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Team Sports' Statistical Explosions: Why The Odd Timing?


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  • Team Sports' Statistical Explosions: Why The Odd Timing?

    I have long wondered why most of the major North American team sports, experienced their statistical performance spikes, later in their respective evolutions- with college and pro basketball as exceptions. In the case of college football, QB's such as Terry Baker, John Huarte and Gary Beban, won Heisman trophies, with numbers of completions, yards passing, and TD's thrown that would be pedestrian in today's game. Though '60's Heisman and All-American quarterbacks boasted lofty completion percentages, their stats are dwarfed later passers such as the John Reaves', Andre Ware's, David Klinger's, Ty Detmer's, David Carr's and Colt Brennan's. Ditto running backs. Messrs. Davis, Bellino, Sayers and Keyes (Heisman runnerup '69), put up rushing yardage digits that 21st century schoolboys must find undaunting. Indeed, for years, the all-time NCAA D-1 rushing leader, a certain Southern Cal 440 relay man, amassed his totals in only two varsity seasons. The explosions, and the era of the 2,000 yard campaign, was ushered in by Dorsett, Allen, Rogers, Rozier and Sanders.

    Baseball's offensive boom, PED induced or not, occurred when Frank Thomas, Manny, Albert Belle, Cecil Fielder, Sosa, McGwire, A-Rod, and Juan Gonzalez were on hand- largely the 1990's. In the NHL, Gretzky, Kurri, Lemiuex and Hull were contemporaries, and scoring peaked late in the incarnation.

    Pro and college basketball have not followed this pattern. The NBA had five 30 ppg. scorers in the same season- Wilt, Baylor (averaged 38 and 34 in successive years, w/ 18+ rebounds to boot), Oscar, Bellamy and Twyman, 50 years ago. Wilt erased all existing marks, Bellamy scored 31 and avg'd 19 boards as a rookie, Oscar a triple-double for six years, and Rick Barry scored 35 a night in '67. Not to mention the high flying ABA. The college bonanza also took place years ago- Houston and Jacksonville averaging 100, Maravich's three years of 44 ppg., Austin Carr and Calvin Murphy at 38 a tilt, Rick Mount, Johnny Neumann's 40. Why is basketball unique in having individual # booms, pre- weight training, myriad AAU squads, MJ popularity and the three-point line?