We love lists. They are simple and symmetrical and somebody else has done all the thinking. For the past few months the lists have come fast and furious, covering everything from artists to xylophones.
In sports, every media outlet that covers the games has publicized lists of the best at this or that, ending with a year, decade, millennium.
How valuable some of theseoned when they list murders, rapists and cheats; lists that are unwilling to recognize the whole is what matters, not yards gained.
So, of course we’re going to do a list. Public lists, of necessity, are general and broad. Life is specific and detailed. Here is one list about life, yours, as affected by sports.
If you are not into sports, but are reading this anyway (God bless you and you are on my list), the list still works. The fact that’s true says something really important about the people in sports who matter.
In no particular order, here is your list for the year, decade, millennium.
1. —– is the person who best taught me about a game I have come to love and follow in my life. This person not only taught me the physical aspects of the game, but the mental and philosophical points that have made the game a joy in my life.
2. —– is the person who by example and grace showed me one can lose a game with dignity and honor and come out of the match a better person than before it started.
3. —– is the person I held as a childhood hero, who remained a hero in my adulthood. This is a person, whom I never met, who maintained a life worthy of emulation. Even as an adult when I saw the scars and flaws of this person, the whole was to be exalted.
4. —– is the person I most enjoyed spending time with as a teammate. Why? Because —–.
5. —– is the person I’m most glad I got to compete against. Why? Because —–.
6. —– is the person I most admire as a teacher and leader. This is the person I’m thankful for having touched the lives of hundreds, even thousands of lives that were forever made better simply by this person’s presence.
7. —– is the person whose name causes me to stop; causes a welling in my eyes just thinking about this person. Why? Because —–.
8. —– is the person I can only shake my head at and wonder where it all went wrong. So much. So little.
9. —– is the person I would most want my child to be coached by. The values and knowledge imparted will make the life of my child better no matter what they do in life.
Congratulations. You have completed what will probably be the most important list you’ll read to end 1999. What does it say?
Know what? As I wrote this, the names of Bernard “Mac” MacKenzie and Frederick “Red” Barry kept popping into my mind. Coaches at Old Town and Bangor High Schools, respectively, they touched thousands of young lives with a grace and dignity not unnoticed, and certainly not forgotten.
As the year ends, a personal thank-you for all who have read this column, for those who commented and those who took time to share thoughts. I love doing this thing, thanks to you for reading each week.
As the year, decade, millennium ends, Happy New Year, and this reminder: After Friday comes Saturday.
NEWS columnist Gary Thorne, an Old Town native, is an ESPN and CBS broadcaster.