So for the record, there are no actual Mount Rushmores for sports. There’s no baseball Rushmore, with Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron chiseled into some rock ledge. And there’s no mountain with Johnny Unitas next to Jim Brown. So any discussion of the Mount Rushmore of any sport is purely hypothetical, as are many sports debates.
It’s easy to root for Michael Sam. The Southeastern Conference defensive player of the year came from beginnings beyond humble, with most his siblings are either dead or in jail. His parents split, and he ended up the first in his family to even consider college, much less make it there on a football scholarship to Missouri. He came to campus as an average talent, undersized and anonymous. And after years of work, he led the SEC in sacks and tackles for a loss and now stands on the precipice of making an NFL roster as a star defensive end. He avoided the pitfalls that could have stopped him at any point, from childhood to emergent star on campus, to win the American lottery of sorts, to avoid the plague of poverty that sticks like a contagion in too many disadvantaged families. That, in itself, makes Michael Sam the kind of guy you’d like to cheer for.
So what if you threw a party, and no one came? Ask Vladimir Putin about that. He’s got a big old party going on right now in Sochi, a term that now invokes sentiment far beyond its Olympic ideal. In now a matter of hours, Sochi will begin its two weeks hosting the Winter Olympic Games, an event that’s been so long in the making it feels like it should already be over.
It is Super Bowl Week, only four days before an excuse to eat nachos with four kinds of cheese and sandwiches on colored bread. Super Bowl week is like a giant vacuum. It pretty much sucks up all the attention for the greater part of everyone’s waking hours. If it doesn’t have Super Bowl tie, it’s not likely to get much press this week.
Know this. Professional sports and bravado are related constructs, if not synonyms. There’s a whole lot of reasons for that, starting with the fact that it takes a whole lot of ego to honestly believe you’re the best in the world at anything, much less something that typically involves direct physical conflict. For example, it’s probably tough to be the world’s leading Proust scholar, to steal from Little Miss Sunshine. And not a whole lot of people know Proust. Imagine believing you can run down the street faster than anyone else. That’s a whole lot of self-confidence behind that blazing speed, which is why watching the promenade towards the starting blocks of the Olympic 100 meter final is like watching peacocks show their feathers. At some point, you better believe it if it’s going to be true.
In life, it’s often advantageous to be selfish. It’s a sad truism of personal advancement. Think about the guy in the office that only pads his own resume, at the expense of helping the team. He’s the one with multiple job offers and an executive salary, while the rest of the team keeps the place running. It’s unfortunate, but too often true.
Charlie Strong may have had the shortest honeymoon in the history of modern relationships. On Monday, Strong was announced as the new head football coach at the University of Texas, a job that’s been portrayed as ever so slightly more important and prestigious than that of the Pope. By all accounts, it is the premier college football coaching post in the country, although several top candidates from other schools, including Alabama’s Nick Saban and Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher, politely declined an interview. But Strong, straight off a successful run at the helm at Louisville, took the job and its $5 million annual salary. With that, he also gets the potential headache of managing the university’s own sports network and an alumni base as rich as it is powerful. It’s by no means a cakewalk, which is why, as they say, he’ll get paid the big bucks.
In a New Year’s announcement, International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach declared that “terrorism must never triumph” and that Russia would host a “safe and secure” Winter Olympic Games next month. Like most New Year’s resolutions, we can only hope this rings true. For the current time, it seems a lofty goal. Just Monday, the Russian city of Volgograd suffered its second suicide bombing in 24 hours, this one on a passenger bus killing at least 16 people. The previous day’s attack killed at least 18 at a rail station. Both appear linked to Chechen rebels and a movement to attack civilians in route to disrupting next month’s Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. While these attacks happened hundreds of miles away from the Olympic site, if the radical rhetoric is to be believed, these are just part of a larger process of eventually infiltrating the Olympic sites and venues themselves, something that hasn’t happened in any wide scale in the history of the Modern Olympic Games.
The New Year—in addition to a monster snow storm—is bringing with it some exciting sports news. Notably, the BCS championship between Auburn and Florida State kicking off Monday night, and the rapid approach of the Winter Olympics in Sochi. We’re talking sports today with our WAMC Sports Commentator Keith Strudler.