Age Bias and the Celtics
Recently, Matthew Yglesias wrote a comment about Bill Simmons recent tome "The Book of Basketball," which I've also read and enjoyed quite a bit.
His comment is a rebuttal to what he interprets as a claim by Simmons that because Simmons was first exposed to basketball by getting great seats during the rise of the 1980s Celtics teams, that he has better insight into what makes a great basketball player. Yglesias thinks this is backwards:
I think this is kind of backwards. You sentimentalize teams you root for, and if you root for a team that’s really good—the Celtics or the Lakers or the Yankees (or the Canadiens?)—you wind up sentimentalizing success. And since the point of a sports competition is to win the games, sentimentalizing success gets people extremely confused. Thus we wind up hearing an awful lot in the book about “character” and how you need good character guys to win. If you’re a Celtics fan, this probably makes a lot of emotional success.
Well, I can relate this to my 49ers fandom as it's a parallel, and I don't think Yglesias has much of a leg to stand on here. The Celtics just happened to both be successful and, largely, full of good character guys. (Character doesn't necessarily mean nice; Charles Oakley is lauded in the book so much Simmons says his son's middle name is Oakley, which I'm tempted to believe.)
But Yglesias really loses me with the last sentence
Otherwise you get too hung up on the idea that the ‘86 Celtics were better than the ‘96 Bulls (something that all and only people from Boston seem to think) and start twisting your whole worldview around to accommodate that conclusion.
Not only people from Boston think this. I lived in Chicago in 1996, and while that team was great - truly, truly great - I support Simmons in ranking the 86 Celtics higher. They just were, man by man, and as a team. I'm not going to rehash why - the book does a great job of that. But I think Yglesias' error here might have something to do with the fact that Yglesias was probably like 4 in 1986 but a true sports fan by the time the 96 Bulls rolled around. Age bias rears its ugly head.