I'm starting to hear this phrase more and more frequently ... and it irks me to some degree. Part of it might have to do with the 60 year old+ men that use it awkwardly during live broadcasts, but I think the real reason is that it tends to put a schism between older and newer sports generations. I don't enjoy the notion that older records and stats should be discounted because the modern athlete is more athletic. The fact of the matter is that particular athletes have been single handedly dominating sports games and genres long before the idea if video games was even conceived .... and I've made a list!
So what does the phrase "that's like a video game" even mean?
I take the phrase to mean that a team or a player (I'm using players in this instance) has a physical and/or mental advantage over their opponent to the point that they put up incredible stats or feats. In a video game, this would relate to the fact that the game is preprogrammed by someone, specifically to be defeated, and that the user (player) has become familiar enough with the programming to where they are able to take advantage of weaknesses, glitches or lapses so that the margin of victory is ... well ...ridiculous. It could also be related to a particular player's avatar having performance programming that is much faster, stronger etc than others.
To me this is a totally fair advantage. As long as cheat codes aren't used you are simply using the game the way it was meant to be played. You "perfect your craft and hone your skill" and then you dominate. So when comparing this to real life situations I have to rule out performances that involved any unfair advantage ('roids, fixes, dives, harlem globetrotters, etc) and I put a specific focus on including Post Season performances because, due to human nature, the best and most concerted efforts are given during playoff/elimination situations. My last stipulation for this list was determining the cutoff date .... I wanted to use examples that predate not all video games, but predate the point at which video games became three dimensional and actually sort of realistic.
I've set this date at 1998 ... when 3D bitmapping started becoming commonly used and of moderate quality. I feel like video games started becoming realistic enough at this point that they thoroughly pervaded into pop sports culture. I could have used an earlier date (let's face it NBA JAM was pretty significant) but I really wanted to specifically exclude Roger Clemens and include Kerry Wood ... so there you have it. I also made the list a little NFL heavy because that's why we're all here. So without further delay and in chronological order:
A Timeline of "Video Game Stat Lines" Before Modern Video Games
3/23/1952 - NHL - Bill Mosienko of the Chicago Blackhawks completes a hat trick in the 21 seconds of regulation playing time. I haven't played a hockey video game since Blades of Steel on the NES, but I'm willing to bet that this one might be challenging to complete on any video game ever.
10/8/1956 - MLB - Don Larsen of the Yanks pitches the first and only perfect game of baseball in the World Series. The perfect game seems to pop up much more often than it used to, but it's still an enormous achievement in sports .... and the video game world. MLB 2K offers a million bucks to the first person to accomplish the feat on a yearly basis now.
3/2/1962 - NBA - Wilt Chamberlain (Philadelphia Warriors) scores 100 points and racks up 25 rebounds against the New York Knicks. While this may be one of the most commonly known stat lines on the list, before doing this research I had assumed the game was a complete and total blowout domination. Okay.... well it pretty much was, but the final score was a lot closer than I ever figured. PHI - 169, NY - 147.
12/12/1965 - NFL - Gale Sayers scores 6 TDs while racking up 336 all purpose yards ... but get this ... on a total of 16 touches. Sayers rushed 9 times for 113 yards and 4 TDs (12.56 YPC), caught 2 passes for 89 yards and a TD, and returned 5 punts for 134 yards (26.8 avg) and TD. So when Sayers touched the ball in that game he averaged 21 yards of production ... I haven't played Madden since the 90's but I imagine most people would be pleased with that.
9/24/1972 - NFL - Joe Namath throws for 496 yds with 6 TDs and 1 int against Unitas and the Baltimore Colts. I believe this was one of the games that gave the era the somewhat false reputation of the AFC "airing it out."
2/7/1976 - NHL - Darryl Sittler scores a total of 10 points for the Toronto Maple Leafs. 6 goals and 4 assists ... a record that is still standing. I don't even watch much hockey and that blows my mind.
10/18/1977 - MLB - Reggie Jackson hits 3 home runs in consecutive at-bats during Game 6 of the 1977 World Series ... cementing his status as a legendary post season performer. Honestly this one seems much more likely to happen in a video game than in real life.
4/20/1986 - NBA - Michael Jordan drops 63 points in what is still an NBA Playoff record ... and it came against the '86 Boston Celtics whose lineup featured 5 future HOFers. Classic Jordan.
4/25/1989 - NHL - Mario Lemieux scores 5 goals and 3 assists for the Penguins in a playoff game against the Flyers. Super Mario.
12/16/1990 - NFL - Warren Moon (of our very own franchise) puts up an incredible 527 yds and 3 TDs against the Kansas City Chiefs. Even though we're in the midst of an era of passing domination, the top 3 NFL single game passing performances (yardage wise) all take place before 1998.
9/7/1993 - MLB - Mark Whiten of the Cardinals, in 5 at-bats, hits 4 HRs and 12 RBI. Whiten was never an all-star but tied the records for both of those stats in a single game ... and without the use of PED's.
4/13/1997 - PGA - Tiger Woods hits a record 18 under par at The Masters ... demolishing the runner up by 12 strokes. When Fuji Golf on MS Windows 3.1 was my golf game of choice ... before Tiger Woods PGA Tour ever hit the shelves ... he'd already put up one of the craziest stat lines ever.
5/6/1998 - MLB - Kerry Wood throws a one hitter, while striking out an amazing 20 batters and walking none in 9 innings. Sure Roger Clemens threw the 20K in 1986, but I can't stand Clemens and I remember actually watching Wood on TV as he smoked 20 batters.
So next time you hear "that's video game stuff" just remember that the "real stuff" came first.