By BEN DENSON
Remember me. Remember me for something. Remember me for greatness or futility, for breaking records or breaking barriers, for love or hate. Please don’t let me be average. Mediocrity breeds forgetfulness. It leads to the infinite abyss of obscurity.
With the recent death of two sports icons, namely Yogi Berra and Moses Malone, reactions swirl around towards what kind of legacy both legends left. These are two men who embodied their respective eras- playing during the infancy of their sports. Malone played during the ABA-NBA merger, and served as the archetype big-man during a brand new, more offensively focused NBA.
Much like him namesake, Moses Malone brought NBA fans to the promised land of physical, fast-paced basketball. As a six time NBA rebounding leader, he was appropriately nicknamed “chairman of the boards.” Why he was never nicknamed “The Prophet,” we’ll never know. But just imagine Moses Malone with a biblical-like beard. If Malone is Moses, than please call me Paul.
I’m working on the beard, but at least I try to be a prophetic writer.
Both Yogi and Malone had a number of disciples, men who followed them tried to play the respective sports in the style modeled after both players. In today’s baseball world, a hitting catcher is hard to come by. It’s more a defensive-minded position, but Yogi Berra broke this mold.
With a productive yet powerful bat and a few douses of great wit, Yogi created a character, on and off the field, that all catchers tried to model their game after. For eternity, Yogi will be known as the sagacious Yankee catcher. So far, eternity has served Berra well. No doubt it will continue to do so.
The world is far from perfect. As Yogi famously said, “If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.” Let that statement marinate. The world — you, me, Donald Trump, that tree over there, Donald Trump’s hair — is imperfect and impermanent. Everything we know, love and hate will decay into nothingness. This means the human condition is, well, does it matter? If it’s the trivial bullshit that defines our life and everything is trivial if it is impermanent, then why try at all?
But don’t fret! Don’t become an apathetic vegetable! (I’m okay with you becoming an apathetic fruit … like that avocado who is too cool to care). Yes, the androgynous avocado could fall into a deep sadness knowing that it will turn into a medium spicy Wegman’s brand guacamole. But really it’s happy to be eaten.
And it’s an avocado.
As humans, we have much more to offer than an avocado does. Our decaying bodies will disappear, but our ideas are immortal. Doesn’t that make our thoughts more real than anything else?
The goal of the human condition is to create a legacy and, in a way, achieve the immortality that is otherwise impossible to achieve. All of a sudden, everything matters. Athletes, especially, have the perfect opportunity to craft a legacy. Being famous in the eyes of millions and working in an industry dominated by numbers, having a lasting legacy almost seems like the end goal for any athlete is to have a lasting legacy. Living beyond their years on Earth and become something bigger than oneself. And really, it is.
Take the gauntlet of time and create your own legacy. If you happen to be a professional athlete, you have the easiest path towards immortality. Yogi Berra joins the rank of athletes to transcend sports itself.
“Having a thousand different ladies is pretty cool, I’ve learned in my life. I’ve [also] found out that having one woman a thousand different times is more satisfying,” said the late basketball demigod Wilt Chamberlain in 1999 just a few months before his death.
A man who’s larger than life, and larger than everyone he played with, Wilt the Stilt joins Yogi Berra as one of the few athletes to become a phenomena outside of their respective sports. To wit, for the number 20,000. Wilt Chamberlin claimed to have slept with 20,000 women in his lifetime. “At my age, that equals out to having sex with 1.2 women a day, every day since I was fifteen years old,” Chamberlin wrote in his autobiography “A View From Above.”
I wish I was that cool when I was 15. I wish I was that cool now.
And of course, “The Big Dipper” scored 100 points in an NBA game — the only player to do so — solidifying his legacy as a misogynistic, grandiose and dominant basketball player.
Promises of eternity are hard to come to by. The idea of a legacy is the only thing we have to guarantee our existence beyond our physical means. It is an intangible, imperishable, incorporeal, all powerful source. I might have just found the meaning of life. Can I get a confirmation on this?
Whatever the meaning way be, all athletes strive for greatness, but it’s the ones that are famous for all the other reasons that cross into the realm of the divine.