“Oh, Judge. I don’t keep score.”
“Then how do you measure yourself against other golfers?”
“By height.” –Caddyshack
Almost entirely, milestones in sports are meaningless. The idea that a player or a team getting to point x or point y actually matters was invented by sports writers who, as is their nature, needed something about which to talk. Because sports fans are forever all too willing to talk about whatever sports writers tell them to, those made-up milestones (also referred to as “plateaus,” as in, “Congrats, Jimmy! You’ve finally made it to the top of the plateau!”) get talked about and talked about until pretty soon, they morph into actual ways of measuring an athlete. Don’t have 300 career wins, Mr. Baseball Pitcher? Good luck making the Hall of Fame any time soon. Fell just short of 1,000 yards rushing for the season, Mr. Football Running Back? You’ll have to forgive us if we laugh at your terribleness. Of course none of these arbitrary plateaus actually determine an athlete’s worth, but we keep talking about them as if they do. And like every milestone, Mark Few’s 300 career wins (a number he reached just last week) is totally meaningless as anything other than a talking point for Joe Zag Fan in all his forms. Then again, because it is Joe Zag Fan doing the talking, those 300 wins, and the way Joe believes in their validity as a measuring stick, mean everything.