The parting of one legend…
Before Chipper Jones, first ballot hall of famer, there was Chipper Jones, the lucky fallback. The Atlanta Braves were deciding between high school pitching ace Todd Van Poppel and shortstop Chipper Jones for their first pick in the 1990 draft. Braves GM Bobby Cox spent the weekend before the draft trying to convince Van Poppel to forgo his Texas scholarship and sign with the Braves to no avail. So the Braves went with Chipper, Van Poppel got drafted 14th and eventually signed with the Oakland A’s. 22 years, 2499 games, 2727 hits, 468 HRs, 1623 RBIs later, Chipper Jones, the model of consistency of his era, retired last Friday.
Sidenote: No baseball great can get through a career without a myth.
Chipper Jones made his major league debut on September 11th, 1993, his first All-Star game in 1996, won a World Series in 1995, and the MVP in 1999. Somewhere in there, he became Chipper Jones, Atlanta Institution. It’s cliche, but staying with one team for his 19 year professional career must rank with his most impressive accomplishments. Due to advances in athletic sciences, we will see players consistently contributing to their sports into their late 30s. But we may never see another stay 22 years with the same organization.
…while another continues to grow…
Perhaps no team has symbolized the rise of the NFL passing game like the New Orleans Saints. Their 2009 Super Bowl victory solidified the thought that no longer did defense win championships, but throwing for 300 yards a game did. That was also the year when Drew Brees became more than a quarterback – he became a symbol of the city’s rebuild and rise.
On Sunday, Brees broke the record for most consecutive games with a touchdown pass as the Saints won their first game of the season. It was a rare bright spot in their controversial season. Brees bounced around the league before settling with the Saints. And like the Braves, the Saints weren’t Brees’ first choice team. Two players, two teams and two symbols: in a sports era of analytics, sometimes luck matters the most.
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