Predicting the Future of Sports…

…from 1981!

When I was back home last, I found this book that I bought in High School for about 10 cents from the public library.  I know this isn’t card related, but it should be fun nonetheless.  Bare with me.

It’s called “The People’s Almanac Presents The Book of Predictions.” Published in 1981, the editors compiled predictions on just about every imaginable subject from experts in their respective fields. These aren’t people that claim to be psychics, but rather know enough about their industries to make educated guesses as to what will happen between 1982 and 2030.

I bought the book in the late 1990s sometime, thinking it would be good for some laughs as the years progressed. Let’s see how right I was. I may split this up into a few different posts, due to the number of predictions in this thing.

I found this first one in the section titled “Illiteracy Increases – Novels Written in Sign Language.” Please keep in mind that these are quoted from the book and not made up (well, at least not by me).
1989 — Language sports will replace baseball. National League teams will be Sister-Speak, Split-Talk, Black English, Gay Lingo, Standard English, Body English and Banggangsprache

So, this person felt that within 8 years time, baseball would be no more and some sort of glorified spelling bee would take over as the National Past time? Can someone explain to me what some of these team names mean? I would think that “sister-speak” would be very similar to “black english,” no? Is split-talk anything like Spanglish? I did try looking up banggangsprache, but I think you can guess what google gave me for search results, and there ain’t much talkin’ going on with that!

Okay, on to the sports section. There are really only 3 predictors worth mentioning on here, because the fourth talks about sociology related to sports, which is dense and not that interesting for a light-hearted blog posting. Let’s start with the first half of Martin Abramson’s predictions and pick up the rest another time.

–Soccer will lose some of the popularity it has enjoyed in recent years, but another sport, the age-old English sport of cricket, will become popular in the U.S. The game will be speeded up [sic] for American purposes, but it will retain some of the leisurely, homespun character that has been identified with it in England and British Commonwelath countries down through the centuries.
— A major international cricket match will be held in Yankee Stadium in the fall of 1981. It will be so successful that the first professional cricket league will be formed in this country in 1982.
— Boxing will enjoy a comeback, with more white fighters competing because of the large sums offered and because the national depression will make it hard for many young people to find decent jobs.
— Few pitchers will win 20 games per season, because the trend toward using relief pitchers and part-game pitchers will continue.
— The Mets will become New York’s favorite baseball team again.

Okay, class. Let’s discuss. This is what amazes me the most about this book. It was published in 1981, which would lead me to believe that the predictions were gathered in 1980 or even 1979. Yet, time and time again, we see predictions for things that are supposed to occur that same year or a year later.

Cricket is going to hit the mainstream in 2 years? A cricket match in Yankee Stadium in 1981? I think that was most likely something that would have been scheduled already if it were to happen in that time frame.

The boxing scenario sounded likely, and was an interesting theory, but I think we saw that it just didn’t pan out that way.

The pitchers was dead-on. I didn’t actually do the research for through 1992, but I do know it’s true today. And that it’s kind of annoying that it is so true.

Lastly, I’m not sure how you can prove the Mets prediction true (or false for that matter). It’s totally subjective, but in my opinion, even with the World Series win, I think the Yankees stayed New York’s favorite team.

— Women’s basketball will continue to gain in popularity, but it will not match the appeal of the male game. For the first time, a woman player will be allowed to compete for an entire season on a male basketball team.

I think this was a little bit too progressive too quickly. I do think it could work in basketball more so than in other sports. The game isn’t that much different between genders and the height of some guards and small forwards are such that women wouldn’t be at a huge disadvantage. However, it’s unlikely to happen now that the WNBA is in existence.

— The record for the mile run will go down to 3 min. and 32 sec.

For the sake of argument, will say this prediction was made in 1980. At that time, the World Record for the mile was 3:48.8 by Steve Ovett of the UK. In 1981 Ovett battled with Sebastian Coe (who previously held the record in 1979) back and forth and the record changed three times that year, ending up at 3:47.33. In 1988, the record went down to 3:46.32 by Steve Cram (all of the UK, by the way). The current record is 3:43.13, set in 1999 by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco. That extra 11 seconds will be tough to shave off.

— Professional basketball will decline in popularity because a sizable percentage of fans will not want to support all-black teams composed of giants who can amass large scores by stuffing balls in the basket instead of shooting. To try and minimize the “stuffed shots,” new legislation will raise the baskets by two feet. This will make it a little more difficult to score at will.
— For the first time a woman runner will break 4 min. in running the mile
— Someone will hit 63 home runs over the course of a season in major-league baseball, breaking the Maris record of 61.

Wow, so basketball will falter because fans are too racist. At least that’s what I got out of that description. Or, he could have been thinking in the past, when the “Lew Alcindor rule” was put into effect. For those not in the know, that refers to a period of time when the NCAA banned the slam dunk from 1967 to 1976. The only time we’ll see the hoops raised is in MTV Rock N Jock games.

Back to wikipedia, the world record for Women at the time of this book was 4:15.61 set by Paula Ivan of Romania. It has only changed once since, in 1996 to 4:12.56 by Svetlana Masterkova of Russia. Once again, we’re about 12/13 seconds shy.

I think we all know the answer to that last one. In 1989, Fred McGriff led the AL with 36 and Kevin Mitchell led the NL with 47.

Well class, I think that’s enough book learnin’ for one day.  Hopefully this was informative and interesting for everyone involved.  There are still more wacky and even some pretty good prognostications to share, so be sure you don’t skip school.

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