the giants of their generation
Mohammed Ali, then Gordie Howe and now Arnold Palmer.
of the greatest athletes of all time have all passed away
in the last four months as if God himself is calling back
his greatest creations.
never got to see Mr. Hockey or Arnold Palmer in their
prime, but I did get to watch Mohammed Ali beat the likes
of Leon Spinks, Ernie Shavers, and Ken Norton in the latter
stages of his career.
fact, one of my earliest sporting memories is listening
to the Thrilla in Manila against Joe Frazier on a small
transitor radio huddled under my sheets. That was Oct.
1, 1975. Sixteen years later I would come within 12 feet
of getting his autograph at Super Bowl XXVI in Minneapolis,
Minnesota. Im still kicking myself over that one.
first met Gordie Howe during a my Grade 13 trip to Quebec
City in 1980. The Hartford Whalers were in town to play
the Quebec Nordiques and we were staying in the same hotel.
that I think of it, to say that I met him
is a bit of a stretch. I was on the elevator with a couple
of my buddies and we were extremely under the influence
when the elevator stopped at a floor, the door opened
and Howe got on with his son Mark. Or maybe it was Marty.
Its all a bit foggy now.
think he said Hi, boys, or some similar salutation.
We were too stunned to utter a response. I do remember
one of my friends started giggling uncontrollably under
his breath, and then just like that, the elevator door
opened and Howe disappeared into the lobby and on to the
would meet Mr. Howe again 15 years later under much better
circumstances. I was working at the Ottawa Sun as a staff
photographer and was assigned to take his picture at a
book signing at the Rideau Centre.
chatted a little about the weather and how much he liked
coming to Ottawa. He posed for a couple of pictures and
then we shook my hands. It was the handshake that I remember
the most. His hands were massive and he had a very firm,
bordering on vice-like grip. And his forearms were equally
impressive especially for a man who was two years shy
of his 70th birthday.
didnt ask him for his autograph. I was too cool
for that. I didnt think it was right for a photographer
to ask his subject for his signature. In hindsight, I
should have bought a copy of his book and had him sign
it with something like, To Fred. All the best. Mr.
Gordie Howe will always be remembered as one of the greatest
hockey players of all time, he will also be remembered
as a consumate gentleman, a title he shares with the third
legend who has left us this year.
there was Tiger Woods and Jack Nicholas, there was Arnold
Palmer. He paved the way for the generations of professional
golfers who came after him.
his passing on the weekend, countless commentators have
eulogized Palmer and every tribute makes mention of how
generous he was to his fans and all those he met over
the years. His was one of the few autographs you could
actually read. It was a trait he shared with Gordie Howe
who always signed his autographs Gordon Howe.
men would spend hours upon hours signing autographs for
their fans. They considered it a responsibility. Its
a sentiment few modern day pro athletes share.
Howe and Palmer. They were the giants of their generation.
Yes, they were outstanding athletes, but they were outstanding
men first and foremost at a time when being a man and
acting like a man still meant something. A time before
money, endorsements and performance en-hancing drugs made
prostitutes and greed-mongers out of professional athletes.
Sadly, their like may never be seen again.
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