While horse racing fans may vigorously debate who will win the 6th race at Arlington, they rarely entertain un-ending debates about whether Secretariat could have beaten Man o' War or Citation. They raced in different eras and we just can't know.
It may seem like a sport that lends itself to historical comparisons as the events are timed and distances noted, but the actual thoroughbred breed has varied among eras, as have rules about drug usage, training practices, equine medicine and nutrition, the actual dirt on the tracks have been altered, some horses race in different climates, etc. So even though both horses may have raced a 1 1/4 on Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May in different years, the comparison is too forced to bother.
Horse players agree it's illogical to think you can divine an answer from such a debate. And if even if you could divine an answer in which you're confident, it'd be even MORE illogical to think anyone would believe your rationale. If you're able to ascertain who will win the 6th at Arlington, you can make a lot of money- but even if one COULD ascertain the winner of a fictional race between Secretariat and Man o' War- how would you go about monetizing that? Would the end result, justify the means of fruitless thinking? Most horse players think not.
Horse players save their debates for the next race in front of them where there will be an actual, tangible winner in 8 minutes and you can look at your friend next to you and say, "I told you so. Now who ya got in 7th race? let's see if we can put our heads together and win two races in a row.".
When people compare LeBron to Jordan they seek to know the un-knowable. Remember when Uncle Rico, Kip and Napoleon Dynamite are watching Uncle Rico's video? Napoleon says it's pretty much the worst movie ever made and Kip's reply is, "Napoleon, like anyone could even know that.".
Like every older brother worth his salt, Kip doesn't engage Napoleon in a debate that is literally impossible to settle, he just calls him out on his logical shortcomings and watches his little brother leave in a huff because he knows he's right.
Below is the aforementioned dialogue highlighting the absurdities of the debating the unknowable.
Friend: Hey man, how's it going?
Me: I'm doing pretty well, man. How about you?
Friend: I'm good thanks. I'm doing not doing as badly as I was Tuesday, but not as well as I was on Saturday.
Me: I see, well I'm glad you're doing well.
Friend: I was gonna see if you wanted to hit a happy hour tonight and maybe grab some dinner.
Me: Sounds great, did you have a place in mind?
Friend: Yeah, that new place by where I work. The appetizers are about as good at Hub51's, the atmosphere is kinda a mix of Sunda and Sub51 ,the clientele is kinda cheesey, not Rockit-cheesey, but close. The bathrooms are cleaner than my bathroom at home but like as clean as my at my mom's house. Some of the salads taste like they were made at Wiener Circle, but when I ate some others I was like, "WHATTT? Am I at Alinea or Girl and the Goat or something?," for realsies.
Me: So, you're saying you like this place?
Friend: Oh totally! It's too early to compare this to like Gibsons or something because it's so new, but I'm going to go on record and say that it will never beat Gibsons IN ITS PRIME, but I think that in time, it may be remembered as the closest thing we ever had to Gibsons IN ITS PRIME.
Me: Ok, cool....So I guess we'll eat there.
Friend: You'll definitely like it.
Me: Sounds great. So how the ladies treating you these days?
Friend: Pretty well, thanks. Not like Ryan-Gosling-well, but I'm confident the chicks are a lot classier than like, who Mario Lopez picks up when his wife isn't looking, ya know?
Me: Honestly not really. I wasn't looking for a history lesson involving the juggling of multiple variables, I was just trying to gain an appreciation for how it's going for you.
Friend: ha, fair enough. The last I chick I took out a few times wasn't as hot as Julie from college, but she has a WAY cuter butt. I mean, it's not like a J-Lo. booty, but more like a Lindsay Vonn kinda thing.
Me: I see. But if you like her why do you have to view her through the lens of every other female in history?
Friend: What? I don't have to, but helps me quantify her rank. Sure she doesn't have Kate Upton's boobs but who does- I mean other than an EARLY Laetitia Casta, 2009-2012 Katy Perry, and- and I realize this is mixing eras so its dicey- Kim Novak. But nonetheless her boobs are pretty great, so I'm happy about that.
Me: But if you like HER, when you're actually with her why not be thinking about just her, instead of how she ranks with others who aren't her and who are not even dating anymore?
Friend: Of course I think about her. But because I am SUCH an appreciator of women and I know about ALL kinds, that I can't help view them through a lens of historical context. I have so much info about women I just can't help but compare them
Me: Why? You compared her shape to the shape of women from decades ago? That isn't apples-to-apples. How are you gonna compare a living-breathing person with the memories of a person from over a decade ago? That's not apples-to-apples. That's not even grapes-to-grapes, it's more of a grape-to-raisin comparison.
Friend: No it isn't
Me: Yes, because one exists in its current form the other doesn't. You're saying "this is currently a grape. How does it compare with this raisin, that was once a grape?". And I'm saying, "you CANNOT know because you cant eat them both at the same time to have a direct comparison. And even if you waited for them both to become raisins- one raisin is still much older than the other and comparing raisins from different eras is EXTRA pointless".
Friend: Ok, now YOU are the one making wacky comparisons.
Do you think people were more excited by the invention of the DVD than they were the cassette tape? or how about the invention of the iPod vs. the answering machine? How would you rank the dishwasher's invention vs. that of the microwave?
Friend: Your technology examples don't work because those are different forms of technology, from different eras that do completely different things!
Me: So you're saying that it's foolish to compare relics of different eras- especially when they don't do the exact same thing?
Friend: Absolutely. I mean wow would I know if a fax machine was cooler in 1987, than a freaking curling iron in 1974?
Me: Ok, I'm so glad we can agree on something. I'm totally with you that is stupid. So I guess you're finished comparing Michael Jordan to Wilt Chamberlain to Oscar Robertson to Lebron to Larry Bird to Magic Johnson then.
Friend: Wait, what? No I'm not!!
Your methods of arguing are BARELY better than my 5 year old cousin's, but not NEARLY as good as Socrates, Johnny Cochran, Bill Matlock, or even Suze Orman's hot streak of arguing from 2005-2009. Atticus Finch definitely was way better, and even the attorney representing Mayella Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird did better than you just did. The Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer from SNL was more relatable, and your arguments were about as cohesive as Jim Carey's when he was an attorney in Liar Liar.