O’ Captain, my Captain!

A look into the athletes that earn the “C” on their jerseys

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O’ Captain, my Captain!

Tim McGann- Boy's Swimming captain

Tim McGann- Boy's Swimming captain

Photo by Tim McGann Boys Swimming

Tim McGann- Boy's Swimming captain

Photo by Tim McGann Boys Swimming

Photo by Tim McGann Boys Swimming

Tim McGann- Boy's Swimming captain

Jared Greenspan, R2 Sports Editor

There is hardly a more well-respected designation in all of sports than that of team captain, a title conventionally held to honor an athlete of skill and stardom. Looking beyond such stereotypes, however, it is apparent that a true captain comes to embody far more than natural athletic prowess and celebrity.

What denotes a good team captain? For starters, there is often no direct correlation between team captain and best player. For every Derek Jeter, a 14-time All-Star with 3,465 career hits, there is a Spike Owen, a pedestrian .246 hitter throughout a forgettable major league stint. While Owen’s accomplishments are a far cry from Jeter’s Hall of Fame résumé, both claimed the same title: captain.

Captains do not have to break scoring records or acquire the most fame; rather, the importance lies in leading and inspiring their teammates. While Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest NBA player of all time, was co-captain of the 1990 Chicago Bulls, so was Bill Cartwright, far less heralded and less talented than Jordan, but an equally adept leader. And as Sam Walker explains in The Captain Class, Bill Russell, never a standout scorer in his days with the Boston Celtics (averaged only 15.1 points per game), dedicated his career to contributing in less glamorous categories only to emerge as one of the winningest captains in NBA history.

All sports captains are not carbon copies of each other personality-wise, either. For every front and center, world-renowned LeBron James type, there exists a tranquil, quietly-industrious Tim Duncan. Although comparing their approaches is like comparing apples to oranges, each is proficient in satisfying a captain’s duty.

The reality is that a captain is not always the household name, instead occasionally, it is the player who is overlooked by the public eye. So the next time you ponder the significance of a sports captain, think beyond the Derek Jeters of the world, for a great captain comes to equate to far more than glamour and numbers in the record book.