Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Veterans Day For Grantland For 2014

Veterans day came and went and ESPN's SWPL site Grantland managed to not run a single story on anything sports and armed forces related. There were plenty of Hollywood nuggets, some NCAA/NFL recap posts and the Method Man got love with two features (podcast and story). Since G-land is about long form journalism, white guilt off the beaten path profiles, pity parties lesser known sports history and whitewashing criminals stories from alternative angles, it is odd that they did not do anything to celebrate the many veterans who played professional sports. I'm leaving out the Pat Tillman story as that has been played out in magazines, books, et cetera. The dolts and SWPLs at Grantland could spin beautiful tales involving any of these story lines. They only have to pick one and throw a bone to those of us not dripping in SWPL juice. Like other media outlets, they act and write as if everyone shares the same SWPL or liberal mindset, forgetting a large section of fans. Let's dream up some articles for them.

The Astronaut and the Splinter
This could be about how Ted Williams served in both WW2 and the Korean War in active duty flying fighter planes, but the special hook is that he served as a wingman for John Glenn in Korea. There must be plenty of clear and declassified records on this as well as some old codgers they could interview. The greatest pure hitter of all time flew with one of America's first astronauts. That's a Disney movie with the hot shot baseball player not liking the straight laced fighter pilot. It would be a nice article as Williams did not just play on the service teams for the armed forces but trained pilots and flew combat missions.

Yogi at D-Day
Yogi Berra signed a contract with the Yankees as a bonus baby, but then served in the Navy in WW2. He served on the USS Bayfield and fought in the D-Day invasions. Yogi served on a 36 foot rocket boat as an 18 year old. In Yogi's words, "I was on a rocket boat -- 36-footer, with 12 rockets on each side, five machine guns, a twin-50 and the 330s. And only 36 feet, made out of wood and a little metal...It's amazing what that little boat could do, though; that 36-footer. We could shoot out rockets. We could shoot one at a time, two at a time, or we could shoot all 24 at a time. We went in on the invasion. We were the first ones in, before the Army come in." He came back home to be one of the, if not the, greatest catcher of all time. He is still alive, so they could interview him.

A Flamethrower Became A Gunner
Bob Feller was the hardest throwing pitcher to hit the big leagues. It did not stop him from volunteering for the US Navy in WW2. Feller did not just play on a service team. He served on the USS Alabama in active duty. While in the Navy, his father died from brain cancer (this heart tugging article writes itself). He served in both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters, earning six campaign ribbons and eight battle stars. Two titans, Williams and Stan Musial, called him the greatest pitcher of their era, yet he still gave four years of his prime to his country.

The Lefty at the Bulge
Warren Spahn was one of the greatest left-handed pitchers of all time. Before his career took off, he spent three years serving in the Army in the 276th Engineer Combat Battalion. Spahn took part in the Battle of the Bulge. He was hit by shrapnel and received a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. A quote at his Wikipedia page is that he did not think of the war as taking away his chance at 400 wins but giving him a maturity that helped him later in his career. Hitters would seem tame compared to Nazi Panzers.

The Hall of Fame Gas Unit
Christy Matthewson, George Sisler and Ty Cobb served in the same chemical and flame unit in WW1. All three would be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. It was a limited stint due to the end of the war on Armistice day, that, ahem, is what became Veterans Day. This story would play to the liberal "war = bad" belief by focusing on how Matthewson volunteered against his wife's wishes, and then was injured in an accident involving gas that contributed to his death from tuberculosis a few years later. Cobb and Matthewson were both icons of the pre-war era, so a deeper historical view of the league at that time could be discussed.

The Cadet Who Became A Cowboy
The greatest what ifs for NFL quarterbacks are Otto Graham and Roger Staubach. Graham missed seasons due to WW2 and also won a professional basketball title before playing pro football. Staubach missed even more time. Staubach's style was like Aaron Rodgers for a contemporary comparison. Staubach retired at age 37, putting up a monster, Pro-bowl caliber season. He could've played longer, and he credited a daily lifting routine he did in his garage for his strength. What few keep in mind is that he didn't take a single snap in the NFL until age 27. Staubach served as the goldenboy of the Navy football program, and then as a Navy officer he served in Vietnam. He was also color blind. Amazing. Heisman Trophy, the '70s Cowboys, Super Bowl wins and close losses, and he is a Vietnam veteran. To go from the Naval Academy to Vietnam to America's Team in a 10 year span would be a great article.

The Admiral Who Was a Lieutenant
An article on David Robinson's choice to attend the Naval Academy. They could delve into everything that ran through that choice as well as the outside influences that may or may not have come into play as he garnered more attention. The military academies will probably never see another top line talent like Staubach/Robinson ever again.

Where Are They Now? The 2007 Navy Football Team
The 2007 Navy football team was the team that upset Notre Dame in a thriller to beat the Irish for the first time in over four decades. Just an oral history of that game would be nice, as well as how the academy was affected during wartime by the win. Looking at where these cadets are now would be a contemporary focus on vets compared to the other stories.

Why Weren't There More Tillmans?
If 9/11 was the modern Pearl Harbor, why was Tillman the one pro to volunteer? Have the athletes or has America changed? Nah, this would hit too close to home.

Update: Tom Landry invented the 4-3 defense, called offensive plays (first to do so) and built the Cowboys as a system different from other teams. Before the NFL as a 20 year old, he flew a B-17 bomber in WW2 for 30 missions, surviving a crash in Belgium. His brother also served on a B-17, but was not as fortunate and died in service.


Tom in VA said...

The catcher Moe Berg was a spy for the OSS.

Son of Brock Landers said...

Berg was a mysterious man (my coworker enjoyed Catcher was a Spy). There's probably a Grantland noir tale about him on any facet of his life, not just the OSS part.

Toddy Cat said...

Thanks for this rundown on great atheletes and great patriots, 28. Those guys were heroes, and they wore it so lightly.