Sports Shorts

* Roger Bannister, R.I.P. In perpetuity. Along with your accomplishment. And its context.

Bannister, the British runner who in 1954 broke the four-minute barrier (3:59.4) in the mile, died last Saturday at 88. What he did was historic and incredible. But how he did it–and what he did afterward–are also incredibly memorable.

When Bannister made history on the track at Oxford University in front of some 1,200 spectators, he was a 25-year-old medical student. He was also part of an amateur–yes, amateur–post-graduate all-star running team. How quaint.

And after he broke that mystical barrier and made sports history, he went back to work. And then a few months later–at the peak of his prowess and international renown–he retired. He couldn’t stay a world-class athlete and become a physician, he would explain. Standards–and priorities–mattered. A distinguished career as a neurologist would ensue. He was also knighted.

Roger Bannister will be remembered for making history. For those in the know, he will also be recalled for doing everything the right way. He wasn’t the beneficiary of performance-enhancing drugs, he wasn’t subsidized, he ran on old-school, dirt tracks and he never “cashed in.” His feat of fame was between Olympics. He quit on top–and became a doctor. We’ll not see his kind–nor era–again.

* That was quite the devastating quote the other day from ESPN’s long-time hoops analyst Dick Vitale. “I don’t like the fraud that college basketball has become,” he said. Ouch.

Remember when the biggest, big-time college basketball issue was academic standards and who might flunk out? Now the very best players have no intention of finishing, have institutional enablers to get them through faux-student status and have access to de-facto, palm-greasing agents before committing.

* I’m one of those sports fans who reads all those page-two, small-print results, schedules and college rankings. The rankings are particularly interesting right now with basketball, baseball and hockey as staples. Basketball and baseball are all familiar names. Not so, college hockey. It’s beyond eclectic. Where else would Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State be in the same mix as St. Cloud State, Clarkson, Omaha and Union? BTW, St. Cloud State is No. 1. Go, Huskies.

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