Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bob Lobel: The Most "Unique" Figures in Sports

By Bob Lobel (@boblobel)

Plenty of things rolling around between the ears today, so I better throw out the thoughts before I forget them. 

Can we depend on the NFL to stop Wes Welker from playing any more football? Everyone seems to know it and see it but him and the people he plays with.  Plus, it really is difficult to comprehend Patriot fans booing him after the service he game them.

Not just service really, more like years of his life. 

That was a sobering moment at Gillette Stadium and hard to believe. It will be even harder to forget what a low-class move it was. 

The Welker story is not going to end well and we all know it. For those of you that booed him, walk a mile in his shoes 15 years from now. Another quickie: NASCAR needs to allow  fighting. It’s the answer to overcoming the regional nature of the noise, the smell and the predictive nature of driving around in a circle for hours and hours. 

A fight anywhere and anytime in the race would make it one of the top rated sports on TV. It is the  ingredient that’s missing in this great entertainment package.  NASCAR, you can thank me later. 

Now, on with the show and the real reason to show up for this column. The word “unique” is just that.  It comes from the Latin version of “one," as in one of a kind. The word came to mind when Rob Gronkowski made a rather remarkable, perhaps unique, one-handed catch Sunday night. After doing so many things the mere mortals he was playing with and against couldn’t comprehend doing, I am declaring Rob Gronkowski a very unique athlete. 

In doing so, I have huddled with friends to make a list of others that would deserve to wear the crowning achievement of being unique. Don’t ask me if it's inherited or learned because, like most behaviors, it's part of each.  

There are not many when you stop and think about it.   

Do not confuse being unique with being great or the best. It’s a fine line.  I would be tempted to say Bird or Orr or Ted immediately, but in reality I think only one of the three would be in the rare category of unique. 

You can guess. I'm not going to tell. Yet. 

My list, like most, isn’t gospel and very debatable, and will leave deserving individuals out but only because I didn’t think of them.  

Here is a flavor of what I'm talking about when I start off with Gronkowski. I'm not going to waste space and defend these choices, just take them as being worthy of a truly great human achievement, doing something no one else can do and doing it with immense style.  

Babe Ruth is in.  You tell me if OJ Simpson, Jose Canseco, Jackie Robinson, Dennis Rodman, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzkey, Roger Federer or Billy Jean King are all in the greatest category, but I submit to you this argument.  I'll mention three or four names and you will immediately say, “oh yea, I get it. Now I know what he’s talking about and sure, I do agree with him."

Ladies and gentleman, boys and girls, I present to you some truly unique personalities and competitors from the realm of the athletic kingdom.  

Cassius Clay, aka. Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods, LeBron James, John McEnroe and Doug Flutie. Don’t whine about Flutie because he did things no one else could do. 

See, it’s a fine line.  

A lot of those  on the cusp would be Lance Armstrong, Charles Barkley, Shaq and Vince Lombardi. 

Oscar Pistorius might get in if you present the right argument.  Nobody said unique was, by definition, all good. Whitey Bulger was pretty unique,  but that’s a whole different can of worms.  Ok, enough talk.  The final Lobel list is   Muhammad Ali, Tiger Woods,  Rob Gronkowski, LeBron James, and John McEnroe. 

I have to stop this right now because I absolutely could change my mind in the next sentence. 

There's nothing unique about that!

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