By Ken Reed
A couple recent articles caught my eye because their subjects were great athletes without egos. One featured track legend Roger Bannister and the other baseball hall-of-famer Sandy Koufax.
Bannister was the first human being to break what was supposed to be an unbreakable barrier, the 4:00 mile, when he ran 3:59.4 in 1954. He retired a few weeks later and began a long career as one of England’s top neurologists.
Koufax is widely considered the greatest left-handed pitcher in baseball history. But he retired early, at age 30, after growing tired of dealing with a sore elbow. After retiring, he chose to avoid the spotlight a lot of former athletes crave and worked at helping those less fortunate than him through a variety of causes and charitable endeavors.
Bannister is more proud of his career helping people as a doctor than he is of his athletic feats.
“That (medical career) to me is a greater source of satisfaction than happening to move my body at a certain speed for a few moments in 1954,” said Bannister.
Bannister’s lack of ego has been a constant throughout his life.
“Modesty in Bannister amounts to an almost complete reluctance to acknowledge his greatness,” wrote Harold Abrahams, another famous English athlete whose track accomplishments inspired the making of the movie “Chariots of Fire.”
Koufax avoided the spotlight from the minute he retired and never needed the celebrity adulation that fuels many professional athletes.
“He never wanted to be the center of attention — he was never part of that ‘dig me’ generation,” according to long-time baseball manager Tony LaRussa. “That wasn’t Sandy.”
Koufax doesn’t do autograph shows or celebrity dinners. He says he never disappeared, he was just following his grandfather’s advice to “spend your time wisely.”
Both Koufax and Bannister have done just that.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans
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Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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Episode #9 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Talking Sports Issues With Ralph Nader – Nader is a consumer advocate and was named one of the “100 Most Influential Americans of the 20th Century” by Time magazine. He is the founder of League of Fans.
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Episode #6 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Need for Quality Physical Education in Our Schools is Greater Than Ever – The guest is Clayton Ellis, one of our nation’s leading advocates for getting our young people to be more physically active.
Episode #5 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Youth Sports with Positive Coaching Alliance Founder Jim Thompson – Thompson started Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) in 1998 to help create a movement to transform the culture of youth sports from “win-at-all-costs” to a positive, character-building experience.
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Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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