The Ironman Record Debate Verdict

November 1, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Loyal Homer.

With each hit this NFL season, Brett Favre’s consecutive starts streak teeters more and more tenuously on the brink. That has provoked a great many in the sports world to compare the achievements of this unquestioned ironman with that of another icon legend, Cal Ripken, Jr.

Optimist Prime made a very direct and concise argument aimed at portraying football as vastly more violent sport than baseball. He explained that even though baseball players occasionally face brutal collisions, vicious and devastating hits are a reality in every game for a professional football player. Adding credence to his argument was the statistic that the average NFL player’s career is approximately three years.

A pivotal aspect of Optimist Prime’s argument was his focus on how some NFL teams and players actually plan to target specific players to take out. This is a sobering reality of a sport steeped in violence. Former players often reveal in tell all interviews or biographies that they actually planned to injure certain opponents. It is precisely this type of premeditated brutality that can prematurely end the career of even the toughest gridiron goliath. It would be naïve to believe that teams and players do not consider taking dirty or unnecessarily aggressive shots on game changing players like Favre.

Quarterbacks certainly make easy targets for such attacks, especially high profile signal callers like old number four. Look no further than Tom Brady’s 2008 ACL tear to understand the potential extreme impact an injury to a game changing quarterback can have on a team. While the Patriots did extremely well without Brady, they are the exception rather than the rule. Despite playing with a target on Favre’s ever aging back (and knees… and shoulder… and insert decrepit body part here), he has managed to avoid injury long enough to record 291 consecutive starts and counting. The simple fact that Favre survives from week to week without being crushed into a pile of aged dust and fossils simply amazes.

Although Optimist Prime’s argument expertly portrayed Brett Favre’s streak as one of extreme toughness, it was rather one dimensional. Loyal Homer on the other hand painted a well rounded picture of Cal Ripken, Jr.’s accomplishments in his rebuttal. He pointed out the immense skill necessary to adapt to new pitchers every night. The resilience to take get plunked by high and tight fastballs and continue to make plays in the field. He explored the genuine mental and physical toughness to make starts in hundreds of meaningless games in blisteringly brutal heat, when a star of his status could easily catch a break in an air-conditioned clubhouse without reprimand.

While Cal Ripken, Jr. may not have experienced the same jarring hits Favre did, his streak required incredible toughness and fortitude. To simply boil down this debate to a “which sport is more physical debate” would be a mistake. There is more to being an ironman than simply being able to absorb hits. If that’s all this debate were about then long tenured boxers and MMA fighters should be included as well. Instead the ironman ideal is represents more – the ability to endure and respond to the changes in their respective sport, the ability to contribute consistently and effectively, and the ability to achieve in a way that no one will ever be able to surpass. Loyal Homer made a compelling cause for Cal Ripken, Jr. and his 2,632 game streak. No contemporary player holds a candle to Cal, and I doubt anyone ever will.

While he may not have been crushed by the weight of a 300 pound lineman weekly for 18 seasons, he did endure the unforgiving grind of thousands and thousands of innings which I found to be simply more impressive than the mere physicality of Favre’s record. That’s why I’m awarding this debate victory to Loyal Homer.

May this win bring the start of an ironman streak of victories in TSD debates. That is until the next time we square off. Then I’m hoping to embarrass you as much as a leaked text from Brett Favre’s phone.

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The Ironman Record Debate

October 31, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Optimist Prime and Loyal Homer.

Participating in professional sports is obviously physically demanding. World class athletes earn our respect not only for keeping their bodies in tip top physical shape, but also for surviving the grueling toll a season takes on them. Even the best and most heroic athletes, however, prove their mortality when they break down physically with injuries

But, a few men seem to rise above the rest, defying the odds by playing through pain, never missing a game. These improbable few – these supermen – earn the title of Ironman.

Two men exemplify the Ironman ideal like no others – Brett Favre and Cal Ripken, Jr. Each is unquestionably among the most durable and dependable athletes in their respective sports. But which one boasts the more impressive record?

That is the question The Sports Debates takes on in today’s epic debate: Which iconic ironman holds the more impressive record, Brett Favre or Cal Ripken, Jr.?

Optimist Prime will argue that Brett Favre’s record of 291 consecutive starts over an 18-year career is far and away the more impressive record. Playing for 18 years is a feat in and of itself, but to never miss a start – in one of the most physical sports there is – is simply amazing.

Loyal Homer, on the other hand, believes that Ripken’s 2,632 consecutive games is more improbable. Baseball is a marathon sport where surviving one season of 162 games is impressive enough, but Ripken’s unmatched ability to adjust and change at the plate and on the field helped him to reach extreme heights.

These arguments need to be as solid and unshakable as the men they represent to be worthy of victory. May the endurance test of your collective intellect begin.

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The Ironman Record Debate… Favre Is Tougher Than Ripken

October 31, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

Is Brett Favre tougher than Cal Ripken, Jr.? Is football tougher than baseball? Essentially, that’s what is at the root of this discussion.

I had considered forgoing the text of my debate entirely and directing my readers to the famous George Carlin football vs. baseball routine, but apparently we have some crazy rule where I am not allowed to post a video link in lieu of text. I’m currently formulating a protest to that rule. In the meantime, let there be no doubt that I’m ready to back up my assertion that – announcer hyperbole aside – I believe there is no doubt that Brett Favre’s ironman streak of 291 consecutive games (and counting) is the more impressive streak.

To begin, think about the immense physical toll football takes on the human body. There’s a reason that the average NFL career’s length hovers somewhere around three years – it’s a brutal sport. Furthermore, Favre plays the position of quarterback. The quarterback touches the ball every play and he is the target of the pass rush on every single play. That is significantly different physical stress than having a ball hit at you once an inning and having an at-bat every two to three innings. Over Favre’s eighteen-year career I am quite confident the video montage of people knocking Brett Favre down is significantly longer than the video montage of people who knocked down Cal Ripken, Jr. during his 16-year career.

While I understand the sentimental value attached to Ripken’s record because it broke a seemingly unbreakable record set by a universally revered athlete, I truly believe its backstory clouds people’s judgment as to the substance of that record. I am definitely not saying that Ripken’s record is not worthy of the adulation it has received. It is and, without a doubt I hold Ripken in higher personal and professional esteem than I do Favre. However, while baseball is certainly an athletic endeavor, it is by no means the bone-crushing controlled chaos of playing in the NFL. If you have never done so, watch a football game from field level. For the purposes of this example, it does not matter whether or not it is high school, college, or professional football. The speed and violence of the sport is breathtaking. Now, go watch a baseball game at field level. While the hand-eye coordination of the hitter and the grace of the fielders is certainly something to behold… at very, very few points during a baseball game do you get the visceral feeling of “that’s gotta hurt.”

One last thing to keep in mind is the violence that sometimes exists in the game plans in the NFL. I suspect it is exceedingly rare for a baseball team to sit down publicly within the team, or privately within a few players, and say, “Our best chance to win today is if we take out player X.” However, contrast that with some of the interviews given by NFL players after their careers are over and you’ll hear disclosures like, “We were trying to take player X out.” It would be naïve to think that targeted violence, while not overtly accepted in the NFL, does not creep into a game plan or a player’s thought process. It would also be naïve to think that a player of Favre’s stature and longevity has not been targeted in that manner from time to time.

With all due respect to Cal Ripken, Jr., Brett Favre wins the ironman award. His longevity in one of America’s toughest sports is nothing short of remarkable.

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The Ironman Record Debate… Ripken Is The Real Iron Man

October 31, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Optimist Prime.

With Brett Favre’s streak coming into the forefront the past few weeks due to his ineffective play and off-the-field indiscretions, it’s brought to the spotlight a discussion centered around two separate ironman streaks, Favre’s ongoing consecutive starts streak that extended to 292 consecutive starts or Cal Ripken, Jr.’s mind-boggling 2,632 consecutive games played streak. Babe Ruthless has asked Optimist Prime and I to debate the merits of both so he can determine which one is more impressive. While there’s no doubting that Favre’s streak is truly amazing, I believe it is Ripken who holds the more extraordinary streak.

Optimist Prime writes about how physical the game of football is. That goes without saying. But I think there is a lot to be said for going through the daily grind of a 162 game season for over 16 consecutive seasons. During this stretch Ripken, Jr. also played 8,243 consecutive innings. Just process that for a minute! That’s amazing. As for the daily grind of a season… you often hear about the dog days of summer. During the streak, the Orioles only made the playoffs three times. You know what that leads to? A lot of meaningless games during those so-called “dog days of summer.” It would have been very easy for Ripken to ask for a day off in late August when the Orioles were suffering through a 100-loss season, such as the one they suffered in 1988.They were double digits games behind first place, and remember, those were the days when there was no wild card to chase. Just imagine the mental grind. Yet, day after day, season after season, the Baltimore Orioles manager had one guarantee in his lineup –that he could pencil in number eight.

Obviously, the schedule is much different for a baseball player, and that works to Ripken’s advantage in this particular debate. Favre, while playing the more physical sport, has a week to let his body recover from any injury. Ripken, Jr. has a game the following day. Playing 162 games over a six month period averages out to 27 games a month. Favre had all week to study the game plan and get ready for the next opponent. Ripken, Jr.’s time for preparation for that night’s pitcher came on game day. Recovery and rehab from being hit by a 98 MPH fastball the night before in the ribs was a day. (And folks, if you think you could do that, try standing in the box with a 70 MPH “heater” coming at you… I did as a 14-year old and that bad boy hurt when it stung my ribs! Trust me, there’s no way you think you can swing a bat or make a throw across the diamond after getting plunked.)

Tom Brady, who plays the same position as Favre, marveled at Ripken, Jr.’s streak. And so do I. Most baseball players don’t even come close to touching 2,632 games played, much less consecutively. It’s even more amazing when you consider the longest active streak belongs to Matt Kemp, who has played in a WEAK 204 consecutive games. Better step it up Mr. Kemp. You’re only 2,428 games behind. I mean, seriously, 204 is barely over a full season. That speaks to the endurance of Ripken and, with apologies to Robert Downey, Jr. and Favre, it shows why Cal Ripken, Jr. truly is the real IRON MAN!

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