Pre-millennial attention

By Kevin Rothbauer

• Why must we qualify everything?

As the turn of the millennium approaches, everyone is making lists: Best of the century, best of the millennium, et cetera. Naturally, this phenomenon passed over into sports. The Hockey News published its list of the 100 best NHL players ever. Major League Baseball and Mastercard combined to let fans vote on an all-time team. Once a month, Sports Illustrated publishes a special issue to let us know what/who their favourite athletes/teams/dynasties/groin pulls of the last 100 years have been.

Let me confess to hypocrisy: I am not immune to this disease. I purchased the book that THN published. I wait anxiously for a new Sports Illustrated. I selected an all-time baseball team. My participation in the mania, though, doesn’t allow me to understand it.

The worst of it is the apparent quest to determine who the single best athlete of the century is/was. According to Off the Record, the search has been narrowed down to Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali. What? There’s no way that one person could be the best athlete of a one-hundred year span. How can they so immediately count out Babe Ruth, Wayne Gretzky, Jacques Plante… I’m stopping there, because there’s no way that I can name all the "greatest" athletes.

Also notable is the fact that both Jordan and Ali are American. There are a lot of nations in the world in which sports are constitutionally permitted. Certainly the United States isn’t the only country capable of developing top-notch athletes. You try to argue that a Canadian, an Australian or a Brit belongs up there, let alone someone from a less-developed nation, such as Brazil or Kenya.

Both Jordan and Ali, and pretty much all the athletes on any "best of the century" lists, are from the second half of the century. Not many of the people involved in picking the lists–usually journalists, occasionally civilians–remember a lot of what happened in sports before 1950 or so. Thus, such accomplished sportsmen as Walter Johnson, Tris Speaker, Newsy Lalonde or Jesse Owens are often forgotten, or remembered only because of a few numbers.

• The Dinos’ own Curtis Myden has been handed another award. Myden was named Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union Male Academic Athlete of the Year. He has received this honour once before, in 1994. Even though he is best known for his accomplishments in the pool, Myden has been recognized many times for his classroom achievements. He has been a ciau Academic All-Canadian in each of his year with the Dinos. He won the U of C’s Scholar Athlete of the Year award in ’94, ’97 and ’99, and has been on the Faculty of Kinesiology Dean’s list each year he has been a full-time U of C student.

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