The following commentary, "Sports Over the Last 100 Years" by Frank Deford, aired last Wednesday on the program "Morning Edition" on National Public Radio. It was done after the show's host, Bob Edwards, said he already had grown weary of "sports of the century" projects. Reprinted with permission of National Public Radio, Inc.
The first superstar is a horse, Dan Patch. The World Series is created. Pittsburgh wins. The NCAA is created. Nobody wins. Bowl games created. Jury's still out. Ty Cobb, Francis Ouimet, Amos Alonzo Stagg, Little Napoleon, Jack Johnson. Jim Thorpe: You sir, are the greatest athlete in the world. Fred Merkle forgets to touch second base. Oh, no.
Cubs win, really. The Indy 500. Gentlemen, start your engines. The Great White Hope. The Black Sox. Say it ain't so, Joe. Say it ain't so. Sir Barton wins the first Triple Crown. Red Sox sell Babe Ruth. Oh, no.
The curse of the Bambino. Sixty home runs. Well, I had a better year than the president. Florence Chadwick, the Galloping Ghost, the Mostest Horse. Big Bill Tilden, Johnny Weissmuller. The Fighting Irish. Outlined against the blue gray October sky, the Four Horsemen rode again. Suzanne Lenglen vs. Helen Wills, the match of the century. Don't worry, many matches of the century and games of the century will follow. The Manassa Mauler and the long count. Go to a neutral corner, Dempsey, go, please, go. Oh, no.
Bobby Jones takes the only golf Grand Slam. And Rockne, "Someday when the going is real tough, ask the boys to go out and win one for me." Yes, the Gipper and Sonja Henie, too. Babe Didrikson, the Gas House Gang, Papa Bear and the Monsters of the Midway. Gene Sarazen hits his double eagle. Hank Luisetti shoots a basketball single-handed. Jesse Owens sticks it to Hitler. Don Budge invents the tennis Grand Slam. The Iron Horse, "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth."
"Rocket" Richard and Les Canadiens, shoot that puck. Score that goal, 50 in a season and 56 straight games, 406, 7 and 30, the 14th round for Billy Conn. Oh, no. He can run, but he can't hide. Branch Rickey signs Jackie Robinson. "I want someone with the courage not to fight." George Mikan, Gordie Howe, Casey Stengel, Sugar Ray, the Wee Ice Man. Say, hey. Citation, Wilma Rudolph, the four-minute mile, Devers has conquered. Triple overtime, Tar Heels. Unitas hands the ball to Ameche. The greatest game ever played. Roger Maris hits 61. Wilt the Stilt scores 100, but oh, it's Bill Russell and the Celtics who win. Lakers lose again. Oh, no.
The Bear. Bobby Orr. Peggy Fleming. Vince Lombardi. "He treats us all the same, like dogs." Arnie and his army. Billie Jean and her gender. Broadway Joe and the AFL. Johnny Wooden and the new UCLA. Cassius Clay, "They all must fall in the round I call." Muhammad Ali, "I got nothing against them Viet Cong." Free agency strikes. Title IX. The DH. Dr. J. Secretariat. Arthur Ashe. Richard Petty. Pele. Mark Spitz. Nancy Lopez. Jack Nicklaus. "The gentleman plays a game I'm not familiar with." Hank Aaron beats the Babe. Dolphins beat everybody.
U.S. boys beat Russian goons in hockey. Beginning of the end of the "Evil Empire." Tell it like it is. The Lady destroys Bobby Riggs. Hooligans and terrorists, they're all gone. Affirmed and Alydar. Larry and Magic. Chrissy and Martina. Borg and McEnroe. "You can't be serious. The pits of the world." Ben Johnson sets records on drugs. Oh, no.
Cal Ripken sets record on and on and on. Carl Lewis and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, the last heroes of track and field. "Hey, Joe Montana, you just won the Super Bowl. Where you gonna go?" The Greatest and His Airness arrive. Pete Sampras and Tiger. Pat Summitt and the Lady Vols.
Lance Armstrong. Mark McGwire hits 70. Turn out the lights as you leave, John Elway. And Brandi Chastain, wave that shirt one more time. Wave it high. It's such a wonderful century, Ernie Banks. Let's play two.