High Time for Heroes

January17/ 2000

… Brawls, Steroids, Lockouts … sniff, sigh, sob! … BobLee has been in a funk…. It seems that sports (as a mirror of society) gets into these gloomy gulches where all we read about are “bad guys being bad guys” … I understand that no one cares how many planes did NOT crash yesterday, but I went looking for some old fashioned “sports heroes” to cheer for… I found some! 

   An interesting reoccurring theme from you readers … you have marginal to no interest in the NBA.  Yes, you read the headlines and know the latest goings-on but you no longer invest genuine interest in professional basketball.  OK, the majority of us are not located in NBA cities so we are not subject to the daily promotion by the local team, but many of you have been successfully inoculated against giving a damn about “the league”.

   A discussion of that phenomenon is probably several columns by itself.  You do not identify with the players AT ALL and you are turned off by their asocial behavior based on our general definition of that term.  I can appreciate that as my only interest is a general awareness of the sport which I can get from SportCenter.  Believe it or not I did find one likely prospect for a hero to follow … 

   LeBron James … From what I can gather, this 19 y/o manchild has quickly evolved into THE star of the NBA.  He has his team leading their division and is putting up MVP numbers.  More importantly, he seems to have a presence and personality to distance himself from the asocial bad boyz that have hijacked the NBA.

   I never gave James much credit.  I read the stories of the Hummer in high school and all the typical urban culture yadda yadda but he really seems to be rising above all that.  Check him out.  In a league dominated by the shameful antics of Ron Artest and Latrell Sprewell, LeBron James (and Tim Duncan) are shining stars …

   Payton Manning … does this guy embody every boy’s dream?  OK, he lacks Tom Brady’s two SB rings, but that’s all he lacks.  Have you ever read a negative word about him?  He stayed at Tenn for four years … he won big games and lost big games in college.  His mom and dad prepared him for the role he now occupies but you get the feeling he would be a winner regardless of whether it was the NFL or the “real world”.

   Now he is doing the equivalent of hitting home runs at a record pace in the NFL … throwing touchdown passes.  He has “the look” of a winner … the “look” of a quarterback.  Put him in a lineup of good looking guys in their late 20s and “pick out the QB” … Payton Manning gets picked every time.  I met him at a celeb golf thing two years ago.  He has a “presence” that even Marino and Favre don’t quite have, taking nothing away from them.  He reeks of humility but seems to embody all the positive qualities of his position.

   Some might say he has had it easy being Archie’s kid and growing up privileged.  That only gets you so far.  Payton Manning may be primed to have an incredible next 4-5 years.  I hope so.  I enjoy reading about him.

   Mia Hamm … Mia has played her final competitive soccer match.  She literally did it all at every stage of her career.  Mia’s career paralled the impact of Title lX across American sports.  I usually try to pick out an obtuse factor that keys a person’s popularity.  The woods are full of gifted athletes but some seem to rise from the crowd … circumstance and a good PR team usually help.  

   Mia Hamm had an unusual name … different but not difficult.  “Mia … Mia … Mia” was easy for her pony-tailed legions of fans to cheer.  She was physically attractive in a jock-ette way but not to the degree that it was a prime factor in her popularity.  It was Brandi Chastain that did the sports bra thing, not Mia.   

   She grew up on the world sports scene as her sport has grown at least on the participant level.  Certainly she was “very good” but not in a way that awed the average fan.  She scored a lot of goals but not with a cannon of a leg.  She was not a wizard with ball control.  We knew she was very good because Anson and other experts told us she was and they know their soccer.

   Yes, I have met Mia several times too.  She seems to have accepted her popularity reluctantly.  Not “difficult” at all but never really comfortable with all the attention.

   Divorcing the Navy pilot then marrying Nomar was all done without the paparazzi fanfare that usually accompanies such.

   Anna was all sex appeal … Serena in her cat suit is an aberration we wrestle with … Marion had the potential to transcend her sport but made a series of fatal choices … if you own any Marion Jones stock … SELL!  … … Now that she has retired from competition, I hope Mia morphs into a Peggy Fleming … a spokesperson for all that is good and wholesome about “girls playing sports”.

   Tom Brady has two more rings than Payton and may add a 3rd in January.  He came out of oblivion three years ago and became a star.  Like Payton he has a boyish way about him that appeals to men and to women.  He is a paparazzi target as he dates various pop culture divas which he is quite entitled to do.  Apparently the “you’ve made it” mark among America’s sports heroes is having dated Alyssa Milano and Tara Reid.  I believe Tom checked those two off after Super Bowl one and has moved on.

   I find Brady’s appeal to be that he simply wins.  No one touts his howitzer arm or compares him yet to Unitas or Elway for remarkable field general miracles.  Like all of “my sports heroes” he behaves himself at least as far as I know.

   Others I must mention on the list of those who seemingly personify what we wish all our heroes could be like …

   Curt Schilling … Wow! … Baseball is still America’s game and he “came through” when everyone was watching.  A true student of the game who seems to still work as hard as a rookie on the little things.


Johnny Damon … an iconoclast who appeals to the “I gotta be me” rebel in each of us.  His “hair” might irk the real traditionalists but he plays the game with the grit and spirit that anyone can appreciate.


Derek Jeter … How anyone can be Captain of The Yankees and maintain any connection with kids on a sandlot is amazing.  I have never disliked A-Rod for all his mega-bucks but Jeter has a little something about him that makes him more special.  Being Derek Jeter has to be a pretty good life I think.


   This list is not meant to be complete.  I am limited by time and space.  You are quite entitled to agree or disagree and even to show total blind partiality to players on “your team”.  On a sports page now dominated by brawls, steroids, and lockouts I just decided to look on “the bright side”.

   All of the above incredibly high paid athletes seem to really enjoy “playing the game”.  Yes, they have agents and marketing firms that generate Midas-like incomes for them, but when they are “between the lines” of their field/court they seem to be competing “for the fun of it” … as a fan I like to see that.


Swagger’s Stumper

Who was the opponent in Mia and Brandi’s 

most famous women’s soccer match?


   Did everyone catch JamesOn Curry playing for Oklahoma State earlier this week?  He seems to be doing well in Stillwater.  He admits the remoteness and distance from his troubles is a key factor in getting on the right track

   Oceans 12 opening this week.  The Swaggers will be there … we love “caper movies”.

   Still looking for the perfect inexpensive but so appropriate stocking stuffer for Uncle Ed or Cousin LeRoy … Braggin’ Rites is IT.  BobLee’s book is the perfect “bathroom read”.  Definitely PG-rated and the 36 chapters make it good for about 12 “sittings”.  Check out how to order a copy over there on the right side. 

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