Comparing apples to oranges does no one any favours

Zakaia Cvitanovich Roar Rookie

By Zakaia Cvitanovich, 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.

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    The Crowd Says (19)

    • Roar Guru

      November 21st 2017 @ 8:47am
      Ralph said | November 21st 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

      Quite true. What is it within us that causes us to habitually push people into boxes?

      It fosters many forms of prejudice.

      But by doing it, it doesn’t just make less of the person you are labelling, it also makes less of the person doing the pushing.

      • November 21st 2017 @ 4:26pm
        rueben said | November 21st 2017 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

        “do not compare your selves with others, for there will always be greater or lesser persons than your selves , strive to be happy”.

      • November 21st 2017 @ 10:51pm
        Wallsy said | November 21st 2017 @ 10:51pm | ! Report

        Not only the pigeonholing, but the continual debate about team selection. You can look at two players in isolation and compare stats, but their contribution to a match depends much more on how they work with the rest of the team.

        The old adage about a champion team vs a team of champions springs to mind.

    • November 21st 2017 @ 1:16pm
      BAgs said | November 21st 2017 @ 1:16pm | ! Report

      So True….for 33 years Australia has been searching for the next Mark Ella, and every no 10 since has suffered … interestingly enough though no one has ever been called the Next Mark Ella…..perhaps a true reflection of the hole he left. Every player is different and should be appreciated for the unique combination of skills, and flaws, that they bring to the paddock and the plasma screen.

    • November 21st 2017 @ 4:05pm
      RedandBlack said | November 21st 2017 @ 4:05pm | ! Report

      Not to mention the fact that we are rogering our game based on Grid Iron concussion research. That is a game when huge men run into each other all day and then practice doing it every day. Up until recently a lot of them used their helmeted heads as the contact point. Most of them must have been permanently concussed. To draw the extreme conclusions from that that rugby has is a big step. I am aware of no evidence that the occasional head knock is any more damaging than the occasional bruise. We should look at our own apples and leave the NFL oranges to the USA. I don’t mind a cautious approach but the current stance is stupid – who ever got hurt in a seat belt tackle?

      • November 21st 2017 @ 4:57pm
        Kane said | November 21st 2017 @ 4:57pm | ! Report

        I couldn’t agree more. The fact World rugby reasearch shows that you’re 2.5 times more likely to get concussed making a tackle than being tackled makes you wonder why they don’t put emphasis on teaching technique than banning tackles above the nipple line.

      • November 21st 2017 @ 6:57pm
        Cuw said | November 21st 2017 @ 6:57pm | ! Report

        i think it is not about the game but the impacts on head that is under consideration.

        boxing – Ali is the best case and there must be many more including those who have died.

        football – a few are now wondering if the many headers they did as players is impacting them in later life.

        cricket – suddenly those hits on the helmet is now under the ‘scope.

        so if there is any comparison – then it is not about what someone is wearing or how someone is tacking ; it is simply about the head and something making contact with it.

      • Roar Rookie

        November 22nd 2017 @ 5:37pm
        piru said | November 22nd 2017 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

        Agree with this

        NFL teams are now teaching their players rugby tackling techniques to ‘take the head out of the tackle’.

        There’s even been recommendations to take the helmets off and make the game more like rugby.

        Rugby basing it’s own policies on gridiron stats is silly

    • Roar Guru

      November 21st 2017 @ 10:24pm
      Harry Jones said | November 21st 2017 @ 10:24pm | ! Report

      My understanding is humans learn primarily by contrasting things; then, ideas.

      • November 22nd 2017 @ 8:38am
        RedandBlack said | November 22nd 2017 @ 8:38am | ! Report

        My understanding is humans learn primarily by doing, pain, right we won’t do that again. A secondary method is observing someone else getting the good news and deciding thats not for you. My point is we have rushed to cripple our game based on data that is largely irrelevant. The NFL have adjusted to their own data without ruining their game so why are we letting it ruin ours? I repeat there is no data that I have heard off that shows one off head knocks are a major health hazard. The problem is repeated concussions, especially before the initial concussion has been resolved.

        • November 22nd 2017 @ 11:59am
          double agent said | November 22nd 2017 @ 11:59am | ! Report

          How is being tough on head high tackles ruining the game?

          • November 22nd 2017 @ 12:12pm
            Jerry said | November 22nd 2017 @ 12:12pm | ! Report

            When you raise the penalties for an offence, you exacerbate the inequity when it comes to missed calls – eg, SBW got a red card for a head high shoulder charge, Kaino got a yellow, SOB knocked out Waisake Naholo and got nothing.

      • Roar Guru

        November 22nd 2017 @ 2:01pm
        Ralph said | November 22nd 2017 @ 2:01pm | ! Report

        Nice point, and very true – contrast brings clarity.

        The problems start when pre judgments are brought to the table for the contrast process.

        Prejudice plus contrast equals bigotry.

    • Roar Rookie

      November 22nd 2017 @ 5:34pm
      piru said | November 22nd 2017 @ 5:34pm | ! Report

      If anyone ever doubted what a great man Jonah was this line:

      “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.”

      • Roar Guru

        November 23rd 2017 @ 8:39am
        John R said | November 23rd 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        When I was youngster and Jonah was playing for the Hurricanes, he lived on the same street as us, and would always stop to have a yarn when I was out in the street skate boarding, a true legend that bloke. And always in a different super flash car everytime I saw him.

        • November 23rd 2017 @ 10:19am
          Dsat24 said | November 23rd 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

          He did stop for people, he probably never said no to his friends and family who asked for handouts.

          • Roar Guru

            November 23rd 2017 @ 10:28am
            John R said | November 23rd 2017 @ 10:28am | ! Report

            Allegedly that’s where the majority of his money ended up. Cause he couldn’t say no to friends and family.

            Israel Folau has spoken about the challenges of that in Pacific Islander culture. He’s literally had distant cousins he’s never met ask him for 5 figure sums just ’cause.

            • November 23rd 2017 @ 10:38am
              Fionn said | November 23rd 2017 @ 10:38am | ! Report

              It’d be a terrible position to be in. Especially when you feel a sense of responsibility to take care of your friends and family who are less privileged than you—even when they’re such distant cousins.

              Of course you’d want to take care of your friends and family, but it would be hard when you have a HUGE family and a lot of them are asking for money. Especially since I imagine a large number of them would need money for really important needs as opposed to superficial wants.

              • November 23rd 2017 @ 12:09pm
                Dsat24 said | November 23rd 2017 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

                Of course those provided for will be ok to provide for Jonahs family now.

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