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Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I am considering entering the TwinSpires Delta Downs Challenge on Saturday so I found myself perusing the entries on DRF today and I came across an interesting entry. Unitas. Race 9. Louisiana Legacy Stakes. This automatically had me thinking about my childhood hero. Of course that led me to start visualizing all of my heroes growing up.

I'm going off the board tonight and posting a list of my childhood heroes and why they were my heroes. Athletes (non-equine) are tough to grow attached to these days. I was a huge Mike Vick fan while he was with the Falcons. Now.....not so much. I wonder what heroes the Space Kid will have as he gets older...I pine for the good old days when these guys were the toast of my sports fanaticism....

1. Johnny U. He was mesmerizing to watch. He quarterbacked my Colts (at the time) to a Super Bowl V victory when I was seven and just getting into sports. My dad took me to Buffalo (ironically) on a train from Syracuse to see him play the Bills at the old Rockpile where he led them to a 17-0 victory in 1973. I remember the man sitting next to us giving me his binocs so I could zoom into seeing Unitas at work. I'll never forget it. Add the unbelievable battle with Namath in 1972 to games that will always stick with me.

2. Brooks Robinson. The human vacuum cleaner. Won the World Series in 1970 against the Big Red Machine (man, that was a good year for me) claiming MVP honors. I never saw him play live, but did get his autograph at a Genessee Beer Sports Night in Syracuse in the 70s that my dad brought me to. Hank Aaron also received an award that night. I sure wish I could find those autographs...haha.

3. Arnold Palmer. My dad and grandfather loved watching golf, so naturally I would watch too. Something about his unorthodox swing and the fact he loved to go for gusto attracted me to becoming part of the Army. Never saw him live. Loved watching him beat guys like Orville Moody and Charles Coody on Sundays.

4. Notre Dame Basketball. With the UConn women's team approaching the 88 win mark, it brings back that magical afternoon in 1974 when Dwight Clay broke UCLA's back at the Athletic and Convocation Center, snapping the streak. John Shumate, Austin Carr, Kelly Tripucka and Orlando Woolridge. Guys I loved to watch play for the Irish. I'll never forget that game, I was literally in tears with 3 1/2 minutes left and the Irish down 11. The comeback was epic. (my apologies to SU hoops)

5. John McEnroe. Hey, they all couldn't be good guys. I used to love when he challenged the officials with that look of disgust. The man could flat out play tennis though. His matches with Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg were incredible. I can't see myself sitting down to watch tennis today.

6. Bobby Clarke. Growing up in hockey-less Syracuse, I gravitated to the Philadelphia team since most of my family is from there. Schultz, Dornhoefer, Bernie Parent and the Broad Street Bullies were my team growing up. (I didn't adopt the Bills and Sabres until moving to the B-lo in 1985...and have been hardcore since then).

7. Cassius Clay. I can't really say I was a big fan of Ali, but he mesmerized me and like coming across a train wreck, you can't take your eyes off of him. I'd never miss his fights, back when the Wide World of Sports was a weekly ritual. Listening to Howard Cosell calling the fights or interviewing him was entertainment in itself. I rooted for Frazier in all three fights. I think Ali-Frazier I was the first sporting event I could really remember gambling on, and I was only in first grade!

8. The Big O/Pistol Pete/Earl the Pearl. Three way tie for my hoops hero. The Big O had it all and I was a big Bucks fan (poster in the bedroom and everything). Pistol Pete had incredible moves that every kid tried to emulate and who could forget those gray socks. Earl the Pearl just rolled off the tongue so nicely that you had to love him.

Honorable Mention. Steve Carlton & Greg Luzinski (Phillies), Lew Alcindor (Bucks), Ken Norton (Mandingo), Bert Jones & Roger Carr (Colts), Jim Palmer (Orioles), the Louie and Bouie Show (SU hoops) and last but not least, Seattle Slew.

Let's just say I'll be making a certain hunch bet on a 2yo horse named Unitas this weekend.

We will now return you to your regularly scheduled racing blog.....

1 Comment:

SaratogaSpa said...

Always love a Louie Orr reference!


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