The one variable you can’t ignore in past vs. present debates

Well, Steve Kerr certainly knows how to ruin a good thing with a generous helping of common sense mixed liberally with sarcasm.

All this talk from the NBA’s old school, about how this team (the Showtime Lakers!) or that team (the Michael Jordan Bulls!) or those other teams (the ’67 Sixers! The ’86 Celtics!) would take this year’s Warriors to the woodshed, and Kerr finally couldn’t help himself the other day.

“They’re all right, they would kill us,” said Kerr — who, by the by, played on some of those all-time Jordan-led Bulls teams. “The game gets worse as time goes on. Players are less talented than they used to be. The guys in the ’50s would’ve destroyed everybody. It’s weird how human evolution … goes in reverse in sports. Players get weaker, smaller, less skilled. I can’t explain it.”

This, of course, immediately makes you laugh because it inevitably makes you think about what George Mikan would look like trying to guard Kevin Durant in the post (or Kyle O’Quinn, for that matter), and because it immediately lays the wood to about 10,000 of the best 11,000 sports arguments — the ones where we easily cross eras and wonder who would beat whom if we could take a hammer to the space-time continuum.

Look, if we think too much about this, then even the fabled ’27 Yankees — who we always just have assumed were the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) among baseball teams — don’t look quite so fabled, quite so vaunted, quite so unbeatable, quite so unapproachable.

First, you have to think of the obvious stuff: The ’27 Yankees played an entirely segregated game, so they didn’t take one at-bat or throw one pitch against anyone of color. They didn’t play one inning west of St. Louis, therefore no red-eye flights (and no worries about having to play an 8:10 Sunday night game in Philadelphia and then a 7:10 Monday game in Anaheim).

Also, hitting Ruth and Gehrig 3-4: Wouldn’t that make them susceptible to a good LOOGY (Lefty One-Out Guy)? You can bet the ’27 Pirates would have found a way to use Jerry Blevins in that ’27 World Series, right?

Baseball doesn’t suffer by comparison the way other sports do. Football, for instance. It is hard to mount an argument any team other than the ’72 Dolphins merits consideration as the GOAT of the NFL — they were, after all, the only team to finish a whole season with a zero on the right side of the hyphen — and yet it is hard to believe the ’72 Dolphins could seriously compete in 2017 — though they would play the Jets twice.

Their offensive line averaged — averaged — 6-foot-3 and 255 ½ pounds. By contrast, Cam Newton is listed at 6-6, 260 pounds. In the Super Bowl, Bob Griese threw exactly 11 passes, completed exactly eight of them, collected exactly 88 yards — which sounds like Tom Brady’s stats on an average playoff drive. In back-to-back Super Bowl wins, these were Griese’s stats: 14-for-18, 161 yards.

Or, as Brady might call that: “a pretty good quarter.”

Basketball probably suffers the most. And it is funny: You would think we would have learned about having these discussions prematurely, given we were having them this time last year and the Warriors never actually won a championship.

And yet it seems clear, for argument’s sake: Just about every team ever listed in the GOAT conversation — the Wilt Sixers (and Lakers), the Magic Lakers, the Bird Celtics — would have an almost impossible challenge keeping up with the Warriors’ ultra-evolved offense.

Except the ’96 Bulls: Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman, Toni Kukoc, etc. versus Durant, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green. I think even Steve Kerr might like to watch that. When he wasn’t making 52 percent of his 3s, anyway.

Vac’s Whacks

I simply cannot wait for the inevitable Reverse-Same-Old-Jets moments this year when the Jets stumble into the two or three wins that will cost them the No. 1 pick. Then what?

Can you really be considered in the conversation for the best team of all time when you surrender 49 points in the first quarter of a game that could have won you a championship?

I understand all the bile that gets directed Sidney Crosby’s way. I also have zero doubt the only argument that would be allowed among Rangers fans if he wore the blue vestments is this: Is he revered or merely beloved?

I can’t emphasize this enough: If you grew up with “The Pride of the Yankees” as a yearly staple on Ch. 11 — or just watch it now whenever it pops up on MLB Network — you must read Richard Sandomir’s book of the same name on the making of that wonderful movie. It comes out Tuesday. You’ll be done — and ready to watch the movie all over again — by Wednesday.

Whack Back at Vac

Eddie Michniewicz: If the Mets collapse, will they have the guts to bring up the kids, or is money still the team’s real goal?

Vac: Put it this way, if the Mets officially are dead by time the kids are called up, that’s just as much a waste of time and money as scraping against the Super 2 deadline would have been.

Sal Lamander: Fifty-something years ago the New York AFL team renamed themselves from the Titans to the Jets in honor of the Mets. As a Yankees fan, I appreciate them now giving my team a similar honor by rebranding themselves as the New York Tankees.

Vac: The new team logo ought to be fun.

@GeorgeFalkowski: Maybe the Nets can send more draft picks to the Cavaliers and get Deron Williams back.

@MikeVacc: Williams has looked like he would struggle with a lunchtime run at the Y, and the Cavs are trying to win a title with him getting important minutes.

Art Dockerty: Question: If you write a dozen poor articles, do you keep your job? If I had taught false stuff in math I would be fired? So how does Terry Collins keep his job? Why not hire a young progressive manager: Todd Greene, Alex Cora, Gabe Kapler, Raul Ibanez?

Vac: It is fair to point out sometimes that when Collins was hired he wasn’t appointed manager for life.