There’s an interesting debate going on between ESPN Radio’s Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic about what four athletes should be "enshrined" in an imaginary "Mt. Sportsmore" (a la the real Mt. Rushmore).
Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali were hands-down winners for the first three slots.. But the DJ’s and fans disagreed on who the fourth sports personality should be. Finalists included: Sandy Koufax, Jackie Robinson, Jim Brown, Jim Thorpe and a few others. Sadly, no female athletes were nominated (but considering the show’s demographics, that’s understandable).
Anyway, I think Thorpe belongs on Mt. Sportsmore for obvious reasons. According to all reports, he was arguably the greatest all-around athlete our nation has ever produced. He was a world-class Olympic champion (whose medals were later taken away because he’d been paid to play a semi-pro baseball game!). He was a great offensive and defensive college and NFL football star. He played major league baseball for the NY Giants (but, allegedly couldn’t hit a curve). He also wrestled, boxed and played semi-pro basketball, among other things.
Because he played in the pre-ESPN, 24×7 days, Thorpe didn’t enjoy the Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders type publicity afforded those two-sport stars. Nor did he make any sort of decent salary and, sadly, ended up dying in obscurity and poverty.
So, here’s a vote for one of the greats of yesteryear. Jim Thorpe was one of those athletes who let his performance on the playing field speak for itself. Although he suffered from alcoholism, the guy wasn’t ingesting performance-enhancing drugs in order to set records. Nor did he insist upon having his own barcalounger in the locker room or spit at reporters he didn’t like.
From a deportment and ability standpoint, there’s no one alive today who could match The Carlisle Indian.
Hat tip to Tom Powers for this idea.