Ramble on the roof

Torrin Thatcher

Watching the NBA playoffs with my brethren at Sigma Phi Epsilon brought back a question my favorite younger sister asked me once: “If you could be any person in sports, past or present, who would you be?”
Wow. What a question to ask her favorite brother. Naturally, my mind raced, and I thought, “What could I say?” After flipping through the dense pages of the sports almanac in – as Jimmy Dugan says – the lump that’s three feet above my posterior, I quickly told my sister a name that many people probably would not conjure.
Before I get to my answer, let me introduce the others that were highlighted in my almanac.
Since we were talking college hoops, I quickly thought of Coach K. He has won four Final Fours, tons of ACC Championships and he’s got over 800 career wins and a Gold Medal to name just a few of the basketball-related accomplishments.
Another nice factor of being Coach K would be having his type of basketball program, having that recruiting tool and having the ability to draw so much hate from players and fans throughout the country.
Turning towards the association – like Coach K almost did – I quickly thought of the greats: Jordan, Russell, Phil and Red. I am not going to outline Jordan’s basketball accomplishments as many are familiar with them, but the other three need more enlightenment.
Phil Jackson coached Jordan and the Bulls and helped them win six NBA Finals. That’s not bad – needing both hands for all those rings. We all know that Jackson then moved on to the Lakers and won an additional four rings.
That brings his total to ten. And not too many people know that Jackson actually won two rings as a player in the league for the Knicks in ’70 and ’73, bringing his ring sum to a clean dozen.
Having twelve rings as a coach and player, dating the owner’s daughter and coaching players like Pippen, Jordan, Kobe, Shaq and especially Tyronn Lue? Not too bad of a list of career accomplishments.
Bill Russell was the other name I was going to throw out there because he won at all levels. Besides the eleven rings he won with the Celtics during their dynasty years starting in ’57, he won a couple of NCAA Championships at the University of San Francisco in ’55 and ’56 and a gold medal at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne.
He earned basketball trophies, rings and gold all within a very short time frame. Not too bad, right?
Russell’s coach, Red Auerbach, did some serious work in Boston. He won nine championships as a coach, and then he won seven more with them when he became the team’s general manager and team president to bump his total to 16.
Good career, but he never actually played the game at a championship level.
How can a real sports fan not mention a dynasty with 24 championships – the Montreal
Knowing they won a bunch of championships, I scrolled through their players and saw two names – Jean Béliveau and Henri Richard – that caught my eye. Richard won 11 Stanley Cups as a player for the Habs, and Béliveau won 17: ten as a player and seven in the team’s front office. How sweet would it be for your name to be on Lord Stanley’s Cup 17 times?
Very sweet, but that still doesn’t take the stew. My winner? Yogi Berra.
Berra spent a career in New York with both the Yankees and the Mets, though most don’t know he also managed the Mets.
He takes my choice with taking home three AL MVP trophies, being in the top five for MVP
voting seven times, winning 13 World Series rings, managing two teams to the World Series, being a 15-time All-Star and catching Don Larsen’s perfect game in the ’56
World Series.
All of this fills the sheet up quite nicely, and Berra, now at the age of 84, has left a great legacy behind that will definitely not be forgotten or stolen – speaking of stolen, he only had 30 swiped bags in his long career. No surprise for a catcher, though.
It also helps his case that he played professional baseball with a 5’7″ frame, as I like cheering for the under-sized.
Surprisingly, there was no mention of the NFL on my list. Why? Well, as a Cheesehead, I am content with who I am – a fan of the Green Bay Packers. With 12 NFL Championships to our credit, why would I want to be anything other than a great fan of the greatest franchise in my favorite sport?
Just like my friends from both Winnipeg and New York who love their teams, I love mine. And I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.