ONE OF THESE DAYS a quarterback will step to the line of scrimmage, then call timeout to talk about his legacy. This will only improve the television ratings. If there is one topic we enjoy discussing these days, it is legacies.
This is an article from the Aug. 31, 2015 issue
A legacy is "something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past," according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, which itself was transmitted by brothers George and Charles Merriam. They published the work of Noah Webster in the 19th century; you can read more about it on their website, under the headline MERRIAM-WEBSTER CONTINUES NOAH WEBSTER'S LEGACY.
Webster officially defined legacy, but now we redefine it all the time. You no longer have to be from the past to have a legacy. You don't have to be an all-time great. You don't even have to be first-team All-NBA. Consider the case of LaMarcus Aldridge, who left the Trail Blazers as a free agent this summer. USA Today opined that "Aldridge blazed a different trail and left a complicated and confusing legacy behind." An Oregonian columnist blamed Portland general manager Neil Olshey for alienating Aldridge, saying Olshey was "eager to make his [own] draft picks shine, cementing his legacy." And after Aldridge signed with San Antonio, a cbssports.com headline declared, POPOVICH, SPURS KEEP LEGACY ALIVE.
There are many ways to create a legacy, but from what I have read, they all involve cement. Legacies are always cemented. They are never glued, sewn on, hooked together or fired in a kiln. If any of you figures out how to Velcro a legacy, that will be your legacy.
We are told that Peyton Manning needs to win a championship in Denver to cement his legacy, and LeBron James needs to win one in Cleveland to cement his. In the sports discussion, as on our sidewalks, some cement lasts longer than others. Tom Brady cemented his legacy with his fourth Super Bowl win in February, but some now wonder whether Deflategate has cracked it.
James recently said his "legacy will speak for itself," but Michael Jordan's legacy doesn't want to hear it. That's O.K. James's former Miami teammate, Dwyane Wade, isn't too worried about Jordan's legacy. As Wade told Esquire after he left Nike's Jordan brand in 2012, "I'm just trying to do what he did, building my own brand with my legacy."
Sometimes great players leave a legacy, though in the case of Alex Rodriguez, this is considered littering. Or it was. Now A-Rod is back, smashing home runs for the Yankees, and this alters his legacy because he is not on steroids anymore, unless he is.
Collectively, we have spent years debating Tiger Woods's legacy: Will he be remembered as a great golfer, or as the greatest golfer? The debate is heated. You can think about this while playing Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13, a video game that allows you to relive the biggest moments of Woods's golfing life in The Tiger Legacy Challenge.
Our nation's legacy factory never closes. It churns out one legacy after another, sometimes bestowing them upon the most unlikely people. I never heard anybody discuss golfer Zach Johnson's legacy before this summer's British Open. But when Johnson won the British, his second major championship, he was handed the Claret Jug on the course and a legacy in the ensuing press conference. He kept only the Jug, saying that the championship "is not my legacy.... I'm going to savor this. I'm humbled by this. But my legacy should be my kids, my family."
That's a noble thought, but Johnson should understand: We will decide how important his kids are, thank you very much. That's the root of our obsession with legacies. They empower us to decide what's important.
Championships are decided in competition, but legacies are determined in our minds. By talking so much about legacies, we are saying that what people do does not matter as much as what we think of it. It's like everybody in America is a sports columnist. This makes it very hard for me to cement my legacy.
Our nation's legacy factory never closes. It churns out one legacy after another, sometimes bestowing them upon the most unlikely people.
Is there too much legacy talk?
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