Picture, If You Can

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July 20, 2010 by David Gillaspie


Images are the common touchstones; the ones we choose to share define who we are. 

Which images define you?

If you are a sportsman of any kind you need to establish your standards.

Start with Secretariat running away from the field.  No horse in all of horse racing history ran like that horse.  When Secretariat died they found a big heart, bigger than others by a lot.

Real horsepower.

Start with Secretariat and finish with Ruffian.  A great horse.  Look her up. 

That’s a check in the horse race box and ought to cover all betting and gambling activities, or at least set the tone.

From horse racing to auto racing, reference the 1967 Andy Granatelli STP turbo car driven by Parnelli Jones.  The car was the most advanced race car of the time, the driver has the coolest racer name.


What happens when the most advanced race car leads 171 laps of the 200 lap race? 

It breaks down. 

Parnelli had the race won but pulled over for a bad bearing.  You can see it in the picture. 

< There it is.

Talk about the turbo being banned after the next year, but the real advances it brought. 

Tire companies got a look at the real live effects of speed on their rubber.  Body makers got to see speed out of the tunnel.

This is the race car that ruled the race right up ’til the end, and A.J. Foyt took the checkered.  There’s a lot of ways to win Indy four times, and someone has to win, but A.J. Foyt already seemed to have all the riches of racing.

Muscle and bone to high octane and steel; images of both tell who you are.

Who best shows baseball?  There’s only one. 

Only one Babe. 

 He is baseball.  He threw, he hit, he ran, he caught.  He did it all. 

How many sluggers since Babe have pitched two World Series games and won both? 

One game? 

Same answer. 

Babe had the record for longest stretch of scoreless innings in World Series history from the two he was on with the Red Sox.

You don’t want the image of old Babe any more than you want one of old Kareem. 

Except you think of Babe as the fat guy humping it around the bases.

He made it look like he had to hit a homer to stay in the game.  The old Babe didn’t get many steal signs.

It’s not fair when the young Babe would have picked you off.  The guy had a whip.

Once he became an everyday player, the home runs piled up and the legend kicked in.

Most images define a moment, or a person.  Only one is an iconic expression of defiance.

Only one says “I won’t be beat.”

Some images show the stress and strain of competition.

Only one says “You wanna go again?”

If you’ve ever looked at old pictures and marveled at how aggressive and mean the people looked, this would fit right in. 

Only one image shows the hard-bitten path to greatness in a sport.

Only one makes you wonder if a gold medal is enough.

This is the image of Dan Gable, a man the world (Russia) vowed to stop.  This is the face of the man who took wrestling into the cradle of civilization against opponents with a thousand-year wrestling line in their family.

And he beat ’em. 

He took on the best and bent them to his will.  He is the spirit undefeated, a champion of men.

If you feel slow and tired, think of Secretariat.

If you feel swift and powerful, remember Turbo Car.

When you think no one understands you, explain how one man holds pitching and home run records.

The next time you hear someone talk about living in an era lacking great men, say the name Dan Gable.


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