Work in Sports
World's greatest athletes in awe of each other
Posted: Friday December 03, 1999 10:19 AM
By Jamie MacDonald, CNN/SI
NEW YORK -- Picture this scene ... John Q. Living Legend makes his way to a microphone and says, "It's an honor." Then picture that scene again and again until, for one of the few times in the history of self-serving awards shows, you actually believe it. And no wonder, as so many of sports' superstars were laid out like a giant carpet on the floor of the world's most famous arena.
With the number of gifted and accomplished athletes on display, one could expect spectators' heads in Madison Square Garden to be on swivels, but no one could have expected so many great athletes to be gawking at one another.
"Someone asked [in the pre-party] how it's going," Joe Montana said after introducing an award with John Elway. "I said my neck's getting sore from looking around at everybody."
Thursday night's Garden Party was nothing short of a mutual admiration society for those used to being on the other end.
David Cone, a mere mortal in the constellation, couldn't believe his luck when the draw had him kicking off the "10 greatest moments" list with Magic Johnson.
"Magic," Cone said, "to walk up on stage with him, and to have him know who I was, much less talk to me about my career is overwhelming.
"I don't think anyone here is probably eloquent enough to put it all into words ... to tell you the truth, I'm overwhelmed."
He wasn't alone. Many great athletes, even The Great One, Wayne Gretzky returned to a place he called home one year ago only to be taken aback.
"I was sitting beside Henry Aaron," said Gretzky, "thinking how it was that I had the opportunity to be sitting beside one of the greatest athletes ever. To be a part of this is a real special occasion for all of us."
"These guys have already been the MVP, they've already won all the iron they can win," said Magic. "We are all in awe of each other."
Sure, it led to a fair amount of hyperbole, but for the most part, there's no better judge of talent than the talented.
Michael Jordan's sentiments were among the most appropriate of the night when he thanked those who came before him -- and with whom he was nominated. "I appreciate their dedication to the game" Jordan said. "They inspired me."
In the end it was a collection of athletes who, for one of the few times in their lives, were surrounded by people who knew what it meant to make the most of the gifts they were given. The athletes sat in the best seats in the house and eagerly awaited their next opportunity to applaud another of their own -- earnestly and passionately.
"These are people that are so influential in their sports," said Tiger Woods. "Some of them even changed the face of society and that's something that you really can't put into words."
So we'll stop trying ... until the next century.