Sunday, June 08, 2014

Aging Superstars

A recent Sports Illustrated article about Pele compared the former soccer great to seven aging superstars from other sports, pointing out that while the others may be fading less gracefully in the sunset, Pele is still going strong. This may be an unfair and unequal comparison by the usually graceful writer S.L. Price. Five of the seven are older than Pele. Four are more than five years older, and two (Arnold Palmer and Frank Gifford) are more than ten years older Pele’s senior.

Of the two superstars younger than Pele, both have caveats: Muhammad Ali suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, and Joe Namath brought dishonor to himself by appearing on a sideline interview with Suzy Kobler while inebriated. Here are the comparisons, with Price’s description.    

09.10.29 Arnold Palmer “stoops”
08.16.30 Frank Gifford “fading”
05.06.31 Willie Mays “fading”
01.16.35 AJ Foyt “hobbles behind the racing scene”
01.03.39 Bobby Hull “fading”
10.23.40 Pele
01.17.42 Muhammad Ali “shakes in silence”
05.31.43 Joe Namath “lost his remaining cool”

02.05.34 Hank Aaron would’ve been a much more favorable comparison than the dour Mays. Hammerin’ Hank remains articulate and personable to this day, while turning down lucrative endorsement deals of his own. But Price wasn’t seeking a favorable comparison, but instead former athletes that would pose Pele in the most favorable light. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. For my generation in particular, Pele clearly stands as the GOAT – the Greatest Of All Time. It is to his credit that Pele is finally able to cash in on the upcoming World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. But points off for his endorsement with Subway.

05.12.25 Yogi Berra (89), and the recently deceased
01.17.31 Don Zimmer remained likeable ambassadors of their sport to this day.

Other living superstars who aged gracefully:
11.29.27 Vin Scully
03.31.28 Gordie Howe
08.09.28 Bob Cousy
01.04.30 Don Shula
01.09.34 Bart Starr
02.12.34 Bill Russell
08.31.35 Frank Robinson
11.01.35 Gary Player
11.09.35 Bob Gibson
12.30.35 Sandy Koufax
02.17.36 Jim Brown
05.28.38 Jerry West
08.09.38 Rod Laver
11.24.38 Oscar Robertson
01.01.39 Phil Niekro
10.18.39 Mike Ditka
01.21.40 Jack Nicklaus
04.08.40 John Havlicek
07.18.40 Joe Torre
05.30.43 Gale Sayers
09.20.43 Tommy Nobis
11.17.44 Tom Seaver
04.02.45 Don Sutton
12.14.46 Stan Smith
01.31.47 Nolan Ryan
05.20.48 Bobby Orr

Did I leave out anyone big?

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