Christopher Columbus as we know him, or Cristobal Colon as the rest of the world knows him was a man with a vision. We give him credit for discovering America, but the facts say he really landed in The Bahamas. What we do know about Columbus is that he was most happy when he was out exploring and discovering new places. He knew there was more out there than his homeland of Italy, and he wanted to find it.
The world of sports is full of innovators and those who wanted to explore new avenues on the sports landscape.
Dr. James Naismith. Dr. Naismith is credited with inventing the game of basketball in 1891. Many don’t know that Naismith was a Canadian, but moved to the United States as a sports instructor and coach. He wrote the first basketball rulebook and coached the sport at the University of Kansas. The first game of basketball doesn’t much resemble what we know as basketball today. It did involve two peach baskets as hoops and the ball was a soccer ball. Basketball grew in popularity and became an Olympic demonstration sport in 1904. If not for Dr. Naismith, I don’t know if we would have basketball like we play today.
Lamar Hunt. While best known for his contributions to football, Hunt also tirelessly promoted soccer, basketball, tennis, and hockey in the United States. The founder of the Kansas City Chiefs also was deeply involved in the AFL/NFL merger to what is the modern-day National Football League. He also coined the term “Super Bowl” as the name of the AFL/NFL Championship Game when he saw his son playing with the popular toy, “Super Ball.” The trophy presented to each year’s AFC Champions is named the Lamar Hunt Trophy to honor Hunt and all he did for football. He also was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1972.
Billie Jean King – If you are a female athlete today, you owe a great deal to Billie Jean King. Sure “The Battle of the Sexes” match with Bobby Riggs generated a ton of exposure, but she should also be remembered for founding The Women’s Tennis Association, World Team Tennis and the Woman’s Sports Foundation. Add to that the fact that she was the first prominent professional female athlete to come out as a lesbian. There is much more that this forward-thinking lady accomplished as an innovator and promoter of tennis and equality for women in sports.
Don Coryell– If you like the pass happy NFL of today, you owe a lot to Don “Air” Coryell. Coryell was the pioneer of football teams with lethal passing attacks. It started when he was head coach at San Diego State. He had a good quarterback and great wide receivers so he thought he should pass on just about every down. He did and went 104-19-2 at SDSU. He carried that style to the NFL in St. Louis and later in San Diego where he coached the likes of Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, and Kellen Winslow. The Chargers made it to one AFC Championship Game under Coryell. For some reason, he has not yet been inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He passed away earlier this year, and HOF voters should put him in next year.
Eli Callaway – The introduction to Eli Callaway on the Callaway Golf website uses words like visionary, maverick and icon. Callaway is all that a whole lot more. He turned his love for playing golf into buying a golf company called Hickory Sticks. Callaway revamped the whole company and hit it big when they came out with the “Big Bertha” driver in 1996. Callaway then expanded into other golf products like balls and putters. The company endorses many pro golfers around the world and the company is now worth billions.
Howard Head – Head was an engineer and frustrated athlete who set out to make products that would improve his skiing and tennis game. First he improved skis by make them out of composite materials so they would be lighter. The Head Ski Company became the leading maker of Alpine skis. Head them took his ideas to the tennis court when he invented the over-sized tennis racket. He eventually became the head of Prince Tennis Rackets. Head also is credited with being the first person to suggest tennis rackets should be made of graphite.
People who take risks and chances aren’t always rewarded, but those that have a vision and know what they are doing sure have a good chance at making it.t’s October and before we get to the mammoth holiday of Halloween, a blip on the calendar in the middle of the month, we celebrate Columbus Day.