Who Are Your Most Beloved Athletes?

Writing abodoug flutieut how great athletes talk to themselves got me thinking about my favorite athletes of all-time. Four of the individuals on my distinguished list rise above the rest because of the place they hold in my heart, and because of the influence they had on me as a teenager and young adult. And, looking at the quartet, I am struck by the similarities between the three and the common characteristics they taught me to admire and emulate. The magic foursome is: Doug Flutie, Larry Bird, Jim Barton, and Nomar Garciaparra.

Doug Flutie. I was sixteen in 1984 when he threw the hail mary pass to Gerard Phelan to lead Boston College to victory over University of Miami. His 21-year pro career was just like his college clarry birdareer: he was smaller than every other NFL quarterback, but he found ways to win, time after time. And he never did it the same way twice – he was the king of improv.

Larry Bird. I was 17 that spring the Celtics beat the Lakers in the NBA Finals (1986). My dad always used to say, "Remember Larry, because you won’t see anyone like him the rest of your life." It’s not Larry’s clutch shots and passes I remember first, it’s his hustle, diving to the floor to grab control of a loose ball, slamming his chin on the court. Larry was a warrior.

Jim Barton, Dartmouth basketballJim Barton. Jim was a star basketball player at Dartmouth College in the late 1980s when I was a student there. He could catch a pass and get off a shot in one instantaneous motion — and it always went in. His heroics made me lose my voice every game. He was among the nation’s scoring leaders, and at the time, I had never witnessed a more electric athlete in person.

Nomar. As a member of the Red Sox, his love for playing baseball was obvious, and even though he was an Nomar Garciaparra t-shirtall-star, he was humble and appreciated his success. He seemed to be hustling every minute of the game, even in the dugout (mentally). He was my first son’s first favorite Sox player, which has cemented him among my top-four favorite athletes. At the age of 5, he cried when Nomar was traded to the Cubs. He still wears his Red Sox-Nomar shirt, as well as his Cubs-Nomar shirt, and at the time Nomar signed his glove, it was probably the greatest moment of his young life.

Nice list, but why does it matter?

These great athletes were also great teachers of mine. Through countless emotionally-charged athletic performances, they helped develop my world view: the belief that anything can happen if you can imagine it; that the game isn’t over until it’s over, so you must never quit; that calm, confident focus can tame the highest-pressure moments; that spectacular results hurtle towards us when we’re "in the zone;" that the team’s goal of winning supercedes individual accomplishments; and that there is nobility in playing hurt and hustling on every play.

Who are your most beloved athletes, and how have they helped shape your world view?


  1. carolyn_dittes@harvard.edu

    I support Rob Crawford for President of Red Sox Nation. I am very impressed by the work he has done with teachers and children and education. He will have wonderful things to contribute that only he can bring.

  2. kcjoyf@aol.com

    Rob Crawford embodies Red Sox Nation SPIRIT! Rob is a positive role model for everyone, in a world that deeply needs optimism and joy! What a creative and fun President he will be!

  3. parakalein@hotmail.com

    Hi Bob,

    Jim Antal asked me to send you a note. Go Bob Go.

    We thoroughly support the family tradition of Red SOx baseball. My dad died last year at 85 but not until he saw the redsox win the World Series 2004. He was a fetus/infant for the first seeing. He worked for John Hancock in Boston and brought me to amny games. My son and I go as often as we can but he is in NYC and I am in West Stockbridge. Yes he is still a red sox fan. We were at the last game between the redsox and yankees in Fenway, Sept. 16. Bases loaded in the 9th but it was not Papi’s time. He will have more during the playoffs.

    An excited and vigilant fan.

    An UCC pastor in West Stockbrige, MA


  4. zcran@aol.com


    You are exactly what professional sports needs to retain authenticity with the fans. I am so psyched for a Red Sox Nation with you at the helm. And if you need one, I will be your ambassador to the Netherlands….i look forward to hearing your plans to grow the nation globally!

    best of luck!

    Expat Red Sox Fan

  5. radams@movingstation.com

    Just want you to know that a bunch of your old college buddies – now scattered around the country – who used to make the pilgrimage down to Fenway from New Hampshire, are firmly behind you on what is clearly your ultimate calling in life. We’re voting like mad and confident that with or without Doris’ backing, you’re the right man for the job.

    The other Rob

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