15 February 2007

Athletes as Heroes

In a few weeks the preparation for the annual fall religious festival will begin. Boys as young as five to the oldest coherent man in the nursing home will take part. For the boys and young men Spring Training triggers dreams of glory and hero status. For the men who aren't as nimble or young as they used to be it will be the time to start picking fantasy teams.

If you haven't already guessed, the fall religious festival is FOOTBALL. Here in the South this sport is second only to God. Events are scheduled around open dates and away games.

Football is king.

But, this hasn't always been so. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were at the top of the list.

For years I've heard the elusive "they" tell us we can't use a sports figure as our hero. Someone should pass this tidbit on to Susan Elizabeth Phillips. I'm sure her millions of fans (me included) would understand if she switched to making her alpha, macho sports heroes into physicist and nuclear scientist. (VBG)


Here are some sports facts you should know if you are writing a 1920's athletic hero.

The baseball teams we have today aren't necessarily the same as then.

In the 1920's the Atlanta Braves were the Boston Braves. This is longest continuous franchise in Major League Baseball©. In 1936, the team was renamed to the Boston Bees. (Doesn't this make you shudder?) In 1941, the name reverted to the Boston Braves. In 1953 the team moved to Milwaukee and became the Milwaukee Braves. The last move was to Atlanta in 1966.

Los Angeles Dodgers 1884-2006
Brooklyn Atlantics, Brooklyn Grays, Brooklyn Bridegrooms, Brooklyn Grooms, Brooklyn Superbas (this is spelled correctly, but I have no idea what it means), Brooklyn Robins, Brooklyn Dodgers

New York Yankees 1901-2006
Baltimore Orioles, New York Highlanders

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Football started to get a toe hold in the 1920s. It has been around since the 1870s. In 1920, the first pro league, the American Professional Football Association, was founded, in a meeting at a Hupmobile car dealership in Canton, Ohio. The legendary Olympian and all-round athlete Jim Thorpe was elected president. The initial group of 11 teams, of which all but one were located in the Midwest, was originally less a league than an agreement not to rob other teams' players. In the early years, APFA members continued to play non-APFA teams. By the start of the 1920 season, the list of teams had grown to 14. They were:

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As for basketball, it was still developing and growing into the sport we know today. It didn't really take off beyond high schools and colleges until after WWII. Click here for more information.

Stock car racing wasn't a sport then. It developed out of the hills and hollers of the south. The drivers were trying to out run the G-men. Moonshine making and transporting, then as now, is against the law.

My husband's grandfather spent 11/29 in the Atlanta pen for making shine. My grandfather was an auto mechanic for his family's operation. He had this one driver who after every run complained that his car had a miss. Papaw worked and worked on that car. Finally, he made the driver take him on a run.

The only seat in these cars was for the driver. All available room was for the hooch. The driver is in his seat and papaw is setting on top of cases of the clear liquid libation. The scenery is flashing by the windows. The speedometer creeps higher and higher as they drive on curvy, one lane, dirt roads. (Think "Dukes of Hazzard," only narrower and sharper curves.) Finally the speed reaches 103 mph.

The driver says, "There, here that miss?"

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The Professional Golfers' Association of America (PGA) was founded in 1916, 15 years after the first Professional Golfers' Association was established in Great Britain. It conducts the PGA and PGA Senior tournaments and Ryder Cup competition between members of the American and British PGAs.

Tournament golf suffered during the depression, but after World War II the circuit flourished with such players as Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Jimmy Demaret, and Lloyd Mangrum. The purses for wins steadily grew through the last half of the twentieth century. However, for most of the century the game was segregated and available only to those who had the money to pay country club dues and greens fees.

Those early athletes in all pro sports didn't make a fraction of the money today's sports figures earn. However, they did do endorsements in print media and on the radio.

I’m a sucker for a sports story, true or not. There is just something about a man who pushes his body to its physical limits and is willing to sweat in front of hundreds of thousands of people. Since we are already writing outside the norm, why not make our hero an superb athlete?