Name the running back with the most yards rushing in NFL history. Long time fans will not have to think long. Emmitt Smith is at the top of that impressive list of outstanding athletes.
It has been almost 20 years since Smith ran up and down the field, mostly with the Dallas Cowboys. Over the course of 15 seasons, Smith ran 4,409 times for a total of 18,365 yards. The great Walter Payton is in second place on that list and he really is not that close.
Smith, who played his college football at the University of Florida, also was the NFL rushing leader four times, a Super Bowl champion three times, and both a league and a Super Bowl MVP.
Emmitt Smith is also credited with one of my favorite quotes. “I may win and I may lose, but I will never be defeated”. The interesting thing is that I am not really much of a pro football fan, but I love watching half a dozen other sports of all types. Smith’s quote, and its underlying challenge, probably explains as much as anything why I love watching athletes compete.
This past week, Mary Lou and I took our roles as sports spectators to a new level. We began on Monday and Tuesday by watching our nephew play golf for the University of Alabama at the FSU Invitational held at the Shark’s Tooth Golf Course at the Watersound Club in Panama City Beach, Florida. It was beautiful weather for walking the course and Thomas was playing well. He finished sixth out of 55 golfers so it was an admirable showing for our favorite golfer.
Tuesday evening we drove to Bainbridge, Georgia to watch our favorite soccer player, our oldest grandson, Henry Vanstone. On the eve of his 15th birthday, Henry played the entire game for his high school team, the Bainbridge Bearcats. Not bad for a Freshman. They won the match 6 to 1.
After a late night drive back to Auburn, we made our way the next evening to Neville Arena where Auburn outlasted the Ole Miss Rebels in an exciting college basketball game. This year’s edition of the Tigers keeps you on the edge of your seat until the game is over, and this was no exception. It was a crucial win for Auburn’s post-season hopes.
Friday, we attended the gymnastics meet with Auburn competing against the University of Georgia GymDawgs. This is usually the hottest ticket in town and Friday was no exception. Auburn won the meet by a score of 197.175 to 196.300. In most sporting events this would be an extremely rare margin of victory. In the gymnastics world this is a good solid win with high energy levels and an engaged crowd from start to finish.
Saturday morning found us at the Equestrian meet at the beautiful Auburn University Equestrian Center near the Vet School. This is a sport that we have grown to love over the past five or six years. You do not have to be an expert in the nuances of scoring to enjoy the atmosphere. If you get tired of watching the expert riders on magnificent animals, then you can watch the parade of leashed dogs and young children enjoying the scene. It is definitely a place to see and be seen.
After a quick burger, we found ourselves at Plainsman Park where Auburn was hosting the University of Southern California in baseball. This series was originally supposed to be held in sunny southern California, but a massive storm system moving in caused the series to be moved all the way to the plains of Auburn. The weather did not disappoint nor did Auburn’s batters. Auburn decisively won the first two games before the third ended in a tie, due to travel curfews. USC has more national titles in collegiate baseball than any other school, by a huge margin, but this was the Tigers’ time to shine.
On top of the sporting events, we managed to attend performances at the Gogue Performing Arts Center. The Dave and Kat Show, with David Foster and Katherine McPhee, just blew the audience away. If you have never heard of David Foster, just google him. Watch the documentary of him or listen to some of the many songs he has written or produced. He may be the most famous and talented performer I have never heard of.
The Broadway touring performance of “Hairspray” was a delight and entertained the packed audience. Two excellent performances within three days with literally dozens of other athletic events wore us out. It is not that easy being retired.
As I watched all these young athletes and talented performers, I could not help but think of their struggles on their own paths to success. Each of them has likely won and lost along the way, but not a single one ever looked defeated. For that, we are all winners.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org