Sports has given us a century’s worth of memories

by Gary Shelton on July 17, 2017 · 0 comments

in College Sports in Florida, Florida State University, general, Tampa Bay Bucs, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa Bay Rays, University of Florida

eMonday, 4 a.m.

Joe Montana, leading his team to a comeback in Super Bowl XXIII...Reggie Jackson, exploding at the plate in the '77 World Series. Michael Phelps, splashing his way to another gold medal...Michael Jordan, his tongue hanging out, hitting from the top of the key to claim another NBA title...Serena Williams, stuffing her trophy case once more.

* * *

And so it goes.

We have seen some things, you and I. Time and again, we have been pulled to the edge of our seats. We have seen great athletes performing great feats in great moments.

For a hundred years, more or less, we have been dazzled in this age of performance. There have been great musicians and wonderful comedians and controversial politicians. But, in this century, most of them have taken a back seat. There have been great movies and wonderful inventions and amazing novels.

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We have lived in the best time there has been to live, and we have put a high price upon our entertainment. We are not kings; on the other hand, we don't go to the bathroom outside, either. And we have air conditioning.

Who are the great athletes of yore? Could Leonidas throw a javelin? Could Abe Lincoln rebound? How was Marie Curie's return of serve? John Wayne could sit a horse, but I don't think he ever won a Kentucky Derby.

* * *

Wayne Gretzky, dominating hockey the way no athlete has ever dominated their sport ... Babe Ruth, pointing to the outfield bleachers (or not) ... Tiger Woods, climbing a mountain before he fell off ...Bear Bryant, walking off the field after beating Penn State ... Muhammad Ali, dancing and taunting Joe Frazier.

* * *

We have been fortunate, you know. What were sports before, say, 1917? You've seen the choppy black-and-white films, where athletes looked awkward and overweight. They weren't, of course. There were dominant athletes even then.

But not like now. Not when players are fine-tuned instruments who have survived the weeding out of time.

Oh, you can be in a time-warp if you want. You can decry the lack of fundaments in sports, as if no one ever missed a bunt or missed a cutoff before 1960. Today's games are faster, stronger, more complicated. Sports are better. Anyone who believes otherwise is fooling themselves. Athletics has evolved. True, yesterday's stars would probably still be stars today; they would have taken advantage of modern nutrition and weight-training, too. But I'm convinced the average athlete is ten times better than he once was.

* * *

Tom Brady, leading a comeback for the ages in the Super Bowl ...Roger Federer, defying the clock to win another Wimbledon ... Usain Bolt, a blur as he races down the track ... LeBron James, launching a three-pointer. Mike Trout, stroking one into right field ... Carli Lloyd, making a move in the open space and finding the net.

* * *

When it comes to sports, we are all victims of where we live and the way coverage slants that direction. You don't have to remind anyone of Ronde's play, his interception in the 2003 NFC title game (after the 2002 season). Mention Marty's goal in Game Six, and everyone knows what you mean. Talk about Garza's big game, and those listening are sure to nod.

Tim Tebow? There was a reason he was in the Top Five voting for the Heisman three different years. We can still see Jameis Winston leading FSU downfield against Auburn. I remember Steve Spurrier's national title win over FSU, one of the few times a program won a title by beating its arch-rival.

Still, we look nationally, too. We can remember when the curse was about the Red Sox, not the Cubs. We can remember when Bill Belichick had failed in Cleveland. We remember the Yankees' dynasty, and the Celtics, and the Canadiens. We look at the Patriots and the Penguins and Alabama. Remember Bo Jackson? He was the best athlete I've ever covered. He was in the Superdome once, and Auburn's quarterbacks were trying to hit a speaker on top of the Dome. Bo picked up a ball and, first shot, fired the ball into the speaker.

We remember the sinners, too. Ben Johnson and Mark McGwire and Lance Armstrong and Tonya Harding and Rosie Ruiz and, in the early part of the century, the Black Sox.

And still, it has been a marvelous ride.

Barry Sanders and Jerry Rice and Mickey Mantle and Jesse Owens and Steffi Graf and Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Unitas and Ted Williams and  Jim Brown and Willie Mays and Derek Jeter and Hank Aaron and Mia Hamm and Emmitt Smith and Bonnie Blair and Mike Tyson and John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg and Wilt Chamberlain and Pete Sampras and Bill Russell and John Elway and Rocky Marciano and Peyton Manning and Jack Johnson and Martina Navratilova and Vince Young and Katie Ladecky.

There have been so many great athletes jammed into 100 years. So many champions. So many Hall of Famers. So many thrills.

* * *

After spending a lifetime around sports, I think about these things. I think about the fumble-mouthed Yogi Berra and Joe Carter going deep against the Wild Thing and Doug Williams having the most amazing quarter ever and Joe Namath's prediction and Kirk Gibson limping around the base paths. I think of Hail Flutie and Dan Marino and Bird-Magic and Mike Jones at the goal line and Dick Butkus and Sugar Ray Leonard and Gale Sayers and the '85 Bears and the Steel Curtain and the No-Name Defense and the Fab 5.

I think of them all.

In a couple of minutes, I will think of more. Because that, too, is our gift. The memories keep coming.

Thank heaven.

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