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By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News

 

Who is your sports hero?...

Posted 10/11/16 (Tue)

There was a time in the sporting world not so long ago when kids could look up to professional athletes, mimic their activities and wear their jerseys with pride.

I hope those days aren’t gone forever, but things have certainly changed and diminished the respect we give professional athletes in all sports.

Today, it’s become nothing more than a reality show. Chris Colabello of the Blue Jays and Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees taking performance enhancing drugs, Sidney Crosby who won’t play for the Montreal Canadiens because he doesn’t like Quebec, Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers who feels like some agenda he has is more important than respecting the United States and LeBron James who has zero loyalty to any team, but rather continually wants more money; are all examples of where the four major professional sports have gone.

At the same time, the cost of attending a professional sporting event continues to escalate and is getting to a point that many people can no longer afford it.

Try taking the family to a Twins, Vikings, Timberwolves or Wild game and see how much you spend. By the time you buy tickets, a parking pass and then have a beer and nachos at the game, you’ll most likely be broke.

And why do we spend that kind of money? We’re essentially giving these athletes a license to continue to be disrespectful, whine about not earning enough money and be the agitator in the clubhouse before and after the game.

What has happened to professional sports? Maybe it’s a good thing a lot of little kids don’t understand all this rhetoric because if they did, they’d probably be heartbroken that their favorite athlete is such a shyster.

The most likely problem is the thirst for greed, the thirst for more money.

I don’t care which athlete, which sport, or how good of a player they may be, they aren’t worth the kind of money they are getting.

I sat down and figured out one day that if Alex Rodriguez actually earned the money he was making, he would have to hit 4,000 home runs in a season to be equivalent quality of other baseball players.

How do you think that makes the rest of the Yankees players feel? What’s it like knowing you’re making a fraction of what A-Rod was earning? Does it create animosity, does it put Rodriguez on a pedestal, or does anybody care? Whatever the answer, it can’t be good for teamwork.

Buying talent like that is about as useless as empty calories from a candy bar Rodriguez promotes.

Remember the 1987 and 1991 Twins? They were all young players, some of the individual Yankees players were earning more than the entire Twins team, yet they won the World Series in both of those years. They had determination, which apparently, trumped money.

Sure, everyone has to make a living and we all like to put a little extra in the bank when we can, but some of these salaries today are so incredibly high, they’re nothing short of mind boggling.

So who’s your sports hero in a world that is swimming in money, greed, deceit? Let’s hope Carson Wentz doesn’t fall into that trap.

Instead, I  like to look at the career of Wayne Gretzky, who yes, has made a lot of money in his career. But here’s why Gretzky is different than other athletes.

He was setting and breaking records in his first season in 1979. He played 20 years in the NHL and to this day is the most popular player the Edmonton Oilers have ever had.

Gretzky never complained about anything except the New Jersey Devils, who he called a “Mickey Mouse operation.”

He’s always been down to earth, quiet and could be the neighbor next door. He always took time to sign autographs rather than belittling young kids.

Think about Kirby Puckett and what he did for the Twins organization. He was a spark plug, a motivator, a well-liked and respected ball player. He was never “above” his fans.

Many of us in North Dakota still like Darin Erstad and the enthusiasm he generated for baseball across North Dakota, not seen since the Roger Maris days of the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.

A good player, well respected and decent, he is a lot like Gretzky. But unlike Gretzky, he is your neighbor next door.

We can also consider boxer Virgil Hill and how he single handedly turned around a sport that was rapidly fading.

He also put North Dakota on the map, in a good way, and remains a hero today to a lot of people.