    We do need the rivalries but what we have in golf is akin to what we now have in NASCAR with its drivers . Some talented individuals for the large part but in terms of depth and character they’re completely lacking .

    So you’ve only got time for eat drink and work ? What about the carnal pleasures ? Please don’t tell me you’re now taking up abstinence ? LOL,LOL,LOL !!! Man cannot live by bread alone you know ! He’s got to plow many fields and spread his wild oats !

    tophatal ……….

  28. Fro-B…

    We’re on the same page (the sports page, probably).

    I’d just like to hear or read some of the sports writers out there come up with some more original comparisons.

    I guess maybe I’m expecting too much.

  29. Thanks, M.

    I honestly believe that it’s because of the way sports has been covered over the years is what led to so many independent sports blogs.

    It’s not just because we’re fans.

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