Friday, May 10, 2013

In Ripken’s Footsteps?

Cal Ripken, Jr., had a twenty-year career in the major leagues—exceedingly long by baseball standards, and unprecedented for a Shortstop (Ripken moved to Third Base for his final few seasons)—and over two decades Ripken built up an astonishing fan base and an enormous reservoir of goodwill that will last him throughout his life.

No athlete since Ripken, in any sport, has been able to acquire and maintain such a gilt-edged reputation among the nation’s sports fans.

But if an athlete is to follow in Ripken’s footsteps, it will be Aaron Craft.

Craft has been on the national scene only three years, but he has already become the most respected and most fascinating college basketball player of my lifetime—and big box-office at Ohio State as well as on the road (the latter is unprecedented in recent decades). Fans all over the country now line up to have their photographs taken with Craft, a phenomenon unique in the history of college basketball.

Officials at Ohio State realized that Craft was a dream student/athlete as soon as Craft arrived on campus. The Ohio State Athletic Department immediately made Craft available to the press (a most unusual practice in the case of Freshman athletes) and Craft instantly became a fixture at Ohio State press events. Jim Delany, Commissioner of The Big Ten Conference, was quick to realize that in Craft The Big Ten had a major star on its hands—and Craft was soon to be seen, year-round, on The Big Ten Network.

Perhaps most interesting of all: at the nation’s premiere football school, a basketball player is now the premiere athlete. Craft is the biggest celebrity ever on the Ohio State campus. His every move is tweeted instantly by Ohio State students.

Craft is listed as 6’2”. Under normal circumstances, that height would be too short to play in the NBA. However, if Craft gets drafted—and he has given some intimation that he would like to play in the NBA—he would be capable of elevating and transforming the sport. Further, Craft’s presence in the league would go a long way in helping the NBA to clean up its less-than-spotless image.

Craft, a brilliant student, ultimately plans to become a physician.

He can solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than one minute (and has been filmed doing so).

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