Statue Frenzy

Posted: August 17, 2011 in Sports just because

Preston on Sport’s faithful, this summer has been rather uneventful when it comes to opinionated issues. Sure I have ranted amongst friends briefly, perhaps edited a facebook status to voice my displeasure but not much has really irked me to write.

This morning when watching the sports highlights I noticed that the Philadelphia Phillies erected a statue commemorating former broadcaster Harry Kalas, now in the hall of fame.

This triggered the immediate reaction of “really? Another statue?” The thought process behind this reaction is that it seems every week another team is erecting another statue. This is not to say that the people are not deserving of recognition or honour, but at what point will these stadiums be surrounded by an army of brass look alikes?

From what I can remember, this summer the following statues were unveiled: Nick Saban (Alabama Football Head Coach), Tim Tebow (Florida Gators QB, Heisman winner), Cam Newton (Auburn QB, Heisman winer). Karim Abdul Jabaar littered sports headlines earlier this summer when stating his claim that he felt slighted about not having a statue in front of the Staples Center in L.A.(Currently there are five statues right now: Magic Johnson, Jerry West, Chick Hearn, Wayne Gretzky and Oscar De La Hoya)

Pittsburgh Pirates have multiple statues, Boston Garden and Fenway Park also have multiple statues around their stadiums recognizing the many greats over time.

But at what point do we need to find a new form of recognition? These players, most of them at least, probably or will soon have their bust forever enshrined in their respective hall of fames for which ever sport they played. That would be the ultimate commemoration of their career no?

I am all for recognizing your athletes, but I think statues and retiring numbers are too permanent and can limit abilities going forward. First off, these statues cost a lot of money and weigh a lot. Once they are placed in front of the stadiums, athletic facilities, etc. they are near impossible to move. What if the stadium is old and a new one is built? What if the player disgraces the school or ends up being a serial killer?

That last option is obviously outlandish, however the point is you are permanently linking yourself to this person and a lot of statues right now are awarded very early. They are recognizing players before their lives are over with, which is to say, a few great things makes you statue worthy. Nick Saban has won only one national title for the Alabama Crimson Tide, yet he has a statue already, so the value I think is being decreased as we move on.

Retiring numbers is a whole other story. What would you say defines the criteria to have ones number/jersey retired? Sure, Gretzky, Jordan, Ruth, Magic, Kareem, Howe, Orr, The Rocket, these players amongst others transformed cities and their team for years and rightfully made their mark on the game and are in the hall of fame. But should teams perhaps up the anti on their standards?

The New York Yankees for example, have multiple players right now on their roster who could have numbers retired. A-Rod, Jeter, Rivera, could and should all have their numbers retired given the standard for other teams. However the Yankees have had so many greats, and will continue to have so many greats on their teams that they may very well run out of numbers if they keep retiring the way they should. The Boston Celtics and the LA Lakers suffer from the same storied success. They have had so many great players on their teams and so many legends that their rafters are littered with retired jersey numbers which players can on longer don.

The problem now becomes, do we find an alternate for recognizing the greats? Is there one standard for the league with which we hold our retiring criteria to? Or do we allow the organizations who specialize in historic greatness and remembrance to take charge of deciding who deserves to be immortalized in the games history?

Frankly I think we should just leave it up to the Hall of Fames to do the bronzing and displaying of jerseys. What I saw with the Pittsburgh Steelers that was really cool when I visited their stadium, is that they had on display tons of awesome memorabilia in replica locker stalls of their greats. Let the fans see that to remember them by. There is no need to bronze a larger than life replica outside your stadium every time someone does something great.

Now as always, don’t get me wrong I enjoy the idea of remembering contributions by the greats. Discussing history about sports is great and there is nothing I enjoy more than old NFL films, watching old NBA or NHL games on cable when a good one presents itself.

But at what point do we say “Thanks you did a good job, good luck with the hall of fame” and give them a bobble head night and be done with it? I mean these guys made money, have fame in that city and they want more? The fact that Jabbar feels he deserves a statue or is slighted kind of bothers me. You are in the hall, the all time scoring leader, you’ve got rings and everyone in LA loves you. Do you really need more? You’re going to let a piece of brass deprive you of complete and utter happiness with your legacy?

To sum up, recognition is good but at what point is enough, enough? People will get inducted into their sports respective Hall of Fame, which is the ultimate prize with a championship ring. The Hall is saying you are one of the best of all time, congratulations. How many times does one need to hear that after their career is done? I support legends nights, a postcard or bobble-head night, but statues are for leaders, society difference makers. The brass should refer to the people in the front office making new legends and running the teams, not standing outside as a pigeon stoop.

  1. I think the difference between the Hall of Fame and statues is the purpose they serve. The Hall of Fame serves to honour the greats, like you said, and maintain that piece of history. Statues, on the other hand, can do that too, but I think their purpose is to appeal to the fans. A wall of memorabilia is a good idea too but to do that you need the space, the security, and a fair amount of memorabilia to pull it off.
    There’s something about statues that people just love that often can’t be replaced with a plaque. The Lincoln memorial, the Rocky statue, people even spend good money to go to wax museums. The Yankees have a monument park, but the Yogi Berra and Don Larsen statues are arguably the biggest attractions even though they are roped off and inside. But the Yankees have their monument park, because they can; an area with 2 or 3 plaques wouldn’t be very attractive, but 2 or 3 statues and you’ve got ‘something to see’
    If they made a Joe Carter home run statue of him jumping up and down in that famous scene, I’d definitely check it out, maybe take a picture with it, but I doubt I’d pay much attention to a commemorative plaque.
    Having high standards for statues is a must, but I think the standard is set by whether people would want it there. It may not be the most pure form of deciding who and when to erect a statue but it serves its purpose.

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