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Some athletes just have 'it'

The Sports Brothers | 10/17/2013, 9 a.m.
One of the reasons we all love sports is that we get to see greatness. We enjoy it when athletes ...

One of the reasons we all love sports is that we get to see greatness. We enjoy it when athletes perform at the highest level on the biggest stage when the lights are brightest. Greatness is not a term that can be used loosely as it does not fit very many athletes. It is not a slight to those that are not considered great — we are simply talking about a very select group with that uncanny ability. Last weekend, we saw another example of greatness as New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady rallied his football team from what appeared to be certain defeat with a game winning touchdown pass with five seconds left in a comeback win over the New Orleans Saints. Brady has three Super Bowl wins on his resume so we were not surprised by his latest accomplishment. We have seen it before. Some like to refer to this clutch gene as the “it factor.” An athlete either has “it” or they don't. How do Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter, Tiger Woods, Sugar Ray Leonard, Jerry Rice, Magic Johnson Joe Montana and others on that level do it while others routinely fail in the spotlight? How are some able to summon that little extra when they absolutely must have it? I struggle to explain how Kobe Bryant can miss his first 10 shots of a game, yet hit a game winner as time expires because he has the belief that even if he fails, the next time, he will succeed because he knows he is that good. Supreme confidence. Athletes like these all have several traits in common — traits that define greatness.  An athlete can only be truly considered “great” if they have that rare combination of athletic and statistical dominance, the ability to transcend the game and a set of mental intangibles that not only create success on but off the field as well. There have been many studies done but there is no definite theory as to where greatness comes from. But every time we see a Muhammad Ali overcome a bigger, stronger George Foreman, or a Serena Williams make other world class athletes look like mere mortals trying to take down Superwoman, we’ll watch in awe and amazement. So the next time you see Usain Bolt blazing through the tape at the finish line ahead of guys who worked just as hard on their craft, I guess we can only shrug and say, “Now that right there, is what you call greatness.” We may never fully be able to explain it but we will always be able to recognize it.

The Sports Brothers, Jeff Fox & Ed Freeman, can be heard daily on WQAM 560 Sports.