Sunday, May 1, 2011

There are too many legends out there

It always bothers me when a headline or story proclaims someone a legend. Take this headline about former University of Minnesota football coach Murray Warmath.

Legendary Gophers Football Coach Dies at Age 98

I don't remember Coach Warmath even though I'm a big sports fan, and I say that with no disrespect. He might be legendary in Minnesota, but, to me, Vince Lombardi, Don Shula, John Wooden, Tom Landry and Bobby Knight are coaching legends. I can't think of too many. (Coincidentally, Warmath and Lombardi worked together as assistant coaches at Army.)

I grew up in Virginia living in the same county as a golf legend, Sam Snead. I didn't realize Uncle Sammy was the same as Slammin' Sam Snead until I was about 10. He was legendary, sure, but I don't think of him that way. To me, he was a surly man with a ubiquitous hat and a great golf swing.

My point? Too often, someone is listed as a "legend" when 99.9 percent of the country hasn't heard of him or her. Same when an athlete is labeled superstar; writers proclaim half the NBA players stars and about a quarter of them superstars. I suspect there aren't more than a half dozen superstars in the entire league, and I can remember only one NBA team that had three true superstars (the Lakers around 1970, with Chamberlain, West and Baylor; and Elgin Baylor was far past his prime).

It bothered me that the media labeled LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as superstars when they were united with the Miami Heat. James certainly is, and Wade is close, if not a superstar. Bosh? No. That's overstating.

Years ago, I'd get excited and say "that's the greatest dunk I've ever seen" or "that was the greatest football play I've ever seen." My friend and former boss Pete McDaniel reined me in. Now, I'm not so quick to label a person a legend or superstar or a play as "the greatest." I think writers and headline writers need to do the same with legends.

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