Monday, August 15, 2011

Agassi, Deion, Rodman Put Pressure on Soccer's Hall Of Fame

Above:  At 1:39 of video, it is different player, #53, that slaps opposing player, not Rodman.

Call them showboats or call them fluff, call them arrogant or call them hype.  It doesn't matter because these athletes produced.  Andre Agassi, Dennis Rodman and Deion Sanders gave the sporting public some of the best drama of all time.  They talked the talk and walked the walk.

Championships are part of their highlight films and part of their resumes forever.  But, they may not always be remembered for what they did on the courts or on the field.  Their actions outside of the arena or stadium attracted more attention than their playing exploits did.

They transcended sports because of their trendsetting ways.  All of them were flamboyant in how they played and how they dressed.  Each of their styles was unique and unpredictable.  There may never be a trio like this ever again inducted in the same year into different halls of fame.

Each of them should be appreciated for their sporting talents and what they brought to the athletic contests.  They boosted sports in ways that are difficult to describe.  They made the sports fan want to watch.  They always gave their best and played to the peek of their potential.

Agassi bursted onto the scene with crazy hair and denim shorts.  He was a lightning rod at times with his temper, but he thrilled sports fans with his comebacks and 'never say die' attitude.  He won championships on all surfaces and played to the crowd all over the world.  His image was indelible as a hip youngster and then again as a husband and father.

Deion is most famously remembered for coasting into the end zone with a high-step or showcasing the football after punt-returns or interceptions.  As a two-sport star, he played in baseball's World Series and then came back soon after to play in the NFL regular season.  He provided plenty of interesting quotes to the press during his playing days, mostly telling them exactly what was on his mind, unlike 99% of other pro athletes.  His other callings, preacher and rapper, seem to match up well with his loquacious ways. 

Rodman made his mark by out-hustling every other player on the court with him.  His thirst and desire to prove himself is what made his mark.  He didn't take anything for granted.  His love for the game is immeasurable, as he showed when he tried to play in the minor leagues well into his 40's. 

Each sport, football, basket and tennis, will never be the same again without these characters.  These careers were ageless and timeless.  Their personalities gave sports fans much more to talk about than other hall of famers.

It wasn't about the numbers for these guys, except one, television ratings.  This is what separates them from others.  The charisma they brought to the game, along with their preparation, tended to make for compelling television. 

2011 was a banner year for eccentric hall of famers.  In many ways, these guys are the essence of sports.

It is rare to find winning talents with such controversial personalities.  These are the athletes that are able to cross cultural boundaries and become pop culture phenomenons.  Can Soccer or MLS say it has ever had a player like one of these guys before?  Probably, Beckham is the only candidate.

Cobi Jones and Eddy Pope, this year's Soccer inductees, are both worthy of hall of fame stature, and in many ways, both did transcend cultural boundaries when they played, but they weren't able to galvanize the public's attention in iconic ways like Agassi, Deion and Rodman.  Soccer and MLS in the U.S. need more winning characters.

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