One of the best things about sports is that, within its sphere, it creates legends. People whose names are forever associated with their sport, not just objectively, but for each individual fan. Everyone has a memory of a great play, or a great game, or a great moment of some sort, and all those memories assemble into something big over the course of a career.
So that’s today’s question. Who is your favorite athlete of all time, ever? Doesn’t have to be limited to soccer, I mean throughout your life, who is the one athlete that defines what sports is for you?
If you didn’t figure it out by the picture, mine’s Ken Griffey Jr. I’ve been extremely fortunate in my life to be able to see a lot of great athletes play in person - Jordan, Gretzky, Bryant, and more amazing baseball players than I can remember or hope to list - but Junior rises to the top of my list, for a lot of reasons.
We’re almost exactly the same age, for one - I’m only a few months older than he is. I spent my most formative years in Seattle, and I remember when he was drafted by the Mariners, about a month after I graduated high school. I can’t say that I saw his first ever minor league appearance, but I saw him play in Bellingham several times that summer, because I had friends who lived up there so it was easy to get there for a weekend and see him play.
The next season, he played in San Bernardino and in Vermont, so I didn’t see him in person at all, but in 1989 he made the big club (well, the Mariners, anyway). In 1989, I was just hitting peak baseball fandom, and also just hitting my 20’s, so I (as a single person with no other responsibilities) probably saw 30-40 games a season from 1989 through the 90’s, and Griffey was a highlight of all of the games I saw.
It’s hard to put into words how good he was, but the best way I can describe it was that he made the otherworldly look routine - when you saw other people trying to do the same things he did, particularly on defense, you realized that Griffey was something special.
I watched his whole career unfold, watched it conclude a season later than it should, and then saw him inducted into the Hall of Fame, upon which I may have shed a tear or two.
To this day he’s my all time favorite athlete.
Who’s yours? Is there an athlete in your life that just leaves you in awe of his or her talent and skill? Anyone you’re proud to say “I saw them when...”?