Dusting Off: The Two-Sport Professional Athlete
As connoisseurs of history, we sometimes find styles, trends and turns of phrase from the past that we wouldn’t mind bringing back to the present, Doc Brown-style. This time around, we’re dusting off the two-sport professional athlete.
These days, nobody seems to know what Bo knew.
We’re not talking about breaking bats over your leg (though we wish someone could figure out how to do that in one attempt, too.)
We’re referring, rather, to the seemingly lost art of playing more than one professional sport. Bo Jackson’s name was synonymous with the practice in the 90’s, thanks to his penchant for blasting stratospheric home runs into the upper fountain at Royals Stadium while averaging the second-most yards-per-carry in NFL history. We had this poster on our bedroom wall, and so did you.
As sick as Jackson was, though, we wouldn’t be pining for multi-sport athletes had he been the only one. Neion Deion Sanders, arguably the best cornerback who ever played, also played wide receiver and returned kicks when he wasn’t starting in center field for the Yankees, Braves, Reds, and Giants. Danny Ainge was the lousiest second baseman to ever win two NBA championships. And Jim Thorpe, proving this wasn’t just a Reagan-era fad, won Olympic gold medals in 1912 for the pentathlon and decathlon before going on to play professional football, baseball, and basketball.
Nowadays the closest embodiment is probably Tony Romo who, in addition to perennially losing for the Dallas Cowboys, is also a scratch golfer.
Sadly, it seems athletes who are capable of playing two sports are discouraged from doing so for the same reason twi-night double headers and three-inning closers and going-both-way football players are discouraged — and we get it. If we drafted Eli Manning and found out he was also passionate about mixed-martial-arts, we’d probably do whatever it took to protect our investment, too.
Just don’t be surprised when his poster’s not on our wall.
- — C. Brian Smith