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If You Bumped Into Your Sports Hero, Would You Recognize Them?

There is a nice thread on Twitter this morning from a guy named Matt Barrows, who had a chance encounter with former Virginia quarterback and Cavalier legend Shawn Moore. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me @dullesdistrict, or check out the thread by going here.

Matt finds an empty seat at the Denver airport, notices the person next to him is a UVA fan (as he is) and they strike up a conversation about the good old days of UVA football. The stranger asks who the QB was when Matt was a student, and in the course of the conversation Matt goes on and on about the days of Shawn Moore and Herman Moore, who were playing before Matt went to UVA.

At the end of the conversation, the stranger introduces himself, and of course, it’s Moore.

As I posted on Twitter, it seems like 137 years ago when I was watching Shawn play QB for the Martinsville Bulldogs in high school. He’s always been a great person, so the conversation is not surprising. But it did surprise me Barrows did not recognize him. For one, Matt is a sportswriter for The Athletic and covers the San Francisco 49ers, so he should have some idea of what past and present football players look like.

For another, if you’re so fanatical about your college team that you strike up conversations with strangers at airports, you should probably know what Shawn Moore looks like. If they built a Mount Rushmore for UVA football, Shawn is one of the four. He led UVA to it’s only No. 1 ranking in football back in 1990, and has not only been one of the school’s best players in history, but his gentle demeanor has also made him a great ambassador for the Cavaliers.

But to be fair, I first considered the possibilities that someone who met me in college would recognize me now. I dug up an old photo and a current one. You see these side by side to your right. I personally don’t think I’ve changed at all, but my wife and several friends have indicated that the pictures look like people from two different planets.

So I may have to cut Matt some slack.

The thread also reminded me just how much ESPN has changed the landscape when it comes to the recognition of football players. Back when Shawn played, ESPN was not on the air wall to wall broadcasting every aspect of the lives of top players. If you saw somebody play, you saw the game on television – with that player wearing a helmet – and aside from a brief interview of sideline shot, really didn’t get a good look at their face to know what they looked like.

That is probably both a blessing and a curse for players of Shawn’s era, as he can enjoy anonymity if he wants to. But Shawn also has very distinctive eyes and a big broad smile, so if you’ve ever met him, the effects of time on a man’s face and hair color will not change that.

I also had to ask myself if the star QB of my time at Virginia Tech was at a bar and I bumped into him, would I recognize him. Don Strock was the QB just before I got there and Bruce Arians was the QB my freshman year. To be honest, I’d know Arians because of all his TV time as a coach. If Strock no longer looks like he did when he was 25 (and I’m hoping he still does for his sake), I probably wouldn’t.

In any event, the thread made my morning, reminding me of two things: (1) Always be nice to people because you never really know who they are.

And (2) Never get old 😊

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Thursday, 06 August 2020
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