Last Friday, the day after the death of Boston Celtics great Dennis Johnson, there was much remembering of a man that the legend Larry Bird called the greatest teammate he ever had.
Along with his passing, the questions arose why Johnson had never been placed into the Hall of Fame and why had he continued to fall through the cracks.
It’s a miracle that many kids today have never heard of the U.S. hockey team’s victory over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics.
Certain media members that Friday, including Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon, discussed with ESPN Radio’s Dan Patrick how Johnson became forgotten after his playing days were done. Had a younger, upcoming generation of media and voters never realized his importance in his era?
First of all, as a 28-year-old member of the media, let me stick up for my generation—we didn’t keep Dennis Johnson out of the Basketball Hall of Fame in the first place. Just as the generation of Wilbon and Patrick weren’t the first to leave a man like Buck O’Neil out of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Yet on the day after Johnson’s passing, the conversation between Patrick and Wilbon was so dead-on accurate because the truth of the matter is whether it be younger fans, athletes, or media members, there is a dying appreciation for sports history.
As time goes on fewer and fewer can remember who came before and, more importantly, their significance.
Last Thursday, on my radio show on the 27th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice when the U.S. hockey team shocked the world by defeating the Soviet Union:
Me: Go ahead, caller.
Caller: Yeah, I’m a history teacher and I asked my class today if they knew what the “Miracle on Ice” was and not one raised their hand.
Me: What grade do you teach?
I weep for the future.
It’s the friggin’ Miracle on Ice. I don’t care if you live in Lake Placid or Charlottesville, the significance of that moment will never be matched. More then a hockey game, it was the greatest sports moment ever in one of the darkest times in American history.
Yes, this is sports. It’s not life or death but with being a fan comes some responsibility to share an appreciation of sports from the past with the present.
Do you share with your children the way my dad told me about the night Emile Griffith killed Benny “The Kid” Parrett in the ring while he was watching the Gilette Calvacade of Sports with my grandfather, or how he got to see Bob Gibson pitch at Connie Mack Stadium and decades later sat in the stadium as Pete Rose broke Stan Musial’s all-time National League hits record?
Griffith, Parrett, Gibson, Rose, Musial….mention those names to a 14-year-old today and they would think you are squawking Japanese.
We are degrading into a new era that is going to remember Terry Bradshaw as the bald guy who talks football with Howie Long rather then the quarterback who won four Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
If we don’t learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it.
In sports, if we don’t learn from it, speak of it, and teach it, it’s the next generation that will miss out.
Wes McElroy hosts “The Final Round” on ESPN 840am. 4pm-6pm. Monday-Friday.