There are reasons why we record statistics in sports. They tell us through hard numbers who is good, greater and greatest in a sport. They tell us who wins and who loses. They give us ammunition for all those debates over which player was the best of the decade, best at first base, what have you.
But statistics serve another purpose, and that purpose is to give the fans something to marvel over. In a real way, statistics create superheroes and something for we, the fans, to marvel at.
Creating those statistics are the athletes themselves. Whether in baseball, football, wrestling, or tiddly winks, there are people who play the game, some poorly, some fairly, some well and some with greatness.
I give you one statistic and one player who has, in many ways, come to define the sport in which he competes.
The Statistic: 20-0
The Player: The Undertaker
For some time, WrestleMania almost has revolved itself around the Undertaker. Who will he face, and will he come out on top? He has become synonymous with WrestleMania, and WrestleMania is WWE's most prestigious event. His streak has taken on a life of its own and is reverentially mentioned among devotees along with DiMaggio's hit streak of 56 games and the home run record first set by Babe Ruth.
Those records and the many smaller records out there are good for furthering the sport and individual players as they mark greatness. Records that stand for a long time are symbolic of great feats that only a few of many players in the game can achieve.
The WrestleMania streak has come to symbolize the greatness of the Undertaker and ads to the luster and gravitas of WrestleMania. It has become something almost sacred unto itself. Because of this it needs to stay intact. There can never be a one after the number because it would take away a feat that for many fans is one of the things they point to as to why they love the sport.
No current superstar has the potential to be a such a legend that it would warrant the Undertaker—and the fans—losing the streak.
No current superstar needs a push bad enough for the WWE to end the streak—it just wouldn't be worth it.
The streak needs to stay intact.
On the other side of the coin is the owner of the streak, the Undertaker.
History illustrates how superstars of most any sport have stayed around far past their prime. This is selfish on the part of the player because eventually, it is guaranteed, everyone gets old, and when they get old, invariably, their skills decline. Some stay long after those skills they once had in their youth have all but faded away. It is thievery when you think about it. You are robbing the fans of the memories of what once was, of why they love a player and a sport.
Undertaker put on a hell of a match with Triple H. Anyone who never saw the Undertaker before would be spellbound at the match. Those who have seen Undertaker before, especially at WrestleMania, would recognize and re-live the wrestler and feat that made the wrestler and the sport so special.
There is nothing left for Undertaker to do or accomplish. He has become the closest thing there can be to being "bigger than the show." He causes pandemonium whenever he enters the ring.
What would be remembered if Undertaker could no longer walk that top rope? Or maybe being unable to deliver a convinceable chokeslam?
Can Undertaker still go in the ring? Yes. But for how long is the question. He is in the twilight of his career, a legendary career that is in many ways at the center of the brand. The fans and Undertaker himself deserve to have his memory remain as is, undefeated at WrestleMania.
And that's why he needs to walk away now.
Sad as it may be, and as much as we want it not to be, much as we might believe that there is still gas in the tank, there comes a time when we must all bow out.
It is time.
20-0 needs to be the end. For the fans, for the brand, for the sport and for Undertaker himself.
I welcome your comments.