Nov 5th 2009 By Dan Solomon
Alex Rodriguez once told Sports Illustrated that he couldn't decide if people hated on him because of his good looks, his fabulous wealth, or how awesome his team is. Now, rumor has it he carries that self-mythologizing into the bedroom: Us Weekly published an account from an ex recently
saying that A-Rod has two paintings that he commissioned hanging over his bed -- of himself, but as a centaur
Since mythology has always been a part of American sports -- from the many hagiographies of Muhammad Ali all the way back to Casey at the Bat -- we can't really fault Rodriguez for taking it to the extreme.
Instead, we spoke to Daniel H. Garrison, a professor of classics at Northwestern University, about some other mythical characters that certain contemporary athletes might see in the mirror.
If "King James" doesn't go far enough in elevating LeBron to the realm of myth, Professor Garrison suggested that we consider the Greek hero Achilles. "He was the youngest warrior in the Trojan War," he explained -- a fact which parallels LeBron's lengthy list of "youngest player to ever" achievements
. "Of course, Achilles died at Troy," added Garrison; but we think the odds of LeBron getting shot with an arrow to the heel are slim enough that he'll probably avoid that fate.
"David, the semi-mythical king of Judah, served as a hired gun for the Philistines," Professor Garrison explained, before -- like a certain 40-year-old quarterback
-- switching sides and fighting for the enemy, which were the Israelites in David's case. "He changed sides to kill Goliath," Garrison said, while Favre did it in order to stick it to Packers GM Ted Thompson. Also, both of them were really, really old.
Like Slice, the much-hyped fighter who seemed destined to bring MMA to mainstream glory, the Greek hero Protesilaus had a quick, early loss that defined his career. Kimbo Slice's 14-second defeat in his prime-time matchup
on CBS against Seth Petruzelli meant that the man who was supposed to be the new face of the sport instead had to compete for the right to fight again by doing a stint on "The Ultimate Fighter." But that's still not as crappy as the turnout for poor Protesilaus: "He was the first Greek warrior to jump off the ship in the invasion of Troy, and he was shot by an arrow and instantly killed." Professor Garrison told us. No opportunity to appear on a reality show for that guy.
What sports stars do you think have a mythical hero in them?
From the Web:
Moral Dilemmas for the Married Guy.
The Complete Man Code to Hitting People.
Dangerous candy to give to children