Apparently, not only is Georges St-Pierre a rough, tough street brawler, he’s bigger than the Beatles, too.
That’s according to the man who built the UFC from a two-bit operation that smacked of thuggery into a billion-dollar global enterprise that’s still, well, employing thugs.
Dana White’s no fool. Far from it, the track record’s shown. But his suggestion that St-Pierre — who defended his UFC title against Josh Koscheck of the States last weekend before a sellout crowd at Montreal’s Bell Centre — is the biggest thing Canada’s exported, may be stretching it.
In his world, Wayne Gretzky’s but a Zamboni driver compared to St-Pierre, who seemingly sends men, women and children alike into a tizzy when he steps from outside the North American boundary.
We have no idea how popular St-Pierre is in the Philippines. But if we go by White’s theory, we could assume the greatest UFC fighter from America must be almost as popular elsewhere as St.-Pierre, meaning that fighter is bigger in the U.S. than Michael Jordan.
And we all know that’s beyond absurd.
So enough of this preposterous UFC talk (though we concede it’s bigger than big to an awful lot of people).
The whole White/St-Pierre/Gretzky thing, however, got us thinking: who lays title to Canada’s greatest athlete tag?
It’s probably a given that eight out of 10 people will give Gretzky the nod, though who knows where Joey Votto and Sidney Crosby will place when they’re done playing.
Tough to argue against Gretzky or Bobby Orr, but in terms of a greatest single accomplishment, it’s difficult to overlook Steve Nash of Victoria.
For a Canadian, making the NHL is hard enough, let alone a Major League Baseball club. So imagine a 6-foot-3 white guy from British Columbia flourishing in a sport that has millions of U.S. youngsters playing from sandlot to organized ball, all aiming to play professionally in a league in which teams can only employ 15 athletes, a league that’s stretching its borders farther and farther beyond the United States into Europe and Asia, a game far more universal than hockey.
Gretzky’s umpteen individual awards and scoring records can’t be overlooked, particularly in a country in which hockey ranks somewhere between church and state.
While Nash’s accolades don’t measure up to Gretzky’s in terms of numbers, two NBA MVP awards and seven selections to the league’s all-star teams compares, or even surpasses, Gretzky’s 61 scoring records, 10 scoring titles and nine MVP awards with respect to sheer accomplishment and achievement.
I didn’t have a vote for the Lou Marsh Award, given this week to Joey Votto as Canada’s athlete of the year. But I do have a ballot in The Canadian Press athlete of the year voting.
And, to be honest, I’m torn.
Votto, and his run at baseball’s Triple Crown? Or Jonathan Toews, the top forward in the Olympic Games, a gold-medal winner and Stanley Cup champ, the NHL’s playoff MVP? What about teammate Duncan Keith, who also had the double-double last season, and was the NHL’s top defenceman? And Crosby, whose goal was the second-biggest ever scored for Canada?
Closer to home, voting should also be tight for two-thirds of the St. John’s Molson-Coors Athlete of the Year. The female vote, barring a major surprise, should go to runner Kate Vaughan who was utterly dominant on the local road race circuit, and placed sixth at the national cross-country championship.
The male award could go to any number of athletes, though I like Colin Greening, who captained the Cornell U.S. college hockey team last season and led the Big Red in scoring with 35 points in 34 games. In addition to playing hockey and maintaining a near-perfect 3.99 grade point average, Greening organized Cornell’s Homecoming Parade, organized team visits to local schools, organized the team’s charity skate and worked with the local Special Olympics.
As a result, he was voted the most outstanding senior student-athlete in NCAA men’s Division I hockey.
Sounds like an athlete of the year to me.
As for team of the year, it figures one of the gold medal-winning rugby teams has an inside track.
Problem is, how do you pick between The Rock’s senior team, and The Rock junior squad?
Bob Feller, who just might be the greatest baseball pitcher who ever lived (imagine Feller vs. Sandy Koufax?), served in Argentia for a couple or four months before going aboard and fighting on the USS Alabama.
Couple of points about Feller, in relation to today’s game: he signed with the Indians for a dollar, and Cliff Lee left 30 million of ’em on the table when he picked the Phillies over the Yankees. Feller voluntarily joined the war effort a day or two after Pearl Harbour was bombed.
Think Alex Rodriguez would go to Afghanistan?
Robin Short is The Telegram Sports Editor. He can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org