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How many people in pro sports would you be willing to drive to the airport?

Hang around professional sports for any length of time, and a funny thing happens. Athletes that you’d maybe seen on TV or read about cease to be these mythic figures that play the hero or villain in stories.

Each season that I’ve covered, it’s become plainer and plainer that these characters – the ones that give rise to all the narratives — they’re people, just like you and me.

They’re way more athletically inclined, don’t get me wrong. They still carry out much more impressive tasks than the work that I do. Still, every one of them has a story and every one of them is a human person.

That’s the crux of conversation we had on Wednesday on 1500ESPN. Are there any figures in pro sports that you’d offer to drive from the Twin Cities to Duluth? It could be anybody.

It’s a question that arose, of course, after a couple Packers fans gave Green Bay defensive back Davon House a ride from Minnesota to Lambeau Field after some travel complications threatened to keep House from getting to his team’s offseason workouts.

We had some fun with the topic. My colleague, Judd Zulgad, seemed amused and genuinely surprised that anyone would drive across the state of Wisconsin to help out a player from his favorite team.

I want to strip the fanhood part out of it. I don’t find myself rooting for teams or players any more, not in the same way that I root for great stories. So we changed the question a little bit. Excluding your favorite team, how many people in sports would you offer to give a ride, in exchange for nothing more than gas money and several hours of conversation?

Judd’s list was short, unless you include athletes from yesteryear – especially hockey, I imagine – telling stories about their day. Producer Dave Harrigan’s list was zero. He doesn’t like small talk, and couldn’t imagine volunteering for a trip of any length for anybody from the wide world of sports.

Call me crazy. My list was a lot longer than theirs. I honestly think my list would be hundreds long, even if you just limited it to the four major American professional sports.

I can’t think of many football players I’d need to talk to, except for maybe Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, and Marshawn Lynch. Maybe I’m missing a few. In baseball, the list would be a lot longer, and especially if you included front offices or coaching staffs. Even if you just limited the NBA pool to current players and staffers competing in the NBA Finals, I’m sure I could give you a dozen people that would be worth the trip.

For me, it’s not because I’d be starstruck. It’s because I’d relish the chance to talk with people who’ve risen to the top of their field, and probably have some interesting stories about the climb.

As a challenge to the reader: Could you name 5 athletes or other people working in pro sports that you’d give a lift if the gas was covered? They wouldn’t be obligated to bear their soul or anything, but they’re a person and the guess is here is they’d be willing to chat to help pass the 2 or 3 hours it takes to get to the destination.

If you want to hear the conversation, we talked about it Wednesday, June 7, during the second hour of the show. You can find that on the Mackey & Judd show page, or listen to the PodcastOne player below. The discussion starts at about the 11:00-minute mark.


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