The athletes of 50 years ago were far better sports than those we have now. At that time the players played for the love of the game and salaries were far lower. Today's athletes often act like spoiled children who are throwing a tantrum - they are often just overpaid egomaniacs.
Yes, athletes are poorer sports than they were 50 years ago. A shift from community to individualism in our society has occurred over the past few generations, and athletes are not an exception to this rule. Instead of losing gracefully, many athletes take defeat personally and become very sore losers.
Ty Cobb is famous for wearing metal spikes and using them as a weapon against his opponents as he slid into a base. Pitchers were notorious in the early 20th Century for throwing at batters. Rules in football have been changed dramatically in the last few years to discourage activity that was not only common, but often encourage. The bottom line is that although there are plenty poor sports today, there were plenty before. Bad sportsmanship is nothing new.
Football and similar sports have always attracted macho, hot headed types who are prone to fights. It is the nature of a contact sport. The difference between now and 50 years ago is that now everyone has a cellphone, and it's much harder to hide your worst moments from the public.