Thursday, July 24, 2014

My Sports Heroes

   As I grew up in the '60's, I was a big sports fan, and my three favorite sports heroes were Joe Namath, Pete Maravich, and Muhammad Ali.   I actually idolized and emulated these sports stars.   While I wasn't a boxer, I fantasized about "Broadway Joe" whenever I threw a football, or about "Pistol Pete" every time that I shot a basketball.

   In the late '60's, my aunt gave me a collection of New York Jets memorabilia, including a Jets helmet and sweatshirt, and team picture.  She also gave me what is now a collector's item, a full-length LP record called "Super Jets" which was released and distributed by the New York Daily News.  From 1968 through the early 70's, I watched EVERY SINGLE Jets football game, and focused in on my favorite quarterback.

   My grandmother embroidered the Atlanta Hawks team logo on a pair of my basketball shorts.  I found a "Pistol Pete" basketball in the store, and also wore Pro-Keds, just like Pete did.  I watched as many LSU and Atlanta Hawks games as possible in those days.  Later on, I dreamed about meeting Pete in person, but it never happened, and then he tragically died playing pick-up basketball.

   As I said, even though I didn't try boxing as a sport, I watched Ali in every fight that was broadcast on television.  In the 70's, the media started offering big boxing matches only on pay-per-view.  I remember one fight, Ali vs. Norton, which I watched in a theater somewhere in Miami, Florida.

   These three superstars dominated my little boy's mind back in the 60's and 70's.  I'm not sure if it was healthy for me or not.  In a way, I think it helped me to have something "positive" to focus upon, rather than negative things.  It seemed that I always had something to look forward to, whether it was just a game, or something big, like the Super Bowl, or a championship boxing match.

  Now, I find that sometimes it's great to reminisce and think back to those childhood days when my favorite sports heroes were a part of my daily life.   In a strange sort of way, they gave me hope and something to enjoy and cherish.