How Pro Sports in the 1980s Compare to Today

pro sports in the 1980's
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 06: The NFL 100 Logo on a football that sits on the sidlines during the game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs on October 6, 2019 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, MO. (Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Watching pro sports in today’s world is very different from the good old days of the 1980s. These differences consist of the way the game has changed in each league, to the physical stature of the athletes themselves, to the media coverage. There are many pros and cons to both eras from both a media perspective and a player perspective.

How Pro Sports in The 1980s Compare to Today 

The 1980s’ Athletes Size and Stature

When seeing images or footage of pro athletes in the 1980s, there is a noticeable difference from today’s players. NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB were smaller in size and stature. Not many of these players were chiseled like they are today. PEDs and steroids were not prevalent in pro sports then as they are today. This might be one reason why. The general evolution of mankind might be another reason. Today’s pro athletes in all four major leagues are much bigger, stronger and faster. The games themselves are faster due to player speed, strength, and size.

NHL goalies and players were much smaller back in the day, as was their equipment. The same can be said for NFL players, who were strikingly smaller, which might be the main reason why the game was not as violent as it is today. Many MLB players in the 1980s also were leaner with not as much muscle mass as players today. Players still put up gaudy statistics throughout the entire decade of the 1980s. This leads one to believe it was more natural and wholesome during that era.

Modern Day Athletes Bigger, Stronger, Faster

The violent hits players took in all of the four major sports in that era pale in comparison to today. There are many season-ending injuries suffered just from the hits alone in today’s NFL, NBA, and NHL games. Today’s players are so much more physically advanced. There are many more workout regimens and programs available year-round, including both during the season and in the off-season. Nutrition is much more advanced today compared to 35-40 years ago as well. Overall, health and fitness are very important to many players today. Many athletes have their own personal trainers and personal chefs. This most likely was not as common throughout the decade of the 1980s.

Media Coverage

The 1980’s sports world was a different time. Life was much quieter and simple back then. There was no 24/7 sports talk radio, no blogging, and most of all the internet did not exist. There were fewer teams in each league which meant fewer overall games to watch. Many more newspapers providing daily coverage and multiple, compelling viewpoints existed back then. Again, this was well before the internet came into existence.

Sports coverage today is somewhat overwhelming and ubiquitous. This is a good thing for die-hard and hardcore sports fans who have access to 24/7 news, information, statistics, viewpoints, and commentary at their fingertips.

Almost every game in every major league is accessible to us today via cable, satellite or the internet. There were no billion-dollar contracts that the networks paid for broadcasting rights on TV back then. Today, there are many more networks vying for these broadcasting TV rights in order for them and the leagues to generate billions of dollars. This is a prime example of how pro sports is more of a business today as opposed to that era. Players earned a lot less money than they do today. This is a sign of the times and something us as hardcore fans have come to accept.


Many players today seem to be driven by money and their contracts, but not all are. Many still play for the love of the game. It seems as though most players back then ONLY played for the love of the game, as this was their passion and livelihood. It is all relative though, as the sports world is an entirely different ballgame today. The simplicity, innocence, and wholesomeness are gone, sadly. As a sign of the times, it should be lamented that it all revolves around the almighty dollar these days.


Main Photo: Embed from Getty Images

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