The Top 30 Arguments and Debates in Sports
Now, these aren’t arguments in the sense that they end up with Ron Artest in the stands viciously attacking the guy who didn’t throw the beer, or arguments that involve Charley Barkley mounting Shaq in an effort to preemptively establish dominance in their post-career broadcasting endeavors…because those are their arguments. That’s Shaq vs. Kobe, Marbury vs. Garnett, etc.
What I want to look at are our arguments—those that are either all-encompassing (is it time for a BCS playoff?) or extremely relevant to a particular sport at current (Kobe vs. LeBron).
These are the Top 30 Arguments and Debates in Sports, as argued by the fans.
30. Will Tiger Win Another Major?
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
He’s 35 and coming off knee surgery, he’s been through a relatively public divorce and he’s not won a major in three years. Is this it for Tiger?
Amazingly, I actually think so. Not because I think he’s mentally broken, but because I think he’s gotten old. Simple as that. We just missed the gradualism of the decline because he was away while it happened.
29. Is the NFL Getting Soft with the Concussion Rules?
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
As the number of ex-players in peril mounts, the NFL’s implementation of player protection grows stronger by the year. But are the concussion rules ruining the game?
Absolutely not. Player safety has to be at the core of any league so that A) it’s able to maintain itself throughout the years without literally killing off a percentage of its participants, and B) I don’t feel bad watching it.
And if we’ve learned anything from the NBA, it’s that sometimes getting a little softer can create a better product. By placing the emphasis on speed and agility, you’re more likely to see something you couldn’t do in your backyard.
28. Can Soccer Become the Fifth Major Sport?
Clive Mason/Getty Images
This question has been asked since I was in grade school…and last year’s World Cup was the first time I felt the collective pulse of the nation budge even a little bit.
Not in the next 50 years, because even if the World Cup continues to take off…that doesn’t really count, does it? The World Cup is like the Olympics—which is a substantial niche and nothing to sneeze at—but it doesn’t constitute a fifth major sport anymore than figure skating does. Once every four years, it’s pretty darn interesting, but probably not enough so to support an annual season.
27. BCS or Playoffs?
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Do we stick with the flawed yet immensely profitable BCS Bowl system? Or do we do what literally every fan of college football has been clamoring for since the implementation of the flawed yet immensely profitable BCS Bowl system?
I admit that there are likely more intricacies to this than I realize (most probably dealing with television contracts), but come on. Should the No. 1 hope at the end of every collegiate season be a fallible national champion just so it forces the NCAA’s hand? It’s time for a playoff.
26. What Is the Most Unbreakable Record in Sports?
Brian Bahr/Getty Images
About 99.9 percent of the applicants for the MURIS award (I actually really like that) have to do with Wilt Chamberlain. And in my opinion, he wins.
Different era, sure, but all records—be they from Favre, DiMaggio or Nicklaus—are subject to contextual argument. Can’t take it into consideration, at least not in regards to the MURIS.
Wilt stands out to me. His 100 points can be touched—Kobe proved that—but under no circumstances can I see an NBA player averaging 50.4 points a game for a season ever again. Whether he was on the court or back at the hotel, Wilt scored a lot.
25. AAU or NBA?
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Aka “CAA or NBA.” What is this generation of hoopsters about? What era are we looking at?
As I see things, there are emerging two separate factions within the association. One—the of-late derided—revolves around branding, personal accomplishment and some underlying sentiment of togetherness between players.
The second seems more in line with our traditional concepts of athletes: They play to be the best, and they play to win…but they also seem to respect (in some ways) the unwritten rules of the game. This is Dirk (who took less money to return to a Dallas team with no sure bet to win a title); this is Kobe (who is a more abrasive version of Dirk); and this is Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook (who are all about beating the heck out of whoever is thought to be their superior).
Both parties have some of the most skilled and competitive guys in the league, so I’m not necessarily advocating that one is ruining the game or anything, as this conversation tends to eventually have one-side emit.
That said, I prefer the guys I consider to be the traditionalists—the guys I think harbor some legitimate dislike for their opponents, for whom rings matter less than the opportunity to beat the best guys in the league and thereby prove their superiority. So again, in the latter group we’re looking at the Roses, the Kobes and the Westbrooks, while the former sports basically everyone who came into the league between 2003 and 2004—LeBron, Bosh, Carmelo and sadly…I think Dwight Howard.
24. College Basketball One-and-Done Rule?
Mike Stobe/Getty Images
This one may be eliminated or expanded within the new NBA CBA, but in the meantime…
I actually like the rule for the sole reason that I get a bigger stage to watch the top-tier NBA prospects on. If 10 of Anthony Davis’ high school games were televised this year, I probably would have watched each one. Next year, I’ll get to see him 10 times at Kentucky. He won’t be an unknown by the time he hits the league.
Only time when I don’t like the rule? When my team has a high draft pick and misses out on a supremely talented kid who otherwise would have been available.
23. To DH, or not To DH?
Claus Andersen/Getty Images
The DH was adopted by the American League in 1973, and most professional and collegiate leagues have followed some degree of suit.
The DH should go. Seeing a pitcher step to the plate is one of the cooler parts of the game—both in terms of strategy and narrative—and somehow the National League seems just the slightest bit purer for having their pitchers step up to the plate.
Some great arguments here from USAToday.com.
22. Kobe or LeBron?
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
This one should probably be ranked a little higher, but I got excited to discuss.
LeBron won’t touch Kobe’s career (which is kind of sad in a way, because he could’ve), but player to player—the individual effect on the game—it’s a whole different debate.
I think this argument rages so strong because the debaters have never agreed to the terms.
Kobe wins on two out of three counts. Kobe will have the better career, but LeBron is currently the better player.
The tiebreaker? As of June 2011—at his peak, Kobe Bryant has hit a higher level individually than LeBron has. That’s enough for me for now.
21. Is Kobe on the Way Down?
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Kobe Bryant is still the most polarizing player in the league…but for massively different reasons than he used to be.
The answer is, to me, pretty clear—Kobe Bryant is on the downside of his career. KB had lost a step (or two) as far back as two years ago, but there is still a hefty chunk of the population who either is too blinded with Laker-love to see it, or too defensive of anything Kobe to admit it.
Frustrating, but at the same time it’s elevated this debate.
20. Crosby or Ovechkin?
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
From Michael Farber, via SI.com:
Consider Crosby. No player since Wayne Gretzky has been better prepared for greatness. He is skilled, tough and dependable. If Ovechkin thinks Crosby whines too much, he is tarring the Penguins captain with a mostly outdated reputation that was established his rookie year and is way overblown. Crosby might loose (sic) his emotions too often, but bigger bellyachers in the NHL -- Anaheim's Teemu Selanne and Buffalo's Derek Roy, to name two -- generally get a free pass. (And never forget that Gretzky himself was not above a bit of strategic whining.)
Now consider Ovechkin. He's a force of nature, as improvisational as Crosby is programmed. The Capitals left winger is the most exciting player in the game since Gilbert Perreault, maybe even Bobby Orr, and if at times there appears there is not enough mustard in the world to smear on this guy, well, make ours with sauerkraut.
First one I don’t have a strong opinion on because—and I’m now realizing that this might in fact be a mistake—I do not watch hockey.
I’ll say Crosby, and let you all have at it below.
19. The “Rule” or the “Spirit of the Rule?”
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
The tuck rule. Dwayne Rudd’s helmet-gate. Calvin Johnson’s game-winning TD “drop.” Should a referee have the power to overrule the textbook if it’s clear that the textbook’s wrong?
After much consideration, no. I stand in favor of the Rule. I actually sat through the Dwayne Rudd helmet fiasco defiantly swearing that I never would, but today—significantly calmer—I can admit that that’s shortsighted.
A ref’s job is hard enough already, and the less you can leave up to their interpretation, the better.
18. Is Instant Replay Helping?
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Instant replay’s detractors say it slows down the game, and that human error is a part of what’s made things great in the past…while its advocates admonish those impatient individuals for not wanting to get the call right.
As is frequently the case…change is good, and none of the major sports would be where they are today (lockouts) without it.
17. Should the Fans Be Censored?
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
You paid an inordinate amount of money for that ticket; should you be allowed to berate the players to a commensurate degree?
No, you shouldn’t. I’m all for rowdy stadiums (Municipal Field being my favorite), but the league needs to take a stance that at the very least disallows player injury and/or berating that extends beyond the social contract (no race, no kids…and moms are toeing the line, but in the case of LeBron James, maybe okay).
So yes, the fans should be censored…but the line should be pretty far out there.
16. Is Gisele Good for Tom?
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images
On the field. The hair is indefensible.
So is Gisele good for Tom? Not as it pertains to football…though I would argue that that’s okay (good for Tom), and it’s a microcosm of a larger problem that would have arisen anyway. Tom Brady has already won. A lot. And it becomes incrementally harder to win each time through a season.
It’s either because you’re older and everyone’s gunning for you…or because you’re aware of the odds that have already fallen your way, in which case, any reasonable person would know that the odds are now due for something to go wrong. (This is why I could never have been a professional athlete. As soon as something went right, I’d be waiting for the other shoe to fall.)
15. Manning, Brady or None of the Above?
Travis Lindquist/Getty Images
Is Tom Brady one of the top five quarterbacks of all time?
Is Peyton Manning?
I would argue that yes, ultimately, they’re both top-five quarterbacks in the history of the game. Both are statistically superior (with Manning likely to end up breaking every numerical record in the game), and Brady is one of the greatest winners of all time, doing so with offenses that were not among the most talented in the league.
They’re both close now, and they’re both threatening to bolster their respective resumes for five-plus more years. Not only are they all-timers, there’s a chance they could end up No. 1 and 2.
14. Should Colleges Suffer for Their Athletes' Mistakes?
Stephen Chernin/Getty Images
Reggie Bush gets caught in a scandal and USC is retroactively punished, essentially taking away bowl opportunities from a group in no way associated with the incidents in question.
Should this be the precedent?
Absolutely not, though I haven’t quite figured out a better solution. The school should be penalized, as should the transgressing player…but there has to be a better way to handle these things than to effectively cancel the season for the kids there when the verdict finally comes in.
13. Should College Athletes Be Paid?
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images
The NCAA is a billion-dollar enterprise that suspends its player for trading game-worn jerseys for tattoos…or food.
Is this okay?
Nope. College athletes do get a tremendous value for their time in effort by way of the free education they receive…but I’d imagine a tremendous amount of the “violative” activity cited in the previous slide could be avoided with something akin to a small stipend for food, drinks or spending money.
We’re not talking NBA money here…just perhaps something akin to what a student might make while working in the school bookstore, where employees are paid even if they’re on scholarship.
12. Should Ads Be on Jerseys?
It hit the WNBA years ago, and has been mulled over by both the NHL and the NBA (with the latter, the ads were to be placed on their practice jerseys).
Should the major sports take one for (or on) the teams?
Absolutely not. The uniform is perhaps the most influential symbol of team, and I don’t know that I could take an Aaron Rodgers as seriously if he had a $5 footlong on his back.
11. Can Boxing Be Saved?
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
If only they had jerseys…
Certainly it can, but boxing needs a charismatic prodigy, and he probably has to be a heavyweight. You know how I know that? Because that’s what it would take for me to watch.
I’m not a huge boxing guy (although Pacquiao has caught my attention)...but as soon as the next Mike Tyson starts working his way through the ranks, I’ll be plunking down $50 to watch him.
10. Will MMA Kill Boxing?
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images
MMA has surpassed boxing in popularity, and it’s making a play to steal its niche entirely.
I honestly think that this is a threat, and my reasoning is the same as it was a slide ago. Boxing has so few stars, and MMA is building their roster with household names. The names sell the fights, and the sales attract the names. Boxing needs to find a star, and they need to find him soon.
9. Should MMA Be Legal?
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Another good one, because every time I watch one of these fights I think someone is going to die. MMA is currently illegal in New York.
Yes, it should be legal…but boy, maybe pad the gloves a bit more? It’s only a matter of time before someone’s face is irreparably shattered.
8. Will LeBron Ever Touch Jordan?
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Jordan through eight years: 32.3 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 6.0 APG, one title.
James though eight years: 27.7 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 7.0 APG, zero titles.
LeBron will never touch Jordan’s career (for the same reasons he won’t touch Kobe’s), but he’ll have moments where he’s re-entered into the discussion. Like literally everyone has said all along, the talent is there for LeBron and as such we’ll continue to see it…but I think LBJ has already fallen/steered himself too far off the GOAT path to ever truly climb his way to the top of the list.
7. Should Steroids Be Legalized and Monetized?
Mario Tama/Getty Images
They’re in our sports already, and this tactic has proven effective in at the very least consolidating use of drugs in mainstream culture. Could it work in athletics?
Purely out of principal, I don’t think you can go down this road. And sooner or later, we’ll have to. It’s not totally inconceivable that scientists will be able to genetically manipulate athleticism within the next 50 years. Actually, it’s probable.
What are the implications of that? That the next LeBron James-esque athlete may come from a well-off suburban family who’s historically more into pharmaceuticals than basketball.
6. Should Steroid Users Be in the Hall of Fame?
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
It seems right now, the consensus is “no.” But in 20 years, will we continue to look down on Bonds, on Clemens, on 50 percent of the league?
I think the wounds of the steroid era need more time to heal, but ultimately, I think the SE will come to be known as just what it says itself to be—an era in baseball. It’s an impossibly fine distinction to make—that one guy cheated and another did not—and I don’t think it’s within the capacity of the Hall of Fame to make it.
The world knows that Barry Bonds used steroids, it should be on his placard and his placard should be in the Hall of Fame.
5. Players or Owners?
Brandon Wade/Getty Images
Question of the summer.
With the NFL and the NBA both either in or on the verge of extended lockouts…to which side would you prefer the balance of power swings? Should players be able to force their team's hands (a la LeBron in Cleveland, Carmelo in Denver and Dwight in Orlando), or should the owners have that power (non-guaranteed contracts, franchise tags, and ultimately—I think—revenue sharing)?
I tend to side with the owners (at least as it pertains to power over the league)…although that may not have been the case had I lived in either Miami or New York.
4. Which Is the Best Sports League?
Chris Trotman/Getty Images
Two of the four major sports are thriving (NBA in terms of popularity, NFL across the board), and the NHL is coming on strong. Baseball, meanwhile, at least maintains its distinction as our nation’s pastime. Which league is best?
This is a loaded question, as I think most would tend to side with their favorite sport and/or commissioner as the top league in North America. Basketball is my favorite sport and I think David Stern is the best commissioner in sports…but it would be pretty tough to mount a reasonable argument against the NFL as the No. 1 league (current struggles aside).
It’s a billion-dollar business growing exponentially each year, it ranks first in popularity among North American leagues and literally the only threat to slow its growth is the current lockout, which will hopefully be over in a few weeks.
3. Hard Cap, Soft Cap or No Cap?
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
Ah, the question of the summer part deux. And we have a perfectly illustrative example for each.
Football: hard cap.
Basketball: soft cap.
Baseball: no cap.
Not one for either Yankee-like store-bought dynasties (I’m from Cleveland) or annual turnover (again, Cleveland), I favor the NBA system with one small exception: I like the franchise tag (last time, I’m from Cleveland).
2. Should Pete Rose Be in the Hall of Fame?
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
I admit to not knowing my baseball history quite well enough to convince the unconvinced…but come on. The Hall of Fame isn’t meant to make personal judgments.
As I did with the steroid-ers, I favor Rose’s inclusion.
1. Should Athletes Be Role Models?
Tim DeFrisco/Getty Images
Charles Barkley says no, but…is he right?
I tend to think he is not. Athletes are role models…and they don’t really have a choice. Nor do actors, politicians or anyone else who appears on TV for their own personal gain or that of their employers.
If you make your living via a profession that requires television, internet or any such medium…it’s more than an opportunity to be a model for others; it’s a responsibility—part of the social contract.