Giving thanks for the sports scene

Published 12:00 am Thursday, November 25, 1999

The year of 1999 has given the sports fan plenty to be thankful for. In the true spirit of the Thanksgiving season, here are some of my list of sports thanks.

My first thanks spans a period of two years. I’m thankful for baseball stars like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. The two modern-day Sultans of Swat have single handedly saved the sport of baseball.

If the home run chase of 1998 wasn’t enough, these two giants restaged another race in 1999.

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Baseball fans could only sit in awe as the two players broke Roger Maris’ for the second straight.

One had to wonder if the two players will go head to head in the millennium.

I give my NBA sports thanks to David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs.

The Admiral has carried the Spurs team for years but wasn’t enough to reach an NBA title. With the arrival of Tim Duncan, the Spurs had a formitable twin towers of Robinson and Duncan. The problem was there was only one ball to play with.

Robinson was asked to scale back his offensive game to allow Duncan to prosper on the offensive end. Robinson, the consumate team-player, willingly did this even with the fans and press asking &uot;what is wrong with David Robinson?&uot; He had the final laugh as the San Antonio Spurs won the NBA championship for the first team.

In a game that is becoming known as the ball-hog league, Robinson’s unselfishness is rare. Players should take note that a little unselfishness led to an NBA title.

My collegiate thanks goes to a trio of good football coaches. Jeff Bower, David Cutcliffe and Jackie Sherrill have guided their respective teams to Top-25 rankings. The state of Mississippi joins Florida in an exclusive club.

The two states are the only states with all their Division I teams ranked in the Top-25.

I give thanks to the way Brett Favre plays football. The former Golden Eagle star has struggled through an injury plagued season. Even with an injury to his throwing hand, Favre is still the class of the league. With the injury finally healing, the trademark Favre smile has returned.

His smile seen through the facemask of his helment after a good play or even calling the signals behind the center reminds us that football is still a game when played with one’s heart.

Another NFL thanks goes to Archie Manning and the sons he has raised.

The jury is still out on Eli as he serves a red-shirt season with Ole Miss but Peyton has set the NFL on fire. In just his second pro season, Peyton is playing like a seasoned NFL pro.

It is easy to see dad in many of his football mannerisms which brings back fond memories of one’s childhood.

Finally my thanks goes to the great Walter Payton. The NFL’s all-time rushing leader died from cancer this year.

The Jackson State star known as Sweetness easily renamed Chicago’s Soldier Field to Payton’s Place during his playing career.

Payton thrilled fans with his all out effort on each run.

He also impressed everyone with his class on and off the field.

Individuals with the talent and class of Payton only come around once and awhile.

I count myself fortunate to have seen him play and that he was a fellow Mississippian.

Tim Isbell is creative director at The Democrat. He can be reached at 446-5172 ext 233 or by e-mail at