This Might Get Graphic

I’ve seen a lot of info graphics on many different web sites. But I don’t think any of them can top what I saw in lecture this week.

When Usain Bolt sprinted through the Olympics at alarming rates once again, everybody immediately hailed him as the greatest sprinter in Olympic history. Arguments were made that he’s the greatest show the games have ever seen 

I was always kind of skeptical of that. Carl Lewis and Jesse Owens were men who changed the entire playing field of Olympic sprinting. I always thought of them to be the gold standard.

Until I saw the New York Times graphic that featured Bolt. 

The day after he won, the publication posted a graphic that put every single Olympic sprinter who medaled on a track. They were all side-by-side in one giant race. From 1896 to 2012, you could see how much faster the times have gotten. As you notice the transition from eras, you really do realize the evolution of Olympic sprinters.

But Bolt is simply a different beast. Even compared to today’s athletes, he was basically a full second ahead. There’s no doubt he’s the fastest man to put on a pair of shoes. That’s besides the point though.

That graphic gave readers true historical perspective. Sports are a field where many people don’t believe until they see it. We always have debates where we yell if LeBron James could be better than Michael Jordan, or if Tom Brady can surpass Joe Montana. In this instance, we were given the opportunity to see it firsthand. 

Count me in the Bolt believers after seeing that graphic. Fantasy became reality. And that’s something I’d encourage more publications to do, particularly in sports.

There are more advancements in technology in ever, so to me, there is no excuse why we can’t make more of this type of work happen. Obviously, it’s not applicable in terms of who would win some fantasy game, like the latest version of the Olympic gold medalist basketball team versus the 1992 Dream Team. But we can definitely look at the athletic differences between the two teams through this type of graphic. 

Think about how much is made of sports now through fantasy. Millions upon millions of football fans play fantasy football. Imagine if you could see your fantasy players on a field graphic, lined up next to each other, with their point distributions laid out. The possibilities are truly endless. 

I always like to see progression in a field. And that Bolt graphic shows some real progress in sports journalism. 


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