The Difference Between Sports in the '80s and Today

It’s easy to look back at the 1980s with fondness. After all, in contrast to today, it seems like a relatively simple and straightforward age. The movies were good, the music was fun, and technology was a niche aspect of life rather than the fully dominating force that it is today. However, that doesn’t mean that we should elevate the 1980s too much. There are many aspects of modern life that trump the old days of the 1980s. Is sport one of them? The sporting world was certainly vastly different back then. Let’s take a look at some of the key differences.

The Money Divide

We tend to think of sports stars as being rich, especially those that compete in the major leagues. But that hasn’t always been the case. In fact, if you look at what athletes were earning back in the 1980s, you’ll find that there’s a big divide between their earnings and what the top athletes earn today. It was really only in the 1990s that multi-million dollar contracts became commonplace. Indeed, even Michael Jordan was making “only” $630,000 in the mid '80s. Compare that to LeBron’s $44 million salary, and you’ll see that things have changed quite a lot.

Televised Events

If you wanted to watch a sports team back in the '80s, you’d have to hope that you lived close to the stadium. While games were shown on television back then, they were shown at nowhere near the level that they are today. And when they were broadcast, they were done so without all the flashy graphics and high-quality cameras that they have today. In 2023, if you want to see a game, then you probably can, no matter where in the world you are. The one advantage of the old days was tickets to attend the game in person were much cheaper than at present.

Fan Culture

Perhaps the biggest similarity between the old days and the new is fan culture. While the ins and outs of sports fandom go through different trends, fundamentally, it’s about passion, and that’s one thing that will probably never change. Fans will always be delighted when their team wins and distraught when their team loses. There are a few differences, however. Fans today can chat with fans across the globe on social media or use an introductory betting offer to back their team for victory. It’s also easier for fans to have a closer relationship with the teams they love, thanks to the prevalence of content on the internet.

Athlete Size and Agility

Take a look at videos of athletes back in the 1980s, and you’ll quickly notice that the average sports star back then was noticeably smaller in stature than the average sports star today. Athletes that compete in the major leagues are faster, stronger, and just bigger than in the old days. And there are a couple of reasons why this is the case. One is that the increased influx of cash allows teams to invest in their players in a way that wasn’t financially feasible before. The other is that sports science has developed significantly over the intervening decades. Today, an athlete knows exactly what they should eat, lift, and drink to achieve optimal performance.

Rolling Coverage

Finally, there’s the “rolling coverage” aspect. In the '80s, sports news was relatively limited. Today, you can find news and coverage about sports teams on a near-permanent basis. All you need to do is switch on the television, visit a sports website, or spend time on social media.


As we can see, there are plenty of differences between sports in the '80s and sports today. Indeed, there are so many differences that comparing them doesn’t make that much sense. People have a fondness for certain eras of sports, and there’s little doubt that there was much to love about athletic events in the '80s. But we can also be fairly confident that people will look back at the current era with the same level of affection.

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