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Are records starting to not matter?

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Mike Krzyzewski, who might have the most phonetically-inaccurate name ever, needs one more victory to surpass Bob Knight for the most career wins in Division-I college basketball history. Krzyzewski will break the record just shy of five years after Knight became the all-time coaching wins leader. Before Knight, Dean Smith held that distinction for ten years, starting in 1997 when he passed Adolph Rupp. Rupp had held the mark for 19 years, when he surpassed Phog Allen as the wins leader in 1968. And I can't even tell you how long Allen held that record, or who he even surpassed when he did it, partly because Allen's win total has been dramatically reduced over the years -- enough that Rupp is retroactively credited with breaking the wins record in 1966 -- and partly because Allen has barely any presence at all on Google. He had been retired for at least 12 years when Rupp initially broke it in '68, so suffice to say, Allen held it for a while.

The point is that there is a definite trend here. A record once held for probably more than 20 years was then held for 19 years, and then 12 years, and then five years. No one's expecting Krzyzewski to lose this record for a while, but the fact remains that this is a milestone that's getting broken with more and more regularity. And what's arrived me to the question in the headline is that this is true of almost all the big records in sports. Babe Ruth was the home run king for 53 years before Hank Aaron passed him. Then Hank Aaron held it for 33 years before Barry Bonds took it. Now, it's presumed that Bonds will eventually be passed by someone along the lines of Alex Rodriguez, and it's highly unlikely he holds onto it for 33 years.

Each time a record is passed, it loses its significance. In order to matter, records have to stand long enough that people associate it with the record-holder, so that Bonds and Krzyzewski become synonymous with the accomplishment. It also helps if people think it's difficult to impossible to break, something that isn't the case if it gets broken every other year. Take the single-season touchdown records, which was broken three times in the span of four years by Priest Holmes, Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson -- five years ago, that was probably the biggest single-season statistical record the NFL had going, but now I wonder if it's cherished at all. Who really remembers that L.T. set the record, and more importantly, would anyone really care if someone broke it now?

It's worth considering, because of all the records that could potentially get broken in the NFL this year, the only one that really matters is Dan Marino's 5,084 passing yards in a season, largely because it's survived for 27 years. Once Drew Brees or Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady break Marino's mark, the record will become something of an afterthought. Records written in ink don't carry nearly the prestige as ones written in stone, and so long as people assume a record has no lasting value, it's liable to become almost irrelevant. In 2007, it was a monumental story when Barry Bonds broke Aaron's record, but if A-Rod or Pujols broke it ten years from now, it'll be covered -- but with nowhere near the same zeal as in years past.

Maybe we're getting spoiled. Maybe records are getting busted with so much regularity that there are hardly any left that were still standing thirty years ago. And maybe it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world if a few of them lasted long enough for us to care the next time around, when someone new manages to break them. For that reason, it's a good thing Coach K is breaking Bob Knight's win record, because he's young enough and active enough that he should hold onto the mark for a long, long time.