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Football And The Decline Of The Western Civilization

decline-of-western-civilization.jpgMany scholars of art, literature, football and music will argue that the classics are far better than the recent and current crop of artistes. Legends such as Dali, Picasso, Shakespeare, Yeats, Dickens, Cruyff, Pele, Pukas, Lennon, Sinatra, Presley and Marley come to mind, people who were far more talented than our present day idols.

It’s easy to pick legends from a few hundred years of history, but can we really admit that as each civilization evolves, that it becomes less talented than the previous generation as well as becoming more of a retread than creating works of art? After all, how unique can artists be when their predecessors have already been there, done that?

To me, it’s difficult to compare current day legends to our predecessors. Reason being is that the world of art, literature, football and music are so different than during the times of the legends. In music, there appears to be far less talented artists than in the past. Amy Winehouse, while talented, is simply regurgitating her take on classics by Arethra Franklin, The Supremes and Billie Holiday.

In football, Cristiano Ronaldo has proven how talented the Portugese wizard is, but where he ranks among the superstars of the world’s game depends on what he does from here on. After winning the Champions League and the past two Premier League titles, maybe it’s time for Ronaldo to move on to Real Madrid where he can improve his game and become a legend in the country where he’s always dreamed of playing.

Over the centuries, civilizations evolve. There are many gifted writers today but they pale in comparison to the classic writers of the past. And the same applies to the world of art where modern day artists such as Damien Hurst prefer to shock the public instead of creating classic art pieces that amaze.

It makes you wonder whether each generation that comes along produces art (whether it be football or other classics) than are inferior to the previous generation. If that’s the case, should we expect that the level of football will continue to decline year after year and never surpass the golden generation of Pele, Jairzinho, Muller, Riva, Alberto and others?

After all, a lot of criticism is subjective. While greats such as Pele and Maradona were superstars, how gifted were the defenders who tried to stop them from looking suspect? As defenders have improved, it must be harder than ever to break down the barriers for a player to show his talents.

Overall, my point is that it looks like our future generations are doomed. Each one appears to be getting fatter, dumber and lazier than the one before, which impacts the level of quality of our footballers. They keep on becoming more diluted and may never exceed the greats such as Pele, Riva, Pukas and other legends.

What are your thoughts about modern day football and how it compares to the classics? Share your insight below by clicking the comments button.

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  1. Pingback: Every Scar Tells a Story - The Run of Play

  2. eplnfl

    July 1, 2008 at 8:09 am

    Well, I am old enough to be a grand father and have seen generations come and go! I do not feel great about my vast experience base, but I can say this, each generation brings out it’s new stars and they are better then the past but different.

    However, there are a handful of people who stand out from one generation to the next, in football it’s Pele, in basketball it’s Michael Jordan, in politics it’s Winston Churchill, in the arts, Michaelangelo, go on and pick your area. Each generation has it’s value and each generation brings some people or thing that will remain a bright star for centuries.

    Good piece Chris!

  3. Kartik

    June 30, 2008 at 8:49 pm

    You people are unbelievable. This is an outstanding

    ANALYTICAL look at football and society today.

    Some of you have an “I was born yesterday mentality.”

    Thankfully the Gaffer is not as shortsighted as so many of his readers.

    Good work, Gaff. Great piece. I don’t agree with all of it but appreciate your sentiments and thoughts.

  4. The Gaffer

    June 30, 2008 at 6:31 pm


    I don’t pretend to have all of the answers, but the article is based more on a matter of opinion than fact. Sure, I’m older (late 30s) and have been through a lot in my life, so I may sound more jaded than most of you who commented, but this is my perspective on the world that we live in.

    Tomas/Alex, I have three kids and a fourth on the way. I don’t feel they’re doomed at all but I’m more of a realist than an idealist.

    Good feedback everyone. I enjoyed reading everyone’s comments on this one.

    The Gaffer

  5. soccr tease

    June 30, 2008 at 1:39 pm

    This post is complete bollocks. The truth is, in fact the opposite. The general level of play has increased so much that phenoms are only a fraction of a cut above instead of 3 cuts like they were in 50’s or even the 80’s. Never in history have majorfootballing clubs recruited and trained players from such a young age. never before has the motivation been stronger and more widespread(glory, cash) and available to wider groups of people(widespread adoption of television, and internet) that has allowed the cultivation of a generation of players who rival pele and pukas.

    1 pele on the field is great, but 20 of them just makes some damn fine football. Aside from the diving and the crass commercialism thats exactly what we see in the best leagues of the world today. Today, football is a far better game than it ever has been.

  6. kat kid

    June 30, 2008 at 12:56 pm

    1) Gaffer you sound more like Grandpa
    2) Why don’t we wait until C. Ronaldo, Messi, et al can be judged in history the same way that we now judge Picasso/Pele
    3) Your article underlies the point that SpursFan makes: our culture has not been debased, it has been transformed and largely for the better in terms of the availability of information and the rapid increases in technology and human athletic achievement. One of the effects of this is the shortening of our attention spans, and thus, the need for ever shortening intervals of re-evaluation and melancholic or celebratory insta-nostalgia (see: I love the 80’s, 90’s and now even more ridiculously the 00’s! We can’t even make it through a whole decade now without creaming over ourselves about the recent past).

    Gaffer, we love you but the grumpiness and sentimentality is not much appreciated.

  7. tomas rose-hickey(formerly alex hleb)

    June 30, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    gaffer do you have any kids or want kids? do you feel that your kids would be doomed then? im 20 but know that one day before im 40 would like to have kids. i would not want to say that my kids are doomed. i have hope that this generation will come through to be great. remember, many artists were not considered great during their time but are heroes today. capernicus and galileo come to mind. who knows, maybe someone in this generation will come up with a cure for aids or cancer. maybe you and i are different. im an idealist, how about you?

  8. Dave @ Soccer FanHouse

    June 30, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    Back in my day, kids weren’t as fat, dumb and lazy as they are now, with their damn internets and mo-bile phones! We had to walk five miles in the snow to get to school! If someone suffered a heart attack in the street, we didn’t have this fancy CPR nonsense! We just stood there and watched him die! That’s the way it was, and we LIKED it!

    C’mon, Gaffer, you’re better than this. With all the talk of Spain’s “Joga Bonito” winning EURO 2008, you should feel a bit more encouraged about the future of the Association game. Football is not doomed by any stretch.

  9. Chad

    June 30, 2008 at 11:12 am

    Here are three arguments. Two support the idea that our current stars are just as good if not better than the established legends. The other argument is skeptical of questions the sort the gaffer is asking.

    Here is an argument that the players who dominate our era are just as good if not better than past legends. In this day and age, globalisation is the norm. Anyone who has knowledge of South American club football knows that it is a selling business. The best players are sold to European clubs. Over time, this has created a concentration of the best players that exist in a small number of leagues. This means the competition in European leagues is at an undeniably high level. So, whichever players dominates our era, he will be dominating in the era of globalisation. That player will be dominating a system whose very nature is to produce the highest concentration of quality. This bodes well for the idea that our current crop of stars really are just as good if not better than past legends, because the past legends did not compete in such a system of globalisation.

    Here is a second argument that our current stars are just as good as the legends. Not only are European leagues concentrated with the best players in the world, these leagues are concentrated with teams that have extensive and systematic scientific knowledge about fitness and diet. This knowledge allows each team to get the most out of each player. In the past, knowledge about fitness and diet paled in comparison, and it is likely that many players did not reach the ceilings of their potential partially because of this reason. Players of this era do not have this problem. Thus, players that dominate this era are not only reaching their ceilings of potential, but the level of competition who they play against are also reaching the ceilings of their potential.

    Finally, here is an argument that I had fun with because it is of an extreme form of skepticism and kind of out there. Value judgments that express propositions like, ‘Pele is better that Cruyff’ lack a truth-value (i.e. they are not true, nor are they false) because there is no objective criteria by which to evaluate the proposition expressed. On the other hand, a statement like, ‘Pele is faster than Cruyff’ is not problematic, because we could easily come up with an objective criterion that would settle the question (e.g. record their times as they run 100m). ‘Pele is better than Cruyff’ is not like this at all. What would the criteria be? Not only that, whatever criteria you come up with, I’m sure that someone will disagree with your selection. Your opinion that the best players win the most titles would be countered with someone saying the best players score the most goals. Who gets to decide which criterion is the correct one? It is certainly not implicit in the definition of ‘better than’ which criterion would win. Thus, the very nature the questions the gaffer is asking is problematic.


  10. Hank

    June 30, 2008 at 11:01 am

    Sorry, I’m a fan of the blog, but I think this post needs a rewrite 🙂

    Aside from disagreeing with both the premise (culture is in decline) and the conclusion (football is in decline) – I don’t think it makes its point very convincingly.

    The conclusion is stated at the end, but until I read that next to last paragraph, I had no idea which side of the issue the post fell on. Paragraphs (2,4,7) raise questions about the conclusion, but the questions are ignored rather then refuted. Paragraph 3 is almost a non-sequitur, stating that comparisons between artists from different times are difficult, then making a point about Amy Winehouse.

  11. Cracked Up

    June 30, 2008 at 10:16 am

    This is an outstanding piece. Maybe it should be submitted to a media entity beyond EPL Talk. A daily op-ed page or perhaps even Soccernet or Fox Soccer?

    This really is your best piece yet, Gaffer.

  12. SpursFanInNC

    June 30, 2008 at 9:37 am

    A further point – the biggest criticism of Elvis Presley has always been that he just copied and repackaged the great black musicians of the time, “stealing” their work and taking it mainstream because white disc jockeys wouldn’t play music by a black person.

    Others would argue that he took the best of “white” and “black” to create a blend that was a wonderful fusion and completely original (his wikipedia entry talks to this).

    The point is that at worst, he was doing what you label as unoriginal regurgitation, and at best is just a new take / evolution on old classics. But it was by no means completely original.

    I personally think it was the later. And I don’t think this is a bad thing. After all, the context of existing art is important in understanding and interpreting (and enjoying) the new.

  13. SpursFanInNC

    June 30, 2008 at 9:20 am

    I really disagree with the entire premise of this article, and oddly enough was recently in a discussion with friends on this very topic.

    Whether in art, sport or science the current generation is much more prolific and creative than in years past. The problem, as a friend so aptly put it, is that the internet makes it so that there is a ton more chaff to go with the wheat.

    250-350 years ago, it was possible for a genius to know everything in the world. You could actually know everything that man knew – hence someone like Da Vinci seems so prolific across so many fields.

    Today, everyone can get published, and there are fantastic artists using outlets like Flickr or blogspot to publish their works, rather than art houses and traditional publishers. And the level of detailed knowledge is such that the significant breakthroughs are out of the understanding of the general public – instead of discovering that the heart pumps blood through the body, we are understanding the roles of individual nerve synapses in a heart ventricle.

    Sport is no different. Athletes today are better conditioned at the high school level than they were in the Olympics in the past. To think that our brilliant footballers of today couldn’t go back in time and dominate is almost a foolish position to try to take.

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