By David Fong
February 19, 2014
As is so often the case when something in sports gets overdone and overwrought and becomes tiresome and beat into the ground, ESPN is to blame.
Several years ago, the “Worldwide Leader” came up with the idea of creating a Mount Rushmore for sports stars (which is a pretty cute way of saying “the top four” in each sport). It was a pretty neat idea at the time. The network would take a sport or team and select the greatest of all time in that sport or on that team — immortals whose faces forever deserve to be etched in stone. At the time, I loved the idea, because it created copious amounts of interesting debate.
Then, as is usually the case with ESPN, it got crammed down our throats to the point of it becoming something akin to pablum.
Recently, the “Mount Rushmore” debate again caught fire on the network, first when LeBron James announced his personal “NBA Mount Rushmore,” and again when Derek Jeter announced his impending retirement and the talking heads began to debate his place on the “New York Yankees Mount Rushmore.”
While I suppose both are interesting debates, the fact of the matter is I don’t particularly care about the NBA or the New York Yankees. As a matter of fact, I have a pretty active dislike for both entities.
I do, however, love Troy High School athletics pretty much more than anything that isn’t my Creator or my family. And, to the best my knowledge, no one has ever created a Mount Rushmore of Troy athletics. Which is why I’ve decided to create my own.
For the purposes of this little exercise, I’ve created three separate categories: a Troy football players Mount Rushmore, a Troy athletes Mount Rushmore and a Troy coaching Mount Rushmore. In more than a century of Troy High School sports, there simply are too many deserving coaches and athletes out there to limit my personal Mount Rushmore to just four names and faces.
I have no doubts many of you out there will disagree with my choices — which is part of the fun. Feel free to jump on the Troy Daily News Facebook page, email at email@example.com or get after me on Twitter @thefong to chime in with your opinions.
Let the debate begin:
• Troy Athletes Mount Rushmore (Kami Mathews-Gardner, swimming; Todd Darbyshire, wrestling; Brooks Hall, basketball and Heath Murray, baseball): Gardner is one of only a handful of individual state champions in school history — in addition to her star-studded college career as both a swimmer and coach, as is Darbyshire. Hall is the most-decorated basketball player in school history and a Mr. Basketball Ohio winner. Murray pitched for four years at the University of Michigan and another four years in Major League Baseball.
This list still leaves off some pretty incredible athletes, including state champion gymnast Mike Lyons, state champion distance runner Levi Fox, state champion bowler Alicia Benson and former big league pitcher Harold “Corky” Valentine, just to name a few. Troy may be best known as a “football town,” but there are plenty of other legendary athletes in other sports who have come through Troy, as well.
• Troy Coaching Mount Rushmore (Herb Hartman, track and field; Mark Goldner, tennis; Richard Phillips, soccer and Steve Nolan, football): Unlike the other two Mount Rushmores included on this list, in my mind, there’s not much room for debate on this one. All four coaches gave in excess of 20 years of service to Troy High School, while capturing countless team and individual honors for their players. If there’s someone on this list who deserves to be replaced, I’d like to hear about it.
• Troy Football Mount Rushmore (Bob Ferguson, Ryan Brewer, Kris Dielman and Gordon Bell): The first three names on this list are — again, in my opinion only — indisputable. Before Brewer came along, Ferguson held every rushing and scoring record in school history and was a Heisman Trophy runner-up at Ohio State. Brewer broke nearly all of Ferguson’s records on his way to being named Mr. Football Ohio in 1998. Dielman was a five-time Pro Bowl selection with the San Diego Chargers.
End of debate, in my mind.
The fourth sport is a little trickier, however. I could have literally substituted in a dozen names at the fourth spot — including, but not limited to: Randy Walker, Tommy Vaughn, Tommy Myers, Dave Starkey and Joe Allen — without any hesitation. I gave Bell the nod by the narrowest of margins based on the fact he played on an absolutely loaded 1971 team and likely would have made a run at Ferguson’s records had there not been so much firepower surrounding him on that team.
Again, the possibilities were endless in compiling these lists. I could have gone on for days and — with a little time — probably compiled a Mount Rushmore for every varsity sport in Troy High School history.
But we’ll just leave here for now … I don’t want to go beating anyone over the head with my lists.
I’ll leave that to the good folks at ESPN.
Troy’s very own David Fong appears on Thursdays in the Troy Daily News. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong