The world got a shade less interesting in the past two weeks with the passing of two sports icons.
Neither won a Super Bowl ring, played in the World Series or even an NCAA tournament. Neither was accused of taking steroids.
In fact, Evel Knievel and Dr. Robert Cade weren't exactly athletes. Yet they were among the more influential sports figures in the past half century.
Knievel was the first television-era motorcycle daredevil, a Montana roughneck who tried to drive a rocket over the Snake River Canyon and jump the fountains at Caesars Palace.
He didn't always succeed, but he had attitude. He was wearing capes before Elvis ever hit Vegas. In his red, white and blue leather suit, he looked like Captain America with a slight hangover.
Cade wasn't so flamboyant. A doctor and researcher at the University of Florida in 1965, he invented Gatorade after the football coach asked why players didn't urinate after games. Cade decided it was because they were losing crucial fluids and chemicals through sweat. So he invented a concoction that is now famous. Which is a miracle, considering it was said to originally taste like Sani-Flush.
Now it tastes better, more like salty Kool-Aid. And the world is better for it. Imagine coaches being doused with water instead of Gatorade.
How boring would that be?
Probably as boring as a stretch of remote land in Idaho called Snake River Canyon, which for a few days in 1974 became practically the coolest place on Earth.
Knievel predated a lot of colorful sports personalities. Though Muhammad Ali had already arrived, even he didn't break 40 bones in his line of work. Catching a Smokin' Joe Frazier hook is one thing, but careening off the parking lot at Caesars Palace is something else.
Knievel was one of the great sports self-promoters. The tacky outfit, the fearless approach, the wild schemes. He wanted to jump the Grand Canyon but couldn't work out the details. He even considered jumping between New York skyscrapers on his motorcycle. He ended up settling on the Idaho site, where he created a worldwide stir. But his rocket-powered vehicle deployed its parachute too soon and drifted to the river.
Yet even in failure, Knievel was a success.
It wasn't just the danger, it was the style. He was wild, swashbuckling, mysterious and possibly deranged. Captain Jack Sparrow in a motorcycle helmet.
"People like to watch, but they don't want to do it," he once told a TV interviewer.
That's because crushing bones and peeling off skin isn't fun when it's your own.
Otherwise, everyone has a good time. The viewers enjoy the spectacle and the daredevil enjoys eating dinner through an IV tube until his next big payday rolls around.
Cade was lower profile than Knievel, which is the way doctors tend to be, unless you're George Clooney. He didn't wear a cape with stars; he wore a white lab coat. And he reportedly loved the violin.
The first taste of what would become Gatorade made Cade throw up, so he added sugar and lemon juice. Eventually it became the drink of choice among teams everywhere, from youth sports to the NFL.
Yet in those early days, Cade never thought it would have great commercial value. He was just trying to help the Gators remain fresh by replacing lost fluids and avoiding muscle cramps and loss of energy.
Who knew the watery drink would punctuate almost every important sports victory for the next four decades?
Although Knievel and Cade didn't share much in common, they were kindred spirits in a sense. Each stretched the boundaries on sports performance. Each was widely acknowledged for his contribution when he died.The biggest difference being that one of them embraced the crash, while the other simply wanted to help people avoid it.
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