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View Full Version : Why greats from different era's can't be compared in greatness


Tin Man
10-20-2017, 05:33 PM
There's been a few threads lately comparing greats from different eras. Greatest of all time, dream matches, and discussion about fargorate or accustats ratings across the decades.

I'm of the belief that such comparisons can't be made in a meaningful way. You can compare statistics. You can compare titles. You can compare prize money. You can compare opponents vanquished. You can compare high runs. But you cannot compare greatness.

For one thing they played different games. Comparing SVB's 10 ball game to Mosconi's 14.1 game isn't possible. It's a totally different game. So is two foul push out nine ball. So is nine ball played on slow cloth and big pockets. Ask any top player that competed before simonis and lightning fast rails with two foul push out and they'll confirm the game today is as different as pool and snooker.

But what gets lost in all of this is transcendence. That is the word my best friend uses when he talks about those sports heros that come along every few generations that break through barriers of what other people thought was possible and transform the game.

Mosconi did this with 14.1, running balls so smoothly it's a thing of legends. Sigel did this with tournaments, navigating through brackets and finals matches with uncanny consistency. Reyes did this with rotation and one pocket, showing what is possible with finesse, speed, and feel. SVB did this with 10 ball, showing the devastating power of perfecting the break. Each of them drove themselves beyond the level of their competition. They set out to be the best, the envisioned a level of play that had never been seen and then through sheer will they summoned it out of the universe and brought it into existence.

So let me ask- suppose one day there are dozens of 800 ball runners. Is a 600 ball runner that is ranked 13th in the world 'greater than Mosconi' because they have a technically higher run? I don't think so. Because Mosconi surpassed all of his competition, and this person is merely following in the road that he and others have paved. Mosconi was transcendent, and he elevated himself to levels beyond that of his opposition. If there were 800 ball runners in his time it's possible he might have ran 1,000. His goal wasn't to run balls, it was to win.

In many ways the levels reached by the historic greats are like unfinished runs. Who's to say they couldn't have kept going if the rest of the world hadn't run out of challenges to be overcome? If the Accustats ratings of a great player today surpasses that of Earl, who's to say that Earl wouldn't have found another gear to achieve the same dominance had that player existed during his time period?

I do think the overall level of play is increasing due to the knowledge that's out there, the superior equipment, and the natural tendency for the bar to always rise as new players test themselves against old benchmarks. I have no problem celebrating a new record or a high water mark performance from a technical standpoint. But I do think we have to have some respect for the greats of all eras and to understand that each of them possessed a will that extends beyond statistics. There is simply no way to compare their heart and they all have their place in the history of our sport.

Dan White
10-20-2017, 05:47 PM
Great post!

It's like going to an art gallery and saying, "Hell, I could have painted that." Yeah, but you didn't. You could do it now, but you couldn't have done it before that guy did. You didn't think of seeing things in a new way and, like a Picasso, you weren't pushing any boundaries. I think your idea that the greats achieved things that others hadn't even considered possible is spot on... 4 minute mile. Another great example. It was raining 4 minute miles after the first guy did it.

Thanks for a thoughtful post.

dbgordie
10-20-2017, 07:01 PM
I agree! There isn't a "new school", without the "old school". You can't compare the two. It's the same in any sport there is. Things change, so do the players.

AKA Noah Buddy

Tommy-D
10-21-2017, 02:44 AM
I've always been of the opinion that even these days with the popularity of Diamonds and 860/other fast cloth,if Sigel was in his prime these days,his best game would still be elite,other than so many guys that could out-break him. Tommy D.

1pocket
10-21-2017, 02:41 PM
I've always been of the opinion that even these days with the popularity of Diamonds and 860/other fast cloth,if Sigel was in his prime these days,his best game would still be elite,other than so many guys that could out-break him. Tommy D.

....or, maybe he would have worked on his break :D:D

9andout
10-21-2017, 02:53 PM
There's been a few threads lately comparing greats from different eras. Greatest of all time, dream matches, and discussion about fargorate or accustats ratings across the decades.

I'm of the belief that such comparisons can't be made in a meaningful way. You can compare statistics. You can compare titles. You can compare prize money. You can compare opponents vanquished. You can compare high runs. But you cannot compare greatness.

For one thing they played different games. Comparing SVB's 10 ball game to Mosconi's 14.1 game isn't possible. It's a totally different game. So is two foul push out nine ball. So is nine ball played on slow cloth and big pockets. Ask any top player that competed before simonis and lightning fast rails with two foul push out and they'll confirm the game today is as different as pool and snooker.

But what gets lost in all of this is transcendence. That is the word my best friend uses when he talks about those sports heros that come along every few generations that break through barriers of what other people thought was possible and transform the game.

Mosconi did this with 14.1, running balls so smoothly it's a thing of legends. Sigel did this with tournaments, navigating through brackets and finals matches with uncanny consistency. Reyes did this with rotation and one pocket, showing what is possible with finesse, speed, and feel. SVB did this with 10 ball, showing the devastating power of perfecting the break. Each of them drove themselves beyond the level of their competition. They set out to be the best, the envisioned a level of play that had never been seen and then through sheer will they summoned it out of the universe and brought it into existence.

So let me ask- suppose one day there are dozens of 800 ball runners. Is a 600 ball runner that is ranked 13th in the world 'greater than Mosconi' because they have a technically higher run? I don't think so. Because Mosconi surpassed all of his competition, and this person is merely following in the road that he and others have paved. Mosconi was transcendent, and he elevated himself to levels beyond that of his opposition. If there were 800 ball runners in his time it's possible he might have ran 1,000. His goal wasn't to run balls, it was to win.

In many ways the levels reached by the historic greats are like unfinished runs. Who's to say they couldn't have kept going if the rest of the world hadn't run out of challenges to be overcome? If the Accustats ratings of a great player today surpasses that of Earl, who's to say that Earl wouldn't have found another gear to achieve the same dominance had that player existed during his time period?

I do think the overall level of play is increasing due to the knowledge that's out there, the superior equipment, and the natural tendency for the bar to always rise as new players test themselves against old benchmarks. I have no problem celebrating a new record or a high water mark performance from a technical standpoint. But I do think we have to have some respect for the greats of all eras and to understand that each of them possessed a will that extends beyond statistics. There is simply no way to compare their heart and they all have their place in the history of our sport.
...
The standard for a greenie post!:thumbup:
Well said.

Cardigan Kid
10-21-2017, 04:41 PM
It said I have to spread it around a bit first, but green to you all the way on this post.

I also look at the overall health of the players nowadays compared to yesteryear.
No smoking in pool halls. More players don't smoke. Today's players go to the gym. They watch their diets while traveling overseas.

Then there's the elevated level of learning. Today's players Getting experience from around the world competition. Hell, even via YouTube, information and insight is right inside your phone.

Earl plays top notch right up into his 50's. A player of great fitness like Mika only extends his career and the journeyman level expertise only gets better with the experience.

You are correct in that it's impossible to compare because how much more could Mosconi or Lassiter or even Harold Worst (who might have survived cancer with today's caliber of medical care)...how much more could these guys have done within the lexicon that is today's pool world?

MitchAlsup
10-21-2017, 06:28 PM
One minor quibble:: Simonis has been around for about 120 years, so asking someone who played before Simonis is going to receive a very quiet answer

calcuttaman
10-22-2017, 06:21 AM
But you cannot compare greatness.Yep, 100% in agreement.

So is nine ball played on slow cloth and big pockets. Ask any top player that competed before simonis and lightning fast rails with two foul push out and they'll confirm the game today is as different as pool and snooker.I'm of the belief that such comparisons can't be made in a meaningful way.

I will agree the game is "Different" then before BUT I don't agree that you can't compare players of 30+ years ago with players of today.

The best players will win no matter what the conditions are.

Years ago I went to a tournament with 32+ players. I walked into the bowling alley and then into the pool room to find these bar boxes that had HUGE pockets. I'm talking that the corner pockets were almost 6" wide! And the side pockets you could almost make 3 balls at once.

I thought, "I can't miss playing on these tables." Haha, wrong. I missed and the best players in the room took the top spots and middle players took the middle spots and the weakest players took the last spots.

Didn't matter the equipment.

Mr. Bond
10-22-2017, 10:14 AM
One minor quibble:: Simonis has been around for about 120 years, so asking someone who played before Simonis is going to receive a very quiet answer

I was gonna say the same thing lol.
I knew what he meant though.

Scott Lee
10-22-2017, 10:17 AM
Try 330+ years. The comment is about older slower Simonis cloth, versus the newer, slick faster Simonis cloth.

Scott Lee
http://poolknowledge.com

One minor quibble:: Simonis has been around for about 120 years, so asking someone who played before Simonis is going to receive a very quiet answer

Mr. Bond
10-22-2017, 10:30 AM
IMO, Real playing stats would be about the best way to make any kind of meaningful comparison, but, there lies the primary problem; the mainstream games today are not the same as the mainstream games of any time in pool's history. In fact the (most popular) games have always changed every few generations.

This obviously makes it very difficult to say whether Van Boening could have beaten anyone at American 4ball, Balkline, Straightrail, 3cushion, redball, Kelly pool or even 14.1, simply because there is no field of equal players of the same game to compare him to.

However, with the recent resurgence of large 14.1 events, we are getting very close to having truly comparable stats to that of 1910 to 1950 or so.

jay helfert
10-22-2017, 02:22 PM
Great post by Tin Man! My observations are that the best players have always been the ones with the strongest HEARTS! The great ones can come with the big shot under pressure while the not-so-greats miss that same shot. It takes a big heart to make a difficult match-winning shot when all the marbles and $$$ are on the line. I've seen good players get weak and opt for the safety when they had a chance to win. How many times have you seen a good player hide the cue ball when they were faced with a difficult shot? Pretty timid imo. And how many times has it backfired when his opponent makes a great hit and leaves him with another difficult shot or even hooked? Fairly often again.

These things have not changed over the years and differentiate the merely good from the great. I've watched Efren smile when his opponent leaves him buried, relishing the opportunity to show off his kicking skills. Sigel used to fuss and complain when left with a particularly tough shot in a final match. He'd walk around and talk to his designated "yes" man, getting down and up a couple of times before finally firing the ball straight into the pocket. Then he would shrug his shoulders, wipe his brow and allow himself a glint of a smile. It was OVER!

Earl would look weak at the beginning of some matches, starting off slow, maybe fouling or missing a ball or two. Then when his opponent had him down by four or five games, you could see him steaming in his chair, waiting to pounce. Next time at the table, he would hit the guy with six or seven racks and that was it.

Varner was this little bulldog that just kept coming at you. You shoot your best shot and he shoots one a little better. You play your best safe and he out-safes you. He could beat you at your game!

Buddy was slow and steady, grinding you into oblivion. You might run a good rack and be feeling pretty good about it. Then Buddy would come to the table and slowly grind out three picture perfect racks, each one featuring at least one great shot. You were toast after that. You knew who the better player was.

That's the way pool is in reality. Both players KNOW who the better player is, and more often than not they act accordingly. That's why a match like Dennis vs. Chohan or when Dennis played Shane twice in the U.S. Open finals were so good. Both of them feel like they are supposed to win.

Poolplaya9
10-22-2017, 03:04 PM
There's been a few threads lately comparing greats from different eras. Greatest of all time, dream matches, and discussion about fargorate or accustats ratings across the decades.

I'm of the belief that such comparisons can't be made in a meaningful way. You can compare statistics. You can compare titles. You can compare prize money. You can compare opponents vanquished. You can compare high runs. But you cannot compare greatness.

How empirically good someone's skills were compared to everyone else in history, and how much somebody dominated their peers during their time are two totally different things and I think we have to be careful to remember the difference. Some people tend to want to lump them together but they are two different things that just aren't all that related.

To use the running example, if there was a guy back in the 1940's running the mile just a second or two over the 4 minute mark, and nobody else was even managing to break say the 4:10 mark, then there might be an argument to be made for that person being the most dominant mile runner of all time during their time. This is very different from being the best or fastest mile runner of all time though, and it would be nothing short of asinine IMO to declare this guy "best of all time" over the guys of today who are running way faster with runs as low as 3:43. He might be "most dominant for his time of all time", but he isn't "best of all time". Most dominant of all time during their time does not necessarily equate to best of all time.

The difference in pool games and pocket sizes and other differing conditions certainly make it more difficult to compare pool players of different eras than it is to compare say mile runners of different eras, and because it isn't so clear cut there will be varying opinions, but that still doesn't change the fact that "best of all time" and "most dominant of all time during their time" are still two different things that have to be treated as such and discussed separately. They are both incredible achievements and are both worthy of discussion, we just have to be clear which we are talking about to avoid confusion.

"Best ever" is the highest skill and ability of all time (even if their peers were nearly as good), and "most dominant ever" or "best ever in comparison to their peers" is the largest separation in abilities in comparison to their peers during their time. Sometimes the same person will hold both distinctions, and sometimes they will be held by different people.