Once again, I went to the magazine stand at the grocery store. That means we have another case of Listeria, and this one is all about sports. Beckett called together a panel of experts and compiled a list of the 50 Greatest Athletes of All Time. With a collection like this, there are always arguments of who does and doesn’t belong. There are also arguments about the order.
However, I did not buy the magazine to quibble over the details. I was curious to know how many of the athletes I have seen in person. That smaller list is as follows.
Peyton Manning (41) - I was at the Rose Bowl when Peyton Manning entered his first college game against UCLA. The starter was injured on the first play, and the backups were thrown into the fray. Todd Helton was one of those backups, but Manning turned into the quarterback of the future. I attended most of his college games and have seen him in the NFL several times.
Jerry Rice (36) and Joe Montana (19) - Super Bowl XXIII saw the San Francisco 49er’s against the Cincinnati Bengals. Both of these guys played in that game, and Montana led San Francisco on the game winning drive as time ran out. My dad took me to the game, and, admittedly, I was cheering for the Bengals because Time McGee, a former player at Tennessee, was on their team.
Walter Payton (30) – I grew up a Cowboys fan, and my dad took me to Dallas to watch them play against the Chicago Bears. It was my first NFL game and my first time on an airplane. I don’t remember what Walter Payton did, but I was happy because the Cowboys won. I was also happy because I saw the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders.
Deion Sanders (29) – Deion Sanders was a two-sport star, but I only saw him play baseball for the Atlanta Braves. Memories of the game are fuzzy, and I have no idea how he played. I just know that everyone was amazed that he could be one of the best players in two professional leagues.
Magic Johnson (17) - My dad and I saw the Los Angeles Lakers play the Detroit Pistons, and it was awesome in many ways. We stayed at the same hotel as the Lakers and stood outside as they boarded the team bus. At the game, we spent one half court side and another half in the owner’s box. The Lakers won, but the Pistons got revenge by beating them in the championship series. Oh yeah, Bob Seger was in the box with us.
Bo Jackson (12) - He is known for football, baseball and Nike Commercials, but I saw him before all of that. In 1985, Jackson and the Number 1 ranked Auburn Tigers came to Neyland Stadium to play Tennessee. Jackson would win the Heisman that year, but he didn’t win it during this game. He only got a few yards and eventually left the game. Tennessee won in a blowout, and Tony Robinson, Tennessee’s quarterback, made the cover of Sports Illustrated.
Wayne Gretzky (4) – Late in his career, Wayne Gretzky came to town to play the Nashville Predators. Everyone wanted a ticket to that game, and I was lucky enough to get one. He didn’t score any goals but proved he was “The Greatest” by getting five assists. I remember that he set up behind the net and dominated.
Should these people be on the list or placed where they are? I don’t know. I am just glad have the opportunity to see them perform. In the first pages of the magazine, they list 10 athletes who are on their way to stardom. Luckily, I have also seen a couple of them – Andrew Luck and Landon Donovan. Now, it’s time to see if they make the next list.