Sports are great for a lot of reasons. First, you may see people elevate themselves to impossible levels either on their own or, even better in a group.
Second, they can bring people together in a way that not many things can. If you live in an area where your team is on a huge roll then people bond over it.
And even when you see greatness, it’s usually fleeting. Baylor’s basketball team this year was a thing of beauty. Next year?
Well, they’ll probably be good. They’re not going to be that good though.
So when you find people who tower above their sport, and do so for a long time, it’s great to watch. Secretariat’s stunning win in the 1973 Preakness has never been duplicated. Nothing has even come close. Muhammad Ali was a colossus in boxing and popular culture. People still talk about Babe Ruth, about a hundred years past his peak. Michael Jordan. Wilt Chamberlain.
And very high up that list is Brazilian Edson Arantes do Nascimento, but you probably know him as Pelé
Pelé did something only a handful of athletes ever do: he revolutionized and redefined his sport. He and his Brazilian contemporaries introduced the notion of the Beautiful Game. Who would ever want to watch methodical German soccer after seeing Brazilian football? Who would want to play that way?
Pelé brought flair and drama to soccer in the same way that Ruth did in baseball and Usain Bolt did in sprinting. Dick Fosbury did it with the high jump too but the list isn’t very long.
It just doesn’t happen very often but when it does, there’s no going back.
Here are some of his greatest goals. Pelé is 80 now and since he departed the game 44 years ago, no one other than Lionel Messi has even come close to filling the void he left.