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…it is amazing how competitive mankind is. Equally amazing is how the most docile of creatures, under provocation, comes out to be quite leonine in his or her desire to achieve mastery of the chosen domain.

Yet competition is good. Lack of competition leads to servility, ennui and a sense of hopelessness. It is amazing how long teams like the Boston Red Sox stayed competitive, fueling the hope and imagination of all of New England, while enduring the years of let-downs and supposed curses. The saga of how the New England Patriots came out of nowhere to emerge as the numero uno pr0 sports franchise in the region, surpassing the Boston Celtics of the NBA and the Red Sox of Baseball, is well documented.

But wait, did I say numero uno. No way – the Red Sox have always been the team of the region, their years of futility only fueling renewed optimism and interest, and their eventual World Series victory of 2004 serving as redemption for so many fans.

I wonder why fans are loyal to a team and crazy about players any more, especially in the mercenary world of professional sports where neither the owner nor the players have any loyalty to the region they belong to. Global professional soccer is nearly the same, though at least there has been no talk of teams relocating yet.

Perhaps the only major spectator team-sport worthy of passionate fan loyalty (got my English all tangled up there!) is cricket – where at least at the country level, players are true to their nations….

All of us, regardless of the path we choose, knows of a Barry Sanders.
Barry Sanders is of course the great NFL Running Back of the Detroit Lions, one-time Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma State, who mysteriously made a career of not achieving records. He retired mysteriously at 31, just one season short of overhauling Walter Payton’s record for career rushing yards by an NFL Running Back. He had 76 100-yard rushing games, again just short of Payton’s 77 and Emmitt Smith’s 78!

In an era when athletes have been glorified for their arrogance and attitude, Barry Sanders’ humility stands out. Each Sanders’ touchdown was characterized by a humble tossing of the football to the referee and a disciplined jog to the sideline.

He is one sportsman I will admire for a long long time, for me, my favorite Running Back of all time.