Aug 112011
Credit: Flickr

My dad has never been that big on celebrating his own birthday. Perhaps it’s because he has two birthdays – one on his passport, the other that his mother swore he was born on. Actually, he felt that the birthdays of the the greats should be celebrated. Though he never failed to celebrate our birthdays, his refusal to acknowledge his own was, I think, his way of trying to inspire us to greatness. “You should want to be so memorable that others will remember your birth.”

I think we all know someone from high school who was always the smartest person in the room as well as the laziest. It’s not a stretch to see that this person never reached his potential, never became great. He may be delivering pizzas or working at a convenience store or just muddling through life. It’s not my place to judge another life but that ain’t greatness.

Credit: Flickr

The recently retired NFL wide receiver Randy Moss will be remembered as one of the top 5 or top 10 WRs of all time. Maybe even #2. But he won’t even touch #1 even though he had more talent than Jerry Rice. He could have worked harder, tried harder, been a better teammate, been less of a malcontent. But he didn’t. It’s a testament to the immense size of Moss’s talent that he had such a productive career despite his malfeasance.

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Apr 272010

Can anyone ever again be like Mike? A few nights ago, I was watching an NBA playoff game (yes, Pittsburghers sometimes watch pro basketball) when they cut away to a shot of Michael Jordan. And I got the sudden urge to watch one of the Be Like Mike ads. So I checked out the original on youtube.

“Sometimes I dream / that he is me / you’ve got to see that’s how I dream to be / I dream I move / I dream I groove / like Mike / if I could be like Mike.”

And in the wake of the Ben Roethlisberger and Tiger Woods scandals, it gets me to thinking whether any athlete will ever again be as beloved as Michael Jordan. Oh I get that Cavs and Jazz and Knicks fans will hate him forever and a day but for the casual fan who remembers him, I don’t think anyone will ever approach Michael Jordan. It’s been too many years and too many comebacks since he was the true force of the NBA, of sports in general, but just watch the commercial again.

It’s possible, even probable, that someone someday will approach his greatness on the court (Kobe Bean Bryant, Kevin Durant?). Someone someday may make more money off the court (Lebron James?). But can you ever imagine another athlete inspiring a “Be Like Mike”-style commercial? That pure, almost child-like sense of awe and adulation. It’s a brilliant spot, really.

Kobe & Lebron get a lot of publicity and have lots of commercials out these days. They’re funny. They’re witty. They really make me hope that Lebron leaves Cleveland. I imagine Kevin Durant will get his own set soon. None of those spots will be the same as the “Be Like Mike” ad. Even before his scandals, I don’t think that Tiger Woods was as big and as awe-inspiring as Michael Jordan.

We all know now that Jordan wasn’t the nicest of gentlemen. He berated his coaches and teammates. He gambled almost compulsively. He drove people nuts. Put simply, he was an ass. But he still inspired that commercial and all that goes with it.

Sorry but I don’t want to be like Lebron James or Kevin Durant. I still want to be like Mike. (And I was an Olajuwon fan).

Feb 222010

As a sports fan, I don’t really care that Tiger Woods stepped out on his wife, however, I think he has all the over-attention and ridicule coming to him.

Athletes like Woods put themselves in position for huge endorsements not simply by excelling in their sport but also by creating a veneer of wholesomeness around them. Buick and Accenture wouldn’t have signed up with Woods if he was as outspoken as Charles Barkley or as colorful as Dennis Rodman. To paraphrase Michael Jordan, “Republicans buy Buicks too.”

So when the fall comes, as it inevitably will for many athletes, when we learn that Woods isn’t the paragon of virtue that he consciously modeled himself to be, it follows then that he does deserve public ridicule. It didn’t necessarily have to affect his performance on the greens. After all, Jordan’s gambling didn’t affect his performance on the court, though that admittedly was less public. Woods is taking time out of the game and so be it. Maybe he really is sorry for his actions. Or maybe he needs time away so that the faux-rage can pass.

This scandal won’t torpedo his career and it likely won’t prevent him from surpassing Jack Nicklaus’ all-time Majors wins record. It will probably just delay the inevitable a little. Eventually this will all blow over (as past scandals have for the likes of Ray Ray Lewis and Kobe Bean Bryant). People will make jokes from time-to-time and those pre-disposed to disliking Woods will continue to dislike him and those predisposed to liking him will like him again. And some of us will yawn throughout.

Feel sorry for Elin and his kids. They deserve sympathy. But while the storm persists, let’s not get on our high horses about the attention paid to Woods’ affairs. He made our opinions of his image part of his business.