Comparing apples to oranges does no one any favours

Zakaia Cvitanovich Roar Rookie

By , Zakaia Cvitanovich is a Roar Rookie


19 Have your say

    We all make comparisons.

    We debate the merits of rugby union over league, rugby over football and rugby over American football.

    We also discuss the teams of today in comparison to those of yesteryear.

    And of course, whenever female athletes call for pay parity, there’s the inevitable comparison between women’s and men’s sports.

    However, how much sense do these comparisons actually make?

    A recent article penned by Gregor Paul begins, “It’s an emerging player’s curse to draw early comparisons with a legend of the game.” Soon after there’s the ‘but’, as he compares Jack Goodhue to Conrad Smith, saying it’s his “instinct to play others into space that creates an immediate comparison with Smith”.

    Comparisons of one athlete to another, especially at the early stages of a career, can be a double-edged sword.

    Comparisons, are no doubt, a form of flattery (depending on whom the comparison is with, of course), but as it can’t be substantiated (unless it’s something like who’s the fastest, tallest, heaviest etc.), its an opinion, nothing more, nothing less.

    Now, thanks to technology, it’s easy to compare players’ stats, but is that all that necessitates a one’s greatness?

    When Julia Savea was being compared to Jonah Lomu, the great man himself said it was disrespectful to Julian to make the comparisons: “I don’t believe for a moment he wants to be called the New Jonah Lomu. I’m very flattered, but don’t disrespect him by saying he’s like me. He’s not. He’s like him. He’s Julian Savea. It’s his jersey now. It’s not mine.”

    In reply, Savea said that it was an honor to be compared to such a legend, but “shifted uneasily at the comparison”, and added that all he strives for is being the best he can be.

    The comparisons between the two players came as a result of their “barnstorming scale, pace and athleticism”, but Lomu said “the urge to find similarity [was] belittling” Savea, because of the insinuation that his place in the team was due to his “physical resemblance with a former hero” as opposed to what he brought to the game himself.

    Even Justin Marshall saw no logic in the comparison during Rugby World Cup 2015, saying that it was crazy to compare “two players who operated in different times and different environments.”

    Surely the amount of support they have on the field needs to be taken into consideration when comparing players.

    But the major issue is the subsequent rendering of invisibility. One of the mantras of the All Blacks is to leave the jersey in a better place – every player wants to leave their mark, they don’t pull on the jersey to be in the shadow of someone else.

    Chris Rattue came under fire for his April article proclaiming Beauden Barrett was “a better No.10 than Dan Carter”, and rightly so. Comparing the two men, one at the end of his international career and the other still in the infancy of his, was premature. They are different players.

    Barrett doesn’t play to be Carter’s mini-me. He plays his game, his way. There were many unkind comparisons between the two men when Barrett was struggling with his kicking, does anyone seriously think that would’ve helped him?

    According to social comparison theory, “we determine our own social and personal worth based on how we stack up against others”. So, in order to truly know ourselves, we need to know ourselves in relation to others. Ergo, comparisons are an inevitable part of life.

    Comparisons can provide motivation and growth, but they can also cause self-doubt, especially if the comparison being made is with a great, a legend of the game. Because, if that’s the case, you’re always going to fall short – at least in some eyes.