SPORTS PANEL: What athlete, pro or otherwise, would you most like to meet?
The chance of meeting any athlete is enticing and opens an array of possibilities. There are many thoughts that rush through my noggin.
As a history teacher, I would love to meet some of original Olympic athletes from ancient Greece. Although, it would be awkward talking to someone in their birthday suit since they competed naked.
I would also love to meet Jesse Owens and discuss the adversity he went through competing in Nazi Germany. I wonder what kind of diet those athletes had while in a country full of brats and beers.
Lastly, Babe Ruth is fascinating because he was so out of shape and so good. He’s an inspiration to overweight men everywhere.
In conclusion, I made all of this up. I fluffed up the piece because a three-word column wouldn’t be published.
It’s easy, the greatest football player ever: JOHN ELWAY, duh!!
This one is actually pretty easy for me.
I’d want to meet Craig Biggio from the Houston Astros. The Astros have been my favorite team since I was 5 years old and, while I’ve enjoyed watching many of their players like Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Jeff Bagwell, Jose Cruz, and others, Biggio has remained my favorite because of the way he plays the game.
I so appreciate the way he plays the game and the kind of person he has been that I went so far as to name my youngest son after him. Our youngest son is Baden Biggio Phillips and he was born July 14 of 2007, about a week or two after Biggio announced his retirement and, shortly after, Biggio collected his 3,000th hit. We found it a bit of a coincidence that Biggio’s number was “7,” and that our boy was born in the seventh month of a year ending in “7” on a day that is a factor of two sevens. He’s also the seventh member of our family.
I guess only a baseball coach who constantly looks at stats would see the coincidence.
As many of his teammates and coaches have said, Biggio played the game “the right way.” He always ran out groundballs, played for his team and not himself, never complained about moving from catcher to second base and, finally, even to the outfield. He even turned down bigger contracts to return to the Astros and his teammates to whom he felt a sense of loyalty.
Character like that is seldom seen in professional athletics today.
Eric Liddell, the Flying Scotsman, brought to our attention in the movie “Chariots of Fire,” is the athlete I’d most like to meet.
Liddell, a man of deep faith and convictions, was Britain’s best hope to win the 100 (the signature track and field event) in the 1924 Olympics, but learned the trial heats were on a Sunday, and would not run. He held to his conviction, despite much pressure from many sides, eventually winning the gold medal in the 400, which he had rarely run before the Olympics.
Afterwards, Liddell went to China as a missionary (as had his parents), eventually dying in a World War II Japanese internment camp in 1945.
Liddell’s running style violated all proper technique, his arms flailing and head back with in delight.
Asked the secret of his 400 success, he said: “The first half I run as fast as I can, and the second half I run faster with God’s help.”
The actor who played Liddell in “Chariots” kept bumping into people and running off the track, imitating his head-back style until he realized Liddell was running with faith: “He didn’t even look where he was going. He just let go, completely relaxed.”
What a refreshing contrast to today’s steroid-driven, agent-enslaved, overpaid professionals.
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