Playing witness to the ‘greatest era in sports history’

Now that another Major League baseball season has begun, I started thinking about whether I will ever see the Chicago Cubs win a World Series. I’m 45 years old, and, hopefully, will live to watch them for another 40 years or so. Chances are they will win it sometime during my life. They are way overdue, but I’m not going to hold my breath and turn Cubbie blue until they do.

Regardless of whether the Cubs win the big one, I propose the theory that sports fans of my generation have to be the luckiest of all time. Take baseball, for instance. We’ve been alive long enough to have seen many of the greatest players ever, and some of the biggest moments the sport has ever had.

Most of us who are 40 to 50 got to see legends such as Bob Gibson, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Roberto Clemente, Nolan Ryan, Reggie Jackson, Ernie Banks, Rod Carew, Pete Rose, Steve Carlton and Tom Seaver, play the game. We have seen most of the major records broken by the likes of Hank Aaron, Cal Ripken Jr., Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Rickey Henderson and Roger Clemens.

I think football fans of our generation have also been alive at the best time. We’ve seen the greatest offensive players ever, including Jim Brown, Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Ray Berry, Gayle Sayers, Jerry Rice, Walter Payton, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, Emmitt Smith, Barry Sanders, Brett Favre, Steve Young, Franco Harris, Mike Ditka and Lynn Swann to name just a few. Defensive Hall of Famers we’ve seen take the gridiron include Dick Butkus, Ray Nitshcke, Joe Greene, Alan Page, Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor, Dick Lane, Dan Hampton and two guys named Mel Blount and Mel Renfro. So far, the only place kicker to make it in the Hall of Fame, Jan Stenerud, kicked during our lifetime.

While we were watching, basketball’s greatest performed, including Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Julius Irving, Oscar Robertson, Karl Malone, Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West, Pete Maravich and Dominque Wilkens. Maybe someday, if their careers prove worthy, we can add Lebron James and Allen Iverson to this list.

This is true for every other sport as well. We’ve seen Wayne Gretsky, Mario Lemieux, Bobby Orr, Gordie Howe, Sergei Federov, Patrick Roy and Bobby Hull in hockey. Inside the ring, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Roberto Duran, Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler, George Foreman and Joe Frazier have all proven themselves as boxing’s greatest.

The greatest stars of men’s and women’s tennis who have come from our era include Rod Laver, Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Arthur Ashe, Pete Sampras, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus.

We’ve witnessed Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Gary Player and, of course, Tiger Woods in the world of golf.

The realm of motor sports is no exception to this theory. Mario Andretti, Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Bobby and Al Unser, A.J. Foyt, Jackie Stewart, Michael Schumacher and Jeff Gordon.

Other notables from the world of sports who have risen to the top during our lifetime include Pele, Lance Armstrong, Mark Spitz, Olga Korbut, Bruce Jenner, Carl Lewis, Nadia Comaneci, Earl Anthony, Don Carter and Secretariat.

And there are a few other sports moments worth mentioning.

Who can forget Kurt Gibson’s heroics in the World Series?

One of the most memorable events in Olympic history was when the United States captured the gold medal in hockey.

An undefeated season in professional football has only been achieved one time. We were here to see it. The Miami Dolphins are the only team in NFL history to accomplish that feat. The Chicago Bears came close, only losing one game on their way to a Super Bowl title in 1985. Ironically, that loss came at the hands of the Miami Dolphins.

These are all events that have happened in a span most of us are able to remember. I find that truly remarkable.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone you feel should be on the list. Feel free to e-mail me any of your suggestions. Even if the Cubs don’t make it this season, or, for that matter, in our lifetimes, we shouldn’t sulk. Instead, we should rejoice in the fact we’ve been around to witness (in my opinion) the greatest era in sports history.

Doug Halberstadt is a local resident and is track announcer at Rockford Speedway. He can be reached via e-mail at

From the April 5-11, 2006, issue

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