While pictures of sports celebrities as kids abound in cyberspace, video footage of the stars is harder to come by. Much harder.
What might be the reason for that? Well, for one, videos offer up a lot more potential for embarrassment. They unmask, revealing our heroes in the raw—as they were before they found their cool, before they were comfortable in front of a camera, before they knew how to flash a celebrity smile, before their voices stopped cracking.
Before little Davie Beckham (pictured) became D-Beck.
Time to bring the elusive footage forth, I say. Time to let the public revel in the prepubescent awkwardness of its heroes.
Click through to open the vault.
Young Rafa was already quite the player at age 12. Peppy. Confident. But the boy wonder was not a natural in front of the camera.
The interview starts at 1:04. Rafa tries his best to play it cool, but he isn't quite sure if he should look at the interviewer or the camera.
Then, at the end of video, when Nadal accepts his trophy, he has no clue what to do. He takes hold of the award, waits a painful, awkward moment, then bolts as if he's just been caught shoplifting.
Even at 14, Crosby's play is otherworldly. But take off those skates, strip away his helmet and plop little Sid down in front of a camera (starting at 0:20), and his cracking voice steals the show.
Also, be sure to check out how young Crosby trashed his basement with errant practice shots (at 2:03).
Sixteen years old. Just over 100 pounds (and that's most likely with weights in his pockets). And he still sends them running for the hills.
Watch his opponent just give up and walk away (at 2:45).
Check out her beaming smile and you-don't-scare-me attitude at 0:15 in the video.
This is truly representative of the adult Clijsters. The one that, if provoked, will not hesitate to call out an interviewer live on camera.
Brazilian soccer superstar Neymar stares at the interviewer with terrifying intensity. He looks as though he may lunge forth and tear a hole in the news man's neck with his teeth.
But when he starts to speak, it all melts away, revealing a nervous little boy.
Young Andy doesn't exactly gush with exuberance as he describes his foray into competitive tennis (starting at 0:14): "When I was about six or seven, I started playing tournaments and I won a few and that got my confidence up so I just thought... well... might as well just give it a crack."
From there, might as well go pro and win the adoration of fans around the world plus millions of dollars in prize money in endorsements. Yeah, might as well give that a crack. If not, I can work at a chip shop or something.
Some highlights of young Ichiro racking up both the home runs and the fan girls at an enviable rate.
Messi's one of the few athletes in this collection that didn't suffer from microphone-in-the-face-a-phobia. See his comfort in front of the mic at 0:42 in the video.
But add a language barrier to the mix, and even today Messi gets rather flustered.
The bound-for-glory gymnast can be seen at 0:09 in the video (the blonde of screen left).
Not far in the future, she would become one of the most famous gymnasts of all time.
But her biggest challenge wouldn't come until 2008, when she faced Donald Trump in the boardroom.
See Peyton throw the football, then throw a hissy fit.
"He can't grab by the shiiiiiiirt!"
Iron Mike may have only been Brass Mike back then, but he still had a way with words (see 0:09), a lethal punch (0:18), a flair for histrionics (0:23) and a way with the ladies (0:36).
While Peyton, Cooper and a friend shoot some hoops, little Eli toddles into the fracas and spins himself dizzy.
Hey, snicker if you will, but practice pays off; Eli turned spinning into a true asset.
Agassi at 6 vs. Agassi at 20.
Killer forehand? Check. Check.
Showmanship skills? Check. Check.
Tight pants? Check. Check.
Mullet wig? Not yet. Check.
After making the little ladies stand around striking poses in their baggy clothes for about a minute-and-a-half, father and video director Richard Williams finally gets to the action shots with this segue (at 1:36):
"You want to relax, take it easy and get a chance to see some real good tennis players."
Becks handles his young self pretty well here. Humble and polite. But when the talk show host shows her soccer club ignorance, little David can't hold back a bit of smugness.
One can almost see the cartoon thought bubble above his head reading: You sad, silly person.
Here, young Tommy boy shows off his wisdom and ability to think off the cuff.
OK, Bolt. You're cool now, you were cool then. Your charming arrogance upstaged any youthful awkwardness you might have exhibited. I got no sass for you. No wise cracks. You win.
Be sure to check out the hair and the disco getup on "The Great One" at the 0:39 mark.
Oh, the 1970s. How they uncooled even the best of us.
"By the middle of the second year, your child may learn to run, start to kick a ball, and even attempt to throw a ball overhand. By 2 years, your child may jump in place." - KidsHealth.org
Apparently, the above only pertains only to the other seven billion of us in the world. If you're Tiger Woods, by the middle of the second year you're putting against Bob Hope on The Mike Douglas Show.