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Sunday, January 21, 2007

Robert Gordon Orr Oh Yeah

Football's on today. I like football. I used to like hockey.

Sports are gladiatorial and gentlemanly at the same time. At least they're supposed to be. The professionalisation of all manner of athletic endeavor has corroded the meaning of them in large measure. You can get rich riding a bike now. Skiers in "amateur" athletics have to pee in a cup, because the pile of money they can grab for simply wearing a patch on their clothing makes even a mundane competition worth cheating at to win. All children's leagues are de facto minor leagues for paying athletic gigs at this point.

The idea that a few extraordinary talents might scratch out a living at doing what they did anyway for the love of sport and competition is in the rear view mirror, and back over the horizon. If you want to find inspiration, and perhaps discern the framework of a worthwhile worldview in sports now, you're going to have to fashion it yourself out of the few scraps of decency and effort you might be able to glean from any particular tilt. It was not always so.

All things have a trajectory. They develop, then fade away, or perhaps ebb and flow over and over. But sometimes there is an apogee, and you can see it right away -- this is it, it's all downhill from here-- and you know you're looking at the pinnacle of the thing.

We need something Scandinavian for this guy, when he goes. Some sort of pyre, made from the remnants of the sport he was unarguably the best at ever. They really should have just given up trying after he retired, because we will never see his like again. And he's as pleasant a person as any walk of life has ever produced.

Despite the choice of music, the fellow that made this mashup did a great job, and we need to forgive him for the Carly Simon - he's trying to make a point here.

I saw Bobby Orr play dozens of times live, and hundreds of times on a dreadful black and white television the size of a porthole. I felt like a Free French fighter listening to Churchill on the wireless. Orr will save us.

People still try to tell me from time to time, that _________ was a better hockey player than Bobby Orr. I try to explain to them, that Bobby Orr isn't the greatest hockey player that ever lived. He is the greatest athlete to ever participate in any organized competition. It's kinda pointless to tell me about another hockey player. Orr is playing in a Pantheon league, and winning in it. His competition is Thorpe, and Brown, and Ruth, and Robinson, and a few others who aren't just great; they define whole swathes of the landscape in and out of their sports. He's like walking into a pawn shop and seeing the Statue of Liberty in there.

He was better than everybody else at everything. Look at the picture at the top. The series was a rout -- four straight against the Saint Louis Blues. It was a foregone conclusion with him on the ice. Bobby Orr scored the goal, and the defenseman seen behind him sent him flying through the air, Orr's face aglow with the instant recognition of the top of the mountain.

There was nothing left to do, for all the rest, but to try to trip him. He's never faltered, though.

1 comment:

Ruth Anne Adams said...

Carly wasn't singing, 'Baby, you're the best.' She was singing, 'Bobby Orr--The Best.'

He makes goals the way basketball players make lay-ups.