I Like Norman the Turtle

(By Chris, Editor in Chief of MyBriefs.com and the adult writer of the Gab Four, sponsored by 3 Spoons Yogurt)

Being slow and steady, being an ingredient in a soup and being capable of serving as ninjas if trained properly during their teenage years are all common attributes of turtles. Whereas being a multi-sport athlete is not something I have normally associated with tortoises.

How wrong I was upon discovering that the greatest athlete of all time is not Michael Jordan, Jim Thorpe, Deion Sanders or Bo Jackson. The greatest athlete of all time played five sports. The greatest athlete of all time is an amphibian . . . or maybe a reptile. What are turtles classified as? Regardless, the greatest athlete of all time is a turtle, and he's a bench-warmer.

Norman the turtle's legend is chronicled in five books written by Clare and Frank Gault. Norman doesn't have his own collector's card or action figure, and I've yet to view any video footage of Norman in action. But any turtle who is able to play football, basketball, baseball, soccer and hockey seems to have a bit more athletic prowess than Jordan, Sanders or Jackson, all of whom were only able to, laughably, play just two sports.

Though he is too humble to trash-talk, I'll go ahead and speak for Norman when I say to those athletes, "Let me know when you play at least four sports." Norman also has a better head of hair than everyone else (again, an unusual characteristic of a turtle).

Granted, all of those athletes achieved more in their respective sports than Norman did. They made all-star teams, Pro Bowls and Wheaties boxes. But five sports still trumps them all.

I first became aware of Norman's career when I was 8 years old. Our school held a Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) day, where all the students were allowed to pick out a free, new book from the library. "Norman Joins the Football Team" appealed to me, not because anyone in my family is named Norman and not because I'm related to any reptiles, but because a turtle playing football seemed somewhat momentous.

I was a little disheartened to learn Norman began his athletic career on a team called the Giants, made up of various other animals, by finding as comfortable a position as he could on the bench. And when I say "on the bench," I mean he was the team's equipment manager, which seems to somewhat undermine my argument of Norman being the greatest athlete of all time.

However, with his team tied late in the game, Norman ran (though I guess since he's a terrapin, crawling would be a more accurate description) onto the field to bring towels to his teammates. On a side note, I am apparently related to one of the team's stars: a rabbit named Rabbit Wilson.

As the referee signaled the end of the timeout, Norman found himself in a compromising position. Unable to return to the sidelines, seeing as how he is, of course, a turtle, Norman lined up to play. Needing only a field goal to win the game in muddy conditions, Norman, displaying that while he may not be quick on his feet, he is at least a quick thinker, lay on his back, offering up his non-muddied shell as a kicking tee.

My cousin, Rabbit Wilson, kicked the winning field goal, but the team carried Norman off the field, citing him as the hero of the game. If Rabbit ever attends my family reunion, I do plan on asking him if he was ever jealous of the attention Norman received.

Published in 1974, Norman's football book was actually preceded in 1973 by "Norman Plays Second Base." Following books included "Norman Plays Ice Hockey" in 1975, "Norman Plays Basketball" in 1978 and "Norman Plays Soccer" in 1981, all of which are just begging to be made into ESPN documentaries.

In each story Norman's team was able to make it to their league's championship game with him sitting on the bench, indicating that Norman either had supernatural powers, was adept at fixing games or had very talented teammates. Regardless, one of Norman's teammates usually got injured during the deciding contest, forcing Norman into the game, almost as if it were scripted.

Norman always ended the game the hero, getting a walk-off hit, making the game-winning assist, scoring the deciding goal, never being made into soup, etc., astounding fans and sportswriters alike. "It's unbelievable! This is why they play the game! Who's writing this stuff?!" they would say. To which others could reply, "The Gaults are writing this!"

Apparently giving away the fact that they at one time possessed season tickets for all of Norman's various teams, Clare Gault once said, "Norman tries hard, practices all the time, and wants to be part of the group. He is very faithful and loyal. Despite his good qualities, he often spends much of his time warming the bench (something all players do when starting). However, Norman manages to help his team win in one way or another. The little spot of glory makes all his effort and faithfulness worthwhile. Norman has a positive attitude, and both girls and boys relate to him, especially those who also have spent their time warming the bench."

Norman's athletic career spanned just nine years and was over before I even knew how to read. I assume he retired because he was a shell of himself, but his legacy is unmatched. But perhaps Norman's greatest achievement was being someone myself and other readers could relate to . . . other than the fact that he is cold-blooded and has scaly skin.

Chris is a Waco, Texas, resident, Editor in Chief of MyBriefs.com, author of the book "Sports Briefs" and the adult writer for the Gab Four. Read more of Chris' solo columns here.

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