Before I get into today’s topic, I read in another paper (I won’t mention the name) that the SEC has adopted something that I suggested in my recent column regarding ways we can speed up the game of baseball.
During the SEC tournament starting this week in Birmingham, they are going to put a stop watch on certain aspects of the game like time between pitches and the time it takes to start another half-inning after the previous last out.
They are actually going to put the same penalties for failure to act within the time confines that I suggested. I hope this has a big impact on the speeding up of the games making baseball a more fan-friendly, action-oriented event. Now, if only MLB would do the same.
As for today’s column, I wanted to change the pace a little bit and talk about some positive aspects of the world of sports rather than the negative ones I seem to talk about all the time.
There are many good things about the three major sports of baseball, football, and basketball and there are absolutely great athletes playing them. I have often said that the modern athlete has far superior skills than their predecessors; it is their attitudes and self-centeredness that I don’t care for. So, today I’d like to talk about three of those athletes that I admire. These three could have played in any era because they bring all of the positive elements to their respective sports that I feel are missing in so many of their contemporaries.
I’ve chosen one player from each of the three major sports to focus on. There are others who play the games the right way, but these three stand out both athletically and professionally and are the standard-bearers for their sports.
The three are: Tim Duncan in basketball, Derek Jeter in baseball, and Peyton Manning in football.
First, Tim Duncan. Let’s talk about some basic statistics first. Tim Duncan was born in 1976 in the US Virgin Islands. He has a degree from Wake Forest University in philosophy where he was two-time ACC Player of the Year.
In 1997 he won the John Wooden Award as the outstanding college player of the year. He was the first overall pick of the San Antonio Spurs forming the famed “Twin Towers” with David Robinson and he won Rookie of the Year in 1998. He is a 12-time NBA All-Star and, most importantly, he has led the Spurs to four NBA championships. Interestingly, Duncan only began playing basketball in his ninth grade year.
His early aspirations were to be a competitive swimmer but as he continued to grow, those dreams quickly faded, replaced by immediate success on the hardwood. Surprisingly, Duncan has never played on an Olympic Gold-medal winning team. Injury forced him out of the actual games in 2000 after he had led the National team during the qualifying rounds and 2004 was disastrous for the Americans as they ended up with their worst showing ever in the Olympics with a bronze medal.
On the court and off, Duncan is known for his quiet and unassuming ways as well as his philanthropy. He has created the Tim Duncan Foundation helping youth in America pursue further education. He may be on the back end of his playing greatness, but I’d like to have an entire team made up of players with his attitude.
Peyton Manning is the poster-child for the NFL. He is probably the most-recognized face of any player in any sport playing today because of his many commercials. I won’t go into great details regarding his stats. I will say, and many of you will agree and just that many will disagree, that he will very likely become the greatest statistical quarterback to ever play the game by the time his career is over.
Peyton Manning has played his entire career to this point with the Indianapolis Colts. Even though he is, unquestionably, the heart of that franchise, he has never asked to renegotiate his contract. He is loyal to his teammates and I’ve never seen him thump his chest or tug on his jersey once saying, “Look what I did!” Like Duncan, Manning is extremely active in charitable works.
Along with his brother Eli, Peyton worked diligently in the New Orleans area after Hurrican Katrina in the recovery process. He, too, has a foundation called the Peyback Foundation and it does just that- giving back to needy families primarily in Louisiana, Tennessee, and Indiana.
After a sizable donation from Peyton and his wife, St. Vincent’s Hospital in Indianapolis renamed its children’s hospital the Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital.
I am not a Yankee fan- never have been, never will. But I must admit that as I watch the Yankees play, I secretly pull for Derek Jeter. Jeter is a 15-year veteran of the Yanks at age 36. He has been the Yankees team captain since 2003.
Derek never played college ball after being drafted with the sixth selection out of high school in Michigan. He won Rookie of the Year and is an 11-time All-Star. He won the World Series MVP in 2000 and, darn it, has led the Yanks to five World Series victories.
With all the controversy that seems to always stir around the Yankees, Jeter has never been involved. His name has never been linked to even a hint of performance-enhancing involvement. He plays injured and never makes excuses. You’ll see him dive into the stands after foul balls and hustle (pay attention Henley Ramirez) on every play. His #2 jersey is the only one in all of baseball I’d purchase.
I wish the youth of today had nothing but Tim Duncans, Peyton Mannings, and Derek Jeters to look up to. These are the type players that continue to make sports great. I enjoy watching them play and I enjoy having them as role models for our youth. Maybe you’ve got some other names. Shoot them to me and we’ll talk about them in a later column.
Randy Blalock is a columnist for the Barrow Journal. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.