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…this has been the story of my life…

I am not sure why, but especially on matters sporting, i have always been a die-hard fan of the second best (or second most visible…)

When the second-best one, through dint of hard work ends up becoming numero uno as well, as Rahul Dravid has done now and Stefan Edberg has done in the past, my cup runneth over…

Otherwise, even when I have been an aficionado of the undisputed numero uno (eg Michael Jordan) my loyalty has always been with the second gun (Scottie Pippen with the Bulls, VVS Laxman throughout his illustrious career that has delivered but only 10 splendid centuries, Leander Paes,…)

The sole exception I can think of is Steffi Graf…she came out of the gates strong, something about her hard-working no-nonsense clean and crew-cut style appealed to me and she remained a favorite till she called it a day several years later…for once, Gabriela Sabatini and Monica Seles never supplanted her in my eyes….

…perhaps this is the reason why I am rooting for the Portuguese soccer (or should we say real football?) team, Michael Schumacher, Vijay Singh and Shivnarine Chanderpaul (over his more heralded fellow-south-paw skipper)…

Comments

Jaunty Quicksand said…
Except for Laxman and Edberg, the common trait with all your favourites is that they lacked the talent the alpha-dogs of their sport did, but that did not deter them from carving a niche for themselves. If Laxman had been treated better by the selectors and management, he would have more than his 10 centuries. Though to be fair, many of his splendid innings have been 50’s, proving to be the difference between victory and defeat, like Dravid’s twins in the Kingston Test.

2:40 PM

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Kaiser said…
why was Schumacher pushed to an underdog Status ? He never was and will never be so

2:04 AM

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There is a frequent debate amongst my circle of friends about the relative importance of a college basketball program with respect to preparation for subsequent success in the NBA.

For example the much heralded Duke program has really produced just 2 top-notch and perhaps one or two tier-2 NBA players in the last decade or so – Grant Hill and Elton Brand qualify in the “Outstanding” category and Shane Battier and the player who was perhaps the best NCAA basketball player ever, Christian Laettner, are perhaps the two others who have gone on to have meaningful professional careers. The jury is still out on Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng, Jay Williams’ career emerged still-born due to an off-field mishap and in general Duke basketballers including Mike Dunleavy Jr have failed to match their college success without the nurturing coaching of Mike K and the avid support of the system from the great Univ in Durham NC.

Their legendary rivals from across the Research Triangle Park, the UNC Tar Heels, have done a far better job of preparing players for a career as professional NBA players – apart from MJ and James Worthy, several others have had very distinguished NBA careers including Larry Brown, Rasheed Wallace, Sleepy Sam Perkins, Jerry Stackhouse, Antawn Jamison, Vince Carter, Bob McAdoo, Kenny Smith and Rick Fox.

Two very productive colleges in recent times have been the Univ of Arizona (Mike Bibby, Richard Jefferson, Damon Stoudamire, Jason Terry, Clifford Robinson, Andre Iguodala and one of my personal favorite player-philosophers Steve Kerr stand out) and the University of Connecticut (Ray Allen, Richard Hamilton, Emeka Okafor, Ben Gordon, etc). Georgetown has produced a profusion of outstanding big men incl Patrick Ewing, Alonzon Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo though my personal favorite from there has to be the inimitable Allen Iverson.

For sheer numbers of NBA players produced, few colleges can compare with the profusion from Kentucky, UCLA and Kansas, though their greatest products came out a long time back.

Here is a very helpful link for analyzing NBA players grouped by their alma mater… http://www.basketballreference.com/players/playerbycollege.htm


…across a broad spectrum of life, there is a group of celebrities who have, often very quietly, turned 40 over the past 12-15 months.

Stefan Edberg, the gentleman Swede who captivated a whole generation with his outstanding battles with Boris Becker, turned 40 in typical relative anonymity in Jan 2006. He espouses the best of great champions – they know how to win, they know how to win with grace, they live life by their own lofty standards, and when they feel those standards cannot be sustained they go away…very few sports personalities have shown this ability to know themselves and their limitations as well. I have fond memories of the epic come-back at Wimbledon in the summer of 88 against the mysterious and vastly under-appreciated Miroslav Mecir – that to me is a game for the ages… I still remember the impudent Michael Chang upsetting Edberg’s rhythm at Roland Garros by standing inside the baseline for his FIRST serve and costing Stefan the opportunity to win the one grand-slam tourney he never won…

…very different in upbringing and polish, very different in terms of social milieu and comfort in the limelight was Scottie Pippen. More misunderstood than appreciated, Pippen for numerous fans of the NBA from the late 80s through the early 2000s represented the quintessential team basketball player. While showing an ability to light up the scorecard, Scottie is best remembered for the times he did not do anything statistically and yet changed the outcome of games and playoff series. Who can forget the defensive job he did on Indiana’s Mark Jackson taking the point guard out of the game entirely with his swarming defense and leaving the potent offense in shambles…. the series of charges he took from Karl Malone as he proved that he could defend all 5 positions on the court (of course having Greg Ostertag at Center helped!) in the two NBA Finals series against Utah. His occasional blog on espn.com is remarkable for its candor and honesty – hopefully he will find a way to get back and involved in the game of basketball again. The NBA could use grassroots champions like him to sustain the game as it becomes increasingly elitist…

…JK Rowling turned 40 in July 2005… again a champion like Pippen who goes to show that where there is a will, there is definitely a way… how else can one explain the metamorphosis of a single-mother on welfare creating one of the most significant alternate worlds since the heyday of Tolkien…

For fans of Bollywood, Aamir Khan, Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan all turned 40 over the course of 1965… amazing coincidence this.

And some appropriate comments from when this was first posted:

 

Jaunty Quicksand said…
Stefan Edberg is also the only person to have won the Grand Slam as a junior. For me his most impressive feat was winning the US Open (in ’92?) in spite of trailing by a break in the 5th set in three consecutive matches (I think it was the year he beat Pete Sampras in the finals).A true measure of the guy is that he won the ATP sportsmanship award so many times, it is now officially known as the Edberg Sportsmanship Award.

By the way, he also won the gold when tennis was a demonstration sport in 1984 and two bronzes in 1988.

3:15 PM

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Jaunty Quicksand said…
Steve and Mark Waugh – June 2 1965.

2:07 AM

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Buck said…
..the Waughs indeed..read that AR Rehman is pushing 40, not there yet!

5:54 PM

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Aruna said…
how about vishwanathan anand? should be close to 40 as well i guess….not sure…..

12:49 PM

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Buck said…
I know he is younger than 40 – Dibyendu Barua is in the turning 40 generation, and Anand is 3-4 years younger.