From "The Super Bowl Shuffle" to Swordfish: Athletes and Creative Expression

Athletes and CreativityAthletes and Creative Expression

Ask any child what they want to be when they grow up and you can expect one of a few stock answers: A) a fireman, B) an astronaut, C) a marine biologist or D) a professional athlete. These types of jobs are romanticized by children and by society at large, making it easy to forget that they are, in fact, jobs just like any other. Though it may not appear so to us, the fans, even the world of professional sports is a world of workers and bosses and, as such, a world prone to disputes, strikes and negotiations. Just ask any football fan that remembers the strike of 1982, any baseball fan that longs to have able to watch the cancelled post-season of 1994 or any hockey fan that was there when a lockout cancelled most of the 2004 season.

Hot on the heels of the NFL lockout scare, sports fans everywhere must now put up with another collective bargaining agreement dispute, this time between the players and owners in the NBA. Unlike the NFL dispute, however, the threat of an NBA lockout shows no signs of going away anytime soon. But, should the 2011-2012 NBA season be postponed or cancelled, what are the players going to do with their spare time? Sure, there are international leagues and exhibition games but, contrary to popular belief, not all athletes are one trick ponies. Here is a list of some of the creative things athletes have done and can do with their spare time, just in case this lockout actually does come to fruition.

Music

For many athletes, a foray into the world of music seems like the next logical step in their career. It is a natural evolution that is seen time and time again in larger than life sports personalities, retired players and even entire teams (we’re looking at you 1985 Chicago Bears). And why not, the world of sports and the world of music aren’t so different, are they? Well, if there is one thing successful athletes and successful musicians have in common, its talent. Unfortunately, as many athletes-turned-musicians have proven, the type of talent it takes to play a sport and the type of talent it takes to create music are two different types of talent entirely.

That’s not to say that there haven’t been successful attempts to transition from the world of sports to the world of music. The aforementioned 1985 Chicago Bears reached the number 41 spot on the US Billboard Hot 100 list with their song “The Super Bowl Shuffle” and former New York Yankees outfielder and classically trained guitar player Bernie Williams received a Latin Grammy nomination for his second album Moving Forward. And the list doesn’t stop there.

Another former New York Yankee, Cy Young winning pitcher Jack McDowell is now in a touring band by the name of Stickfigure and San Francisco Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff recorded a single titled “Letters From Home” for the Oh Say Can You Sing compilation album. That same album also features Coco Crisp, Omar Visquel and Jimmy Rollins performing both covers and original tracks. Even golf can lay claim to some athletes-turned-musicians, as Peter Jacobsen, Payne Stewart and Mark Lye wrote and recorded two parody albums under the guise of the band name Jake Trout and Flounders.

But, for every success story, there are countless Deion Sanders, Shaquille O’Neals and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnsons out there dropping lines of lyrical genius like “all you jealous punks can’t stop my dunks” and “uh, what I live for? Basketball, beats and broads.” Let’s hope that, should the NBA lockout arrive, we are treated to some of the former, rather than the latter.

Acting

Despite his best efforts in movies like Kazaam and Freddy Got Fingered, Shaq failed to single-handedly ruin the art of acting for professional athletes. In fact, many professional athletes have starred in some rather successful films. From Babe Ruth’s role in the Harold Lloyd silent film Speedy, to Oakland Raiders linebacker Carl Weather’s diverse roles in films such as Predator, Rocky and Happy Gilmore, athletes have been taking on roles in films since the advent of the medium.

In fact, some athletes have transitioned over into acting with such great success, they are better known for their acting roles than for their sports careers. English footballer Vinnie Jones serves as the perfect example. His roles in the films Swordfish and Snatch established him as a Hollywood actor first and a professional athlete second in the eyes of American moviegoers. The career of My Name is Earl and Mallrats star Jason Lee had a similar trajectory; Lee was a very successful skateboarder before he began acting. Actually, he was so successful that he, along with Tony Hawk, was one of the first two professional skateboarders to have a signature shoe. Yet, to most of the population, he is known as an actor rather than a skateboarder.

Maybe if this NBA lockout comes to pass, one of the disenfranchised NBA stars will find their true calling in the world of acting. Or maybe, if we are lucky, the NBA stars will become desperate enough to give us the Space Jam 2 we’ve been waiting for all of these years… Oh wait…

Writing

Athletes all over the world go on to write autobiographies after their sports careers end. While most of these books are ultimately forgettable, some quality writing, from autobiographies, to other non-fiction and fiction, has come out of the sports world.

One of the most notable examples of an accomplished athlete-turned-author comes in the form of the NBA’s all-time scoring leader Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. While still playing in the NBA in 1983, Kareem co-authored his first book, his best-selling autobiography titled Giant Steps. Since retiring from the NBA in 1989, however, Kareem has gone on to author six additional books, including several history books that chronicle important events in African American history.  These, coupled with some memoir-esque releases, have helped make him one of the most prolific and successful authors to come out of the world of professional sports.

While Kareem may be one of the most prolific, he is by no means the only athlete-author. In addition to several autobiographies and sports memoirs, hall of Famer Yogi Berra also wrote the children’s book Let’s Go Yankees. Similarly, Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez also wrote a children’s book titled Out of the Ballpark and football twins Tiki and Ronde Barber co-authored a entire children’s book series. If this means anything, it means that, while there may not be basketball this season, there will plenty of colorfully illustrated stories to keep us entertained.

Other Forms of Creative Expression

Just because most athletes decide to be actors, writers or musicians when their sports careers end doesn’t mean that there aren’t athletes out there looking for other means of creative expression.

On the stand-up comedy front, Ron Artest launched the “Ron Artest Ultimate Comedy Tour” this year. The tour features the small forward as both a host and a stand-up comedian and, while the reviews for the tour have been mixed, all have agreed that seeing Artest perform stand-up is an experience unlike any other.

And then there is overseas professional basketball player Bob Upgren. After finishing up his basketball career, Upgren not only became an accomplished author and motivational speaker, he also became one of the world’s best performing chalk artists. Today, he tours the country using his speaking ability and creative abilities to teach and inspire. It’s stories like Upgren’s that prove that there is no limit to what athletes can and will do to express their creativity. All that they need is the opportunity, and this lockout just may be it.

What do you think Studio 602 readers? Are there any creative ventures attempted by athletes that we failed to mention? What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments section below!

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