I watched When We Were Kings the other day with my friends and I was amazed. I knew Muhammad Ali was a once-in-a-lifetime athlete, but his originality and his style really shocked me. What the hell happened to athletes like him? Where are the pioneers now--the Wilt Chamberlains, the Jackie Rob-
insons, the Maurice Richards? I don't want to take away from the accomplishments of any of today's superb athletes, but where is the originality?
Ali revolutionized his sport. In the physical sense, he showed a big man can move like a middleweight. He also introduced trash talking and psychology to boxing in a way that changed the sweet science forever.
What do today's athletes change? Maybe they showed future generations how to showboat in a stupid way or maybe they discovered new ways to make money and hold out on contracts. What will we remember when we look at the 1990s? Will it be Michael Jordan with his tongue out driving down the lane, or will it be Jordan selling Big Macs in a commercial? Will we remember Wayne Gretzky the hockey star, or Gretzky the owner? Maybe we'll remember Alexei Yashin and his crazy shenanigans in Ottawa, or maybe Roger Clemens throwing everything but the kitchen sink at Mike Piazza's head?
Wait, maybe someone came up with an interesting new way to get fans into boxing or maybe the Olympics have regained their long lost lustre. No. We will remember Mike Tyson chewing on an ear and Ross Rebagliatti with a reefer. What else can we bring up in this search for originality? Maybe the "Dirty Bird?" No, that's just the Atlanta Falcons doing a poor imitation of the Bears and their "Superbowl Shuffle." Wait! I know; what about Shaq? He raps. He dances. He stars in box-office hits like Steel! Oh my, looks like we found a winner. Too bad most high-school ball players can shoot a free throw better than Shaq-diesel. Too bad. The big guy almost made it.
Who were the last decade's innovators who will go down in the history books?
Just about the only people I can think of are professional wrestlers, Tiger Woods and O.J. Simpson. The wrestlers changed their "sport" in the 1990s to a woman-beating-table-breaking circus of perversion. Tiger, as much as I respect his skill, is not an athlete. Golf is not a sport. He whores himself out to corporations with that creepy million-dollar grin faster then we can collectively puke. And O.J.... well let's just not say anything else about Mr. Simpson.
So what are we left with? Shaq? Tiger? Gretz, Jordan, maybe Mark McGuire? No thanks, I'd rather see them on the field, on the court and on the ice than selling me gasoline, batteries, Tylenol, or whatever else they may advertise.
So where were we? Ah yes, the wrestlers.
Hey, I'm a pro-rasslin' fan just like I'm a sports fan. Wrestling is staged, but the athleticism is amazing and more people watch wrestling every week than Monday Night Football. Well great. Good for Vince McMahon. But it's a damn shame for us I'll have to remember the 1990s for Stone Cold Steve Austin and the Rock, and not someone as great as Muhammad Ali.