Recently my friends and I attempted to identify a very critical aspect of sports. Which famous athletes are which superheroes? Nothing has ever been more important. I am in good position for this debate as I am familiar with both worlds. While I definitely have superhero burnout (I know this because the thought of seeing another bland, joyless, CGI soaked, chop cut fight scene filled superhero movie filled me with so much Dredd I almost didn’t watch Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, the best Spiderman comic book movie ever). I also love sports and I watch all of the major sports. I am familiar with many of the most exciting names in sports (except Sachin Tendulkar) and I am so unimportant that my comparing them to superheroes will never reach them and deeply offend them. I would hate to hurt someone like Michael Thomas’ feelings. So I am sitting pretty to make all the overwrought analogies I need to make my comparisons work. Let’s do it:
Superman: The iconic bastion of comics, Superman is a legend beyond words. He is also pretty boring. Look, I know Jerry Seinfeld loves him, and I like Jerry, but Superman just seems to do what’s right all the time and since he is bigger, stronger, faster, and smarter than seemingly everyone, it really isn’t much of a contest. Or so it would seem. Somehow, a human with zero powers (Lex Luthor, who is so soft Jesse Eisenberg played him) is his mortal enemy, which should be an easy win every time for a virtually invulnerable superhero. And yet… it always seems way closer than it should be. So Superman is Lebron James. Lebron is the most talented athlete ever. His physical prowess (what if Karl Malone were bigger and more athletic), his basketball IQ (what if John Stockton were Karl Malone), his defense (what if Scottie Pippen weighed 50 more pounds) and his scoring ability (what if Magic Johnson decided to also be Michael Jordan) make him into what should be an invulnerable scoring, passing, rebounding and defending machine. And yet… he always seems to struggle to the finish line. When JJ Barea is your Lex Luthor, I have questions. Don’t get me wrong, he is GREAT. He will be the greatest player in NBA history statistically when he retires. He is just so physically dominant that seeing him struggle is weird. Also, he tends to be very generic in his public relations and persona, unless he is supporting or ignoring protesters, so there is some Clark Kent in there too. I enjoy Lebron, just like I enjoy Superman. A little bit.
Batman: Batman is the world’s greatest detective, a brilliant inventor, NFL owner rich, master of shark repellent, deeply brooding and an acclaimed rap-rock musician. Batman covers a lot of ground, which makes him especially tough to pin down. We need someone who is something of a loner, a bit cranky, lost his family and with a major chip on his shoulder. This sounds an awful lot like Aaron Rodgers. Aaron seems to have lost his family (not in the, uh, same way), he tends to isolate himself, loves to wing it on the fly, and is known to be very intelligent. To my knowledge he has yet to invent anything, unless you count grudges from perceived slights, of which he is a grand master unto himself (God I hope he never reads this). I’m sure Aaron will love training the new boy wonder in Green Bay.
Iron Man: This sassy superhero is known as much for his quips as his brilliant mind. Iron Man stands out from the pack as sort of a bizzaro Batman. He plays the playboy part to aplomb, lobbing smart asides and rarely brooding unless Thanos has an idea and snaps his fingers. Not only does he not hide, but he generally shows off his superhero gifts (flying in a metal suit). He doesn’t seem at all conflicted about his role. He doesn’t go black… he goes with the BRIGHTEST red and gold. Richard Sherman fits the bill here. And I know all the people that have a mental breakdown every time someone mentions Idris Elba as James Bond are probably going to throw a tantrum here, but Richard is extremely intelligent (as a Stanford educated man), maybe a little too sassy, and exceptional at what he does. He is also exceptional at letting you know he is exceptional at what he does. He even sports the red and gold. Just like the not real Iron Man, Richard is very polarizing, but there is no denying his particular set of skills.
Captain America: Just when the Anti-Elba crowd had settled back into their seats again, here comes Blacktain America. Captain America is a high minded super soldier with the moral compass of a nun. Whether it’s smoking Nazis or taking on all powerful space aliens with a small shield, Captain America does it correctly and with the proper amount of humble aw shucks. Nobody says unyielding moral compass with vanilla ideas and endless (and endlessly annoying) positivity like Russell Wilson. Russell is so vanilla, he thinks vanilla bean is a little too rich for himself. Now this isn’t a shot at Captain America. Just like Cap was once declared too small to serve, so too was Russell Wilson passed by due to his lack of height. And just like the Captain, he has proven himself to be a super soldier, capable of great feats against all odds. Malcolm Butler will always be his Red Skull. Should have handed off to Bucky Barnes (CALM DOWN ANTI-ELBAS).
Wonder Woman: She was made from clay by Robin Wright-Penn and separated out from society to train, only to return as the most powerful woman on Earth. Wonder Woman is has uncommonly quick reflexes. She can use a pair of high quality bracelets to deflect bullets, lasso the truth out of people and flies a pretty cool invisible jet (and I think I can’t find where I parked). Obviously this is Serena Williams. Serena escaped the rough neighborhood of Compton to train under her father’s guidance to become the greatest female tennis player of all time. Her records will not be broken any time soon. Her strength and agility are unmatched in any era of professional tennis. By day, she is a mild mannered mother who is also a fashion icon. Did I mention she has won the French Open 3 times? Wonder Woman isn’t the only person that can rise from clay (sorry).
Spiderman: The Web slinger, bouncing off the walls with incredible physical gifts that belie his small frame, often defeats his foes with a smile on his face and a ready quip. He is more fun than he has any business being given his tragic upbringing. Spiderman is no stranger to difficulty (no matter which one you are talking about). He is Francisco Lindor. Frankie is the most polished shortstop in baseball today. He hits for power and average, all while playing gold glove defense. Rarely does any ball escape his webbing (sorry). He exudes a constant smile, yet like so many ball players from Puerto Rico, he grew up in poverty. Frankie is a baseball genius, who has, at various times, hit a one handed homer and slid up in the batter’s box mid pitch to club a breaking ball. He is the closest thing I have seen to Vladimir Guerrero or Ichiro in baseball today.
Wolverine: The fiery heart and soul of the X men, wolverine doesn’t have the flashiest ability. Regenerating oneself is a pretty neat ability, but it’s not exactly controlling all metal with your mind. Still, you can’t kill him. He doesn’t age. He won’t stop. He will yell and scream till the cows come home. He will slice and dice your best defenses. He is also often paired with the lovely Jean Gray. Wolverine is Tom Brady. Get it. Wolverine. Okay, it’s not just because he went to Michigan. Or because he doesn’t age. Or because he ends up winning all the time. Or because he ends up with the fabulously beautiful lady. Or because he is constantly screaming at other people on his own team. Or because he can dice up any defense. It is because… oh no, you know what, it is because of those things.
Hulk: To make Hulk work, we are going to skip out on Bruce Banner. We aren’t going to find an athlete who is both a slow minded monster and a brilliant scientist. So to fit Hulk’s complicated persona we will need… nah, let’s just go with Gronk.
Thor: He comes from the land up north, he is an unstoppable God like machine, and he doesn’t always say things in the clearest way. No one can stop him when he wields his mighty hammer. He ages ever so gracefully. He is Alexander Ovechkin. With his stick in hand, Alexander is a powerful, goal scoring menace. Capable of inflicting both blunt force and finely tuned strikes, Alexander is the perfect mix of thunder and lightning. His off-ice persona is as rowdy as his game is on ice, and let’s just say there have been some questions about his conditioning at times. But hey, Thor lets himself go too from time to time. Like Alexander says though, Russian machine never breaks.
The Flash: Barry Allen has the gift of speed and… well pretty much just speed. He has a real flair to him, and he enjoys showing off every now and then, perhaps at the cost of efficiency. But it doesn’t matter… because he is the fastest thing in the world. While I doubt he is the fastest player in sports, this is a perfect spot for Javier Baez. Javier has speed to burn, racking up stolen bases year after year. His incredible defense is bolstered by some of speediest tagging you will ever see, and Javier has no hold back on his Latin flair. And, he was on that Cubs team that did that thing. You know.
Storm: A harbinger of danger, Storm brings elements you would never imagine to play. Storm is very powerful, but also fast and elusive. She controls the fate, and the weather, of those around her in her hands. She is a veteran of the X (wo)men team, and she delivers when they need her the most. Nobody in the last decade of women’s soccer has brought it harder at the right time than Carli Lloyd. Unpredictable and clutch, Carli represents the best of a dominant Women’s soccer team that captured the most recent Women’s world cup. And the one before that. She is the only player to ever score in 6 consecutive World Cup matches, the oldest player to record 2 goals in a World cup game, she scored the gold medal winning goal in 2 Olympics, scored a hat trick in a World Cup Championship including a goal from the midline, she has been on 16 championship teams, and she has the third most goals in US history in the World Cup. To say she is great is an understatement.
That’s it for now, but I could definitely follow this up for more. At the risk of being flagellated with internet rage, I will leave the comments open so you can suggest some more superheroes for me to assign. Anti-Elba’s, go back to Reddit and release your angst there. Otherwise, I hope you enjoyed this.
Remember, with great power comes great paychecks.
Scott Boras (probably)