Helton, Manning the last of a dying breed in sports

AFC quarterback Peyton Manning, of the Indiana...
AFC quarterback Peyton Manning, of the Indianapolis Colts, looks down field for a open man. Manning threw three interceptions during the first half of the 2006 Pro Bowl in Hawaii. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Todd Helton officially announcing his retirement last week has been fodder for plenty of discussion on sports talk radio and amongst plenty of baseball insiders about the career of number 17. The most popular topic is whether he did enough to get into the Hall of Fame.

I wrote a few weeks ago that he should, including some of his most prestigious accomplishments. And I’ll admit that I’ll be glued to the coverage of the new inductees five years from now, the first time Helton will be eligible to be on the ballot.

But frankly, I won’t be heartbroken if Helton isn’t the first Rockie to be honored in Cooperstown. Coors Field will surely have some sort of Todd Helton Day next season, where they hopefully retire the Toddfather’s jersey and maybe unveil an area of the ballpark dedicated to the greatest Rockie of all-time.

What should the legacy of Helton be?

To many ignorant people, he’ll be viewed as a great player, yet overrated because he spent his entire career hitting at Coors Field. But to players around the league and fans that had the privilege of watching him play on a regular basis, he’ll be remembered as an absolute class act and the ideal image of how a professional athlete should go about their business.

Besides Helton, Colorado has been spoiled when it comes to having quality people as stars of their teams.

For years, Joe Sakic had one of the wickedest slap shots in all of hockey. He led the Avalanche to two Stanley Cups and was a dangerous scorer throughout his career. But Super Joe was also regarded as a true family man and a humble human being on and off the ice.

Colorado’s own Chauncey Billups remains the classiest Denver Nugget of the last decade. Although Mr. Big Shot hasn’t been with the Nuggets for his entire career, he made way more of a community impact than Carmelo Anthony. And even now, I haven’t seen an NBA player conduct himself more professionally than Billups.

And who can forget about Peyton Manning. He hasn’t even been a mainstay in Colorado for two years and I already wish I could give him a key to the city. PFM is cut from the same cloth as Helton. Watch him tonight as he surgically cuts through the Raider defense, particularly when he throws a touchdown pass.

If he’s really excited, his individual celebration is a fist pump. He’ll then join his teammates (what a concept) for a few seconds; maybe tap the helmet of an offensive lineman and then the receiver that caught the pass. If you looked down at your smartphone to check how many fantasy points Manning just got for you, you probably missed all that. PFM is already on the sideline reviewing defensive formations from the previous series.

What’s just as impressive about Manning is his community work. Last April, he and his wife presented a check worth $500,000 to the Pat Summit Foundation, which helps fight Alzheimer’s. However, as opposed to some athletes who just write a check and never see where it goes to, Manning also serves as a co-chair on the foundation’s advisory board.

To this day, Manning’s donation is the largest to the foundation since it was established nearly two years ago.

Now, all you have to do is turn on Sports Center to see how conceited pro athletes are today.

Lebron James could win an NBA championship every year for the rest of his career. That won’t change my perception of him. With all the talent that he has, it’s unfortunate how much of an egotist he is. He’s one of few guys that could change the joke of a reputation that the NBA currently carries, but he never will.

I think Ryan Braun has replaced Alex Rodriguez as poster boy of Major League Baseball’s tarnished image. Braun went from a rising superstar in all of baseball to a liar and disgrace to America’s pastime. It’s only a matter of time before another MLB icon makes a mockery of himself.

Then there’s Johnny Manziel, the most polarizing figure in sports since he won the Heisman. He could become one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history thanks to an absurd range of skills.

That being said, I’ll be discouraging kids from wanting his jersey whenever I get the chance. It’s as if the dude wants to be a celebrity but just so happens to be good playing quarterback.

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of professional athletes that are good people. Sadly though, Johnny Football represents the prototype of the future star player.

Go ahead and call Manning and Helton dinosaurs. It’s impossible not to say that their sports generation of good guys is going extinct.