The essence of professional spectator sport is the athlete.
Without construction workers, ticket salesmen, and hot dog vendors, we wouldn't be able to sit in the nosebleeds at classic venues and root for our favorite teams.
Without owners and general managers, team organizations wouldn't exist in the first place.
And without advertisers and television networks, we'd be playing peanuckle or singing "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" on Feb. 1 of next year instead of watching the Super Bowl.
That, my friends, is a truly scary thought. My early childhood could not have been what it was had I not been able to watch live ballgames at Yankee stadium; my grade school years would have been lamer than a Michael Bolton concert had the San Francisco 49ers never existed.
And let's just say the last time I sang "99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall" all the way through, my mother slapped me so hard that you can still see the mark on my face to this day.
But here's a much more frightening proposition: What if naturally gifted individuals never took the time to practice a game adored by millions of fans?
What if that stringy kid from San Diego had never picked up a baseball bat?
What if Michael Jordan had called it quits when he got cut from his high school hoops team?
Without the athletes, there would be no professional sports. Zip, zilch, nada.
No greatest game ever played; no Rumble in the Jungle. No Lakers/Celtics or Red Sox/Yankees rivalries.
No Gretzky, No Pele, no Golden Bear. No Don Bradman; no Richard Petty.
For many of us, we'd be totally different people than we are today were it not for the heroics of these individuals. Many of these figures were inspirations for us not only on the field, but also in the classroom and life in general.
The athlete—the person who competes for a living at the games we follow for fun—allows professional sports to flourish. They are the nucleus of the entire operation.
In recent times, fans and journalists alike have become fond of lashing out against professional athletes. This is somewhat understandable given the astronomical salaries many top stars are paid and the crummy attitudes of certain individuals who act more like spoiled children then stand-up role models.
But it's important to give credit where credit is due—by and large, professional athletes deserve our respect because they play the games we love at the most competitive level.
Remember that for every Pacman Jones, there's a Dwayne Wade. For every player who slacks off or gets arrested, there are ten others who are watching film, rallying their teammates, and working 24/7 to be the best in the world at what they do.
Sometimes we as fans have the pleasure of watching athletes who are simply a cut above the rest. The performances of these men and women send chills down our spine and inspire us to do great things in our personal lives.
Jerry Rice and his unmatchable skill for to run patterns to a T; Rod Laver and his brilliant passing shots and play on all surfaces. Bobby Orr and his ability to turn the outcome of a game in his team's favor.
Many sports leagues have created various Halls of Fame to honor these individuals—fans thus have the ability to visit Canton, Ohio or Cooperstown, New York to celebrate the history of their favorite games and the legends that made it all possible.
One sport that has failed to produce a substantial Hall of Fame is that of Formula One Open Wheel Racing. To say this is a shame is quite an understatement.
F1 is one of the most popular professional sports leagues in the world, with as rabid of a fan base as any. The sport has no shortage of stars in its history—from Juan Manuel Fangio to Aryton Senna to Michael Schumacher.
Yet for whatever reason, Formula One has not invested its time in honoring such legends properly. All they have in the way of a Hall of Fame is an online directory of every league champion, which can be found here: http://www.formula1.com/teams_and_drivers/hall_of_fame/
Meanwhile, Bleacher Report's F1 Community is one of the network's strongest. The arguments are fierce, and the collective knowledge of the sport from the Community's key contributors is simply superb.
As such, it is my great pleasure to announce the introduction of Bleacher Report's Formula One Hall of Fame.
The procedure is simple: every two weeks, a committee of B/R's Formula One experts will determine a list of nominees for induction. The F1 Community at large will then vote on the nominees and enshrine the two drivers who receive the most "Yea" votes.
Various members of the Community will then be asked to write biographies and tributes to the drivers, promoters, owners, designers, and commissioners that have made the sport what it is today.
Much like the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, the committee has decided to induct two drivers alongside the cutting of the F1 HOF ribbon to get things going. For the announcement of these first two driving legends, I give you none other than Auto Racing Leader and everyones friend, L J Burgess.