The quarantine has given me extra time. More time has lead me back to 1990s sports.
I have watched a ton of 1990’s baseball and football and it has only confirmed what I knew to be true previously: Best era in sports.
Basketball obviously speaks for itself—The Jordan era, Reggie Miller, the Dream Team, the end of the Pistons, Shaq and Penny, Stockton to Malone, Barkley, KG and Marbury, the Spurs first title, Iverson, Jason Williams on the Kings, Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, Jerry Tarkanian and UNLV, Duke, The Fab Five—So Good.
But basketball ranks a mere 3rd on the list of best 90s sports because the differences between baseball and football then versus now is so much more astronomical.
The two playoff series between the Pirates and Braves in the early 90s were epic. Young superstars, even the ones with big egos like Barry Bonds, played the game hard and the right way.
Generally runs came at a premium in the playoffs. It was all about pitching and timely hitting. The series between those two teams had great pitching staffs and solid line-ups. But ultimately names like Glavine, Smoltz, Avery, Drabek, Smiley, and Smith made runs hard to come by for batters like Justice, Gant, Pendleton, Bonds, Bonilla, and Van Slyke.
In those days a single or walk was a big deal. It used to bring up a bunch of options: Steal, bunt, (or steal then bunt) hit and run, or playing it straight up. And those options could, and often would, change after each pitch. Now teams don’t even think about those options. It’s all homers or strikeouts.
The Braves beat the Pirates in 1991 and landed in the World Series against the Twins. It was the best World Series of all time. Featuring seven games, five decided by one run, three of them in extra innings. The series ended with the Twins winning 1-0 in the 10th inning of game 7, which followed game 6’s walk-off homer in the 11th inning.
That series featured Chuck Knoblauch and Mark Lemke at 2nd base for the Twins and Braves. Two players who played gargantuan roles for their respective teams in October. Or as Tim McCarver from the booth put it, “The little men…have become the big men…in this series.” Those two guys are just a couple of examples of everyday players on a World Series team that probably couldn’t even make an opening day roster in 2020. Along with Greg Gagne, Shane Mack, Scott Leius, Mike Pagliarulo, Dan Gladden, Jeff Blauser, Rafael Belliard, Greg Olsen, Brian Hunter and Sid Bream. I don’t see too many of those guys making it in the majors these days.
The Braves, Twins, and Pirates were just the tip of the iceberg for baseball and its exciting teams of the 90s. The Phillies, A’s, Blue Jays, Reds, Mariners, Indians, Orioles, Yankees, Red Sox, Rockies, Marlins and Giants also had rosters filled full of perfect mixes of World Series winners, crazy characters, and all-stars.
Major League Baseball had so many marketable guys in the 1990s. Ironically, the modern era of sports we live in now, where every individual is worried about their ‘brand’, the MLB has almost no marketable players. If the 90’s players were around today there’d be at least 5 guys from each of the teams listed above with their own brands and so many more players would be household names because of endorsements. I’d be using Dan Gladden’s shampoo and Brady Anderson’s razors right now.
Just look at Philadelphia. How great was that roster of Lenny Dykstra, Mitch Williams, Dave Hollins, Curt Schilling, Darren Dalton, Mikey Morandini, Jim Eisenrich, Pete Incaviglia, Terry Mulholland, and John Kruk?. That must have been such a tough team for just a normal person to be on.
Or how about that Indians roster that included Bartolo Colon, Omar Vizquel, Jim Thome, Eddie Murray, Kenny Lofton, Manny Ramirez, Carlos Baerga, Paul Sorrento, Albert Belle, Charles Nagy, Sandy Alomar Jr., Jose Mesa, Tony Fernandez, Matt Williams, David Justice, Roberto Alomar, Marquise Grissom, Orel Hershiser, Travis Fryman and Dave Winfield? All sprinkled into the lineup at some point. Unbelievable. In the 1995 World Series, which the Indians lost to the Braves in 6 games, Cleveland featured a batting order that had Jim Thome batting 6th and Manny Ramirez batting 7th. You can’t make that up.
The 4 headed monster of Andres Galarraga, Larry Walker, Dante Bichette, and Vinny Castilla hit a million home runs out of Coors field in Denver for the Rockies.
The Reds of Lou Pinella with Chris Sabo, Mariano Duncan, Eric Davis, Barry Larkin, Joe Oliver, Rob Dibble, Randy Myers, Tom Browning, Paul O’Neil, Jose Rijo, and Hal Morris somehow beat Tony Larussa’s roided up A’s that had Mark McGuire, Jose Canseco, Harold Baines, Dennis Eckersley, Dave Stewart, Rickey Henderson, Dave Henderson, Terry Steinbach, Bob Welch, Mike Gallego, and Walt Weiss in the 1990 World Series.
That A’s team had guys big enough to play in the NFL, a league that also hit its peak in the 90s.
The Vikings have been well documented on this particular website, but it’s worth noting that they missed the playoffs 3 times in the 90s (’90, ’91, and ’95). I was only 8 and 9 years old in ’90 and ’91, and Dennis Green didn’t take over until ’92, so I always say they only missed the playoffs once in the 90s. But I digress.
I love the 90s Vikings.
All the starting Qb’s they ran through in that era…it’s amazing the Vikings were perennial playoff contenders.
Rich Gannon, Wade Wilson, Sean Salisbury, Jim McMahon, Warren Moon, Brad Johnson, Randall Cunningham, and Jeff George All started games for lengthy periods of time. Ugh.
Look at all that crap. You can argue every QB on that list was a retread. Four of them you can’t argue…they were washed for sure.
But the defenses were always solid, especially when Tony Dungy was the coordinator for a lot of those units in the early 90s. Those defenses always forced a lot of turnovers and kept the Vikings in the game.
That sums up the NFL game in the 1990s. The good teams almost always had to be good defensively. And it wasn’t rocket science. Because in the 1990’s you were allowed to hit. You were allowed to hold your ground when covering wide receivers. And hitting the quarterback was basically just like hitting anybody else.
The league makes it impossible to play defense now. The rules say you literally can’t touch a wide receiver after 5 yards and you can’t hit ‘defenseless’ players. Defenseless basically just means not looking. So if a wide receiver or running back is looking the other way in the first few moments after he catches the ball, and gets whacked in that time, it’s a flag. You can’t tackle a quarterback too low or too high and you can’t hit him a fraction of a second late.
And you can’t touch Brady or Rodgers at all. Nothing more pathetic than watching one of those two little bitches get grazed, wine and cry for a flag and get it.
How the hell are you supposed to play defense? How are you supposed to coach and teach defense?
The answer is you can’t. You’re gonna get scored on. Even the best defenses now give up a ton of points compared to the best defenses of the 90s.
Imagine how good Elway, Montana, Favre, Young, Marino, or Kelly, would have been if the rules were the same in that era. No one would have ever heard of the ’85 Bears and Kelly and Marino would probably have Super Bowls. All those guys would have been Patrick Mahomes before Patrick Mahomes. And there’d be none of this talk of Brady being the best of all time if the defensive rules had always been as they are now.
The bottom line is even though it’s on youtube, without HD compatibility, I’d still prefer to watch 90s sports over anything today. It was just a better game.
EDITORS NOTE: DEION SANDERS PLAYED FOR 4 DIFFERENT BASEBALL TEAMS AND 3 DIFFERENT FOOTBALL TEAMS IN THE 90s. HIS OMISSION WAS INEXCUSABLE.