A Few Questions

By DavidBurnett


What athlete did you admire growing up?

Mario Andretti is probably my all-time favorite sports star.   I am a big auto racing fan, particularly IndyCars, and the Indy 500, so I grew up watching Mario, and admiring how he drove.  You could tell he pushed his car to the limit to go faster than the other drivers.  He was so good he could even make slow cars go fast.  His driving just looked different.  You just knew he was special.  My second favorite sports star has to be Gale Sayers.  He was poetry in motion.  I can’t watch Brian’s Song, the movie about Sayers and his teammate Brian Piccolo without dropping a couple of tears.  Without Gale Sayers as a hero, I’m pretty sure I would have never played football.

Do you have a favorite sports team?

That’s easy, it’s the Indiana Pacers.  They were the team of my childhood, and the first major league sports team back home.  Yeah, I like the Colts, but the Pacers started out in Indianapolis, at a time when my love for sports was the greatest.  I listened to all their games on the radio and watched them on TV.  They were the best ABA team. But that was more than 30 years ago.  I really wish the Pacers would win the NBA title eventually.  That would probably feel even better than when the Colts won the Super Bowl.  I still think the old-school Pacers could have beaten any of the established NBA teams back in the old ABA days, but I will never be able to prove that.  Oh well.

What do you think of today’s sports stars?

The athletes are bigger, stronger, and faster and they jump higher.  But the public and media scrutiny has never been greater. The money is incredible.   That said, I try to see the athletes for what they are today, and hold off on too many comparisons with past stars.  Each era has its merits and superstars.  But I’ve got to say, today’s stars do some pretty amazing things.

Is there anything you’ve seen in sports that really shocked you?

I have been blessed to see quite a few amazing sports moments over the years, but the one that really sticks out for me was when I was a kid watching Bob Beamon win the 1968 Olympic long jump.  He jumped over 29 feet.  No one had ever jumped 28 feet before.  His jump was almost two feet beyond the existing world record. That’s the single accomplishment that proved to me that on “one shining moment” anything is possible in sports.  Bob Beamon never came close to jumping that far again. But he did do it once. And that’s all that matters.  I still get chills when I think back to that.  What he did that day in Mexico City was incredible.  I’ll never forget it.

Are there any personal sports accomplishments that stand out or you hold dear?

I don’t have a lot of notable accomplishments as an athlete.  But there are a few things that stand out.  I played high school and college football.  During the brief time I played college football, I did nothing of note.  Which is partly why I didn’t play very long.  But in high school I once scored a 63 yard touchdown.  I caught a short out pass, and outran the defense to the end zone.  I didn’t know I was that fast.   I also won the county shotput championship as a high school freshman, that was pretty fun.  And between the ages of about 18 – 22 I had a vertical jump of about 43 inches, which meant I could dunk a basketball fairly easily.  I was a pretty decent playground basketball player who had really good hops for awhile.  The last time I dunked a basketball I was 38 years old.  I have about a 10-inch vertical leap now.

Why do you write about sports now, didn’t you used to be a news reporter?

Yeah, for years I enjoyed reporting the news, but eventually I decided that I had accomplished enough as a hard news journalist.   But when I left TV news, I still had this need to express myself.  I’m very passionate about sports and I am always debating sports with somebody, so I figured why not write about it, that’s why I started Sports Sense.

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