The Real "Mount Rushmore of Sports"

Marco RomanellCorrespondent IFebruary 28, 2009

Maryland’s “Mount Rushmore of Sports” of Phelps, Ripken, Robinson and Unitas might just be the best one in all of Sports.

Illinois won ESPN’s “Mount Rushmore of Sports” challenge last week, but I do not believe they should have.

While there is no argument about putting Michael Jordan and Walter Payton on there, I do not believe Mike Ditka and Ernie Banks put Illinois over the top. Banks was one of the best in his profession, and Ditka did win a Super Bowl for the Bears, but where they really good enough to put Illinois in the top spot.

The rest of the top five was rounded out by California, New York, Alabama and Pennsylvania; however, one state should have been in there that was not. Maryland was not in the top five and they might just have the best “Mount Rushmore” of sports of all the states.

There is a quote from the movie Sleepless in Seattle that simply says “Brooks Robinson was the greatest”, and few can argue this point. Robinson played 21 seasons in Baltimore, and I believe is the greatest third baseman of all time.

Anyone who has been privileged enough to see Robinson play realizes how great of player he was and more importantly how great of a man he really is. Brooks Robinson was a “no brainier” to be on Maryland’s “Mount Rushmore”, but I feel he does he does not get the respect he deserves on a national level.

Everyone remembers what they were doing on Sept. 6, 1995, and they were most likely watching Cal Ripken break Lou Gherig’s consecutive games played streak. Ripken was a first ballot Hall of Famer who received the second highest percentage of votes of all time.

Few athletes spend their career with one organization, but Ripken did, and that is what helped make him so special and so popular in the city. Many people outside of Maryland only associate Ripken with “the streak” but his career is defined by so much more then that.

Ripken was not only an icon on the field, but was one off the field as well. He would spend hours signing autographs and embracing fans and he did not view himself as “bigger then the game”. Cal and Brooks embodied everything that was good about sports, and those two alone should have been enough to put Maryland in the top five.

Michael Phelps captivated the nation last summer when he won a record eight gold medals at the Summer Olympics, which might just be the greatest sporting accomplishment of all time.

Phelps has been in the new recently for smoking marijuana and he has received some negative publicity. This incident should not tarnish Phelps’s legacy nor should it diminish his accomplishments.

Michael Jordan was known as a degenerate gambler who would lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. Magic Johnson contracted HIV from having sex with a woman who was not his wife, yet both of these two made the Mount Rushmore top five for their athletic accomplishments and rightly so.

Phelps made a mistake, but I feel that this mistake is hurting him more then it does other athletes. Phelps captivated not only a state or a country, but he captivated the whole world and helped put his sport on the map.

Today, when kids say “I want to be like Mike”, they are referring to Phelps. Eight gold medals should definitely put you on your state’s “Mount Rushmore” and should be what you are remembered for.

Johnny Unitas was a pass happy quarterback in an era where passing was not fashionable. Known for his crew cut and black high tops, Unitas helped make the Baltimore Colts one of the best franchises in professional sports.

Unitas is widely regarded as the greatest quarterback to ever play the game and he paved the way for the likes of Montana, Marino, Manning and Elway. During the era that Unitas played, the athletes often had to work offseason jobs in order to make more money, and this is what made Unitas special.

I remember hearing stories from my parents and grandparents about how they would be out on the town and often bump into Unitas, and he would take the time to stop and converse with everyone. Johnny Unitas not just Baltimore Football but he was “Baltimore City.”

Despite being in the hall of fame as an Indianapolis Colt, which is a tragedy, Unitas will always be remembered for playing in Baltimore and Maryland’s “Mount Rushmore” would not be that credible without him on there.

Cal Ripken, Brooks Robinson, Michael Phelps and Johnny Unitas are four of the greatest players in their profession yet for some reason they could not put their state in the top five of ESPN’s “Mount Rushmore of Sports.”

California and New York are more populated and are the biggest media markets so they receive the most votes, but if you compare their Mount Rushmore to Maryland’s then you will see Maryland compares favorably if not better then both the states. 

As Marylander’s we often feel disrespected nationally, especially on the sports level. While Baltimore only has two teams, we have had some great athletes and great teams. I ask you sports fans, where’s the love for Maryland’s “Mount Rushmore of Sports” is.

Phelps, Ripken, Robinson and Unitas sound like a winning combination to me and I believe national sports fans missed the mark in not voting them in the top five.