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Insights: Sports

As the number of injured professional athletes rises, compensation is finally catching up
George Vecsey
From the Print Edition:
Raquel Welch, Jul/Aug 01

(continued from page 3)

One is Wayne Gretzky, who holds 61 separate hockey records, not one of which I could specify.

What endures is the image of this willowy artiste flitting through the scrum, flicking the puck between the stolid legs of defenders, tossing a pass to himself off the cushy strings of the net, snaking his way around to the other side, and poking a goal so subversive that the goal judge had to blink three times before pushing the button for the red light.

A few people grumped that Gretzky was not an all-purpose grappler and defender as well as scorer -- like Gordie Howe, specifically. Gretzky just smiled and paid homage to the heroes of the past, the way Tiger Woods does.

Then there is the four-legged athlete named Secretariat. In 1973, the big red brute won the Kentucky Derby and then the Preakness, and in the Belmont, the third leg of the Triple Crown, he thundered around the mile and a half like a god alone in his own universe.

Thirty-one lengths. As long as thoroughbred racing exists, that number will blow the mind.

Tiger Woods combines the best of Gretzky and Secretariat. There is a serenity to him, a blend of willpower and technique.

He has broken the chain of loyalties. When Ben Hogan came along, he was challenging Bobby Jones. When Arnold Palmer came along, he was challenging Hogan. When Nicklaus came along, he was seen as some hulking golden whippersnapper challenging the avuncular Palmer.

Now along comes Eldrick Woods. Since he was a little boy, we have been hearing about him. This is one of those extremely rare times when all the hype comes true.

He exists in his own vacuum. There is no point dusting off any nostalgia. Tug on Tiger's backswing? Don't bother.


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