A daily accumulation of history and present as I follow the 2011 year through the baseball season and reflect on the glories and disappointments of the greatest game on Earth.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Jim Thorpe

There's something about the spectacle that is the Superbowl. The pomp, the circumstance, the hype, and the hope that 2 teams can come together in an epic clash and make it all the way to the end of the 4th quarter and still be going strong enough that they both have a chance to win because that's what it's all about.
Somewhere in the game is a minor league carnival of whatever. While there aren't T-shirt cannons and crazy ostrich riders / hot dog vendors, there is still enough "other stuff" that people who don't care about football can enjoy the jubilation of Rah Rah America Kicks Ass Day (if Obama really wants to impress me, he'll rename Superbowl Sunday as such and make the next day an official half day like they did when I was in the Air Force (at least in the early 1990s at the European clinic I worked at with regards to all un-necessary personell since the game was televised VERY late at night on AFN)).
But the Superbowl is the epitome of America. Baseball really can't compete with the "general public" though George Carlin was right about it. Baseball's spectacles just aren't the same since the death of Bill Veeck. The World Series is 7 games and it's not do or die. The All-Star Game (in baseball as in all sports) is a series of spectacles and some applause for who was announced with no Pete Rose / Ray Fosse moment since it's all about being owned by the team and to play one's heart out in a game that doesn't count towards the standings... anathema! Well, at least it is for modern players.
Back in the day, athletes could be great and play 2 sports. Danny Ainge was a Blue Jay, but he chose the Celtics instead, which was a good choice because the Celtics were dominant in the Larry Bird era. Bo Jackson bled his heart out on two fields and made Buck O' Neil salivate over the sound of his bat (unfortunately, I never heard this because I was young and in England and totally un-concerned with the sports whose trading cards I grew up with).
Jim Thorpe who became the new namesake for the town of Mauch Chunk (the best place to spend a weekend in eastern PA HANDS DOWN as it offers fine dining, cultural entertainment, river adventure, waterfalls, ghosts, and antiques all in one cozy 19th century Swiss styled town) was also a 2-sport athlete after getting hosed out of his gold medals in the 1912 Olympics because he played baseball. Nevertheless, this half Native American went on to be gushed over by the Associated Press as the greatest male athlete of the first part of the 20th century (1950) in much the same way King Gustav drooled over him way back when he was still getting ready to dominate in the Olympics. ABC did them all one better by declaring him the greatest athlete of the 20th century.
Johnny Come Latelies aside, the rectifying of his gold medals in 1982 restored the memory of this great athlete to where it should have always been.
However, more people remember 2-sport athletes like Deion Sanders and his flashy personality than do Jim Thorpe, which is a shame as it shows our tunnel vision for the now instead of the past. It's kind of like looking at the Black Eyed Peas halftime show as an example of great music. Sure, Will I Am and Usher's "OMG" is a great pop song. So is "Tonight's Gonna Be a Good Night." However, their live show... nicht so gut. Seeing Slash playing with Fergie, who is perhaps the WORST performer in the history of performances (she's not attractive, she can't sing, she can't dance - it's the trifecta of uselessness) was a sad state of mainstream music in 2011. I know that the last couple of performances were largely white rock since the Wardrobe Malfunction, but c'mon...
It's bad enough that the Superbowl didn't even try to get glitzy until they used George Burns and Mickey Rooney in 1987. In 1991, they switched it up with New Kids on the Block, and in 1993, the self-proclaimed King of Pop, who we just look at as a permanent scumbag, but alas, I digress... and half time shows were now even more important than the game (just not the commericals that now cost around $3million for 30 seconds). But one again, c'mon. Can we not do better than Fergie? Can Will I Am not kick her to curb once and for all?
One can only hope (not that baseball's choice of musicians to raise the roof is that great since they used Counting Crows who despite having one of the greatest CDs ever (August and Everything After) were 12 years removed from being good, and even then, they weren't in their element, which is whiney introspective pop.
But yes... here's to the joy of the Superbowl- even if it's a spectacle where we get sucked into rooting for Thug Ben because we draw a $25 chance to win if the Steelers win (and we end up hating him EVEN more).
And here's to minor league baseball - because it's still baseball - the greatest sport in the world.

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