She is already the most celebrated high school athlete in Delaware history and now she’s on her way to becoming the most celebrated college athlete in Delaware history. But she’ll never be the most celebrated athlete to ever come out of Delaware, because that title is already taken and Randy White isn’t about to let it go.
This past week, Elena Delle Donne was named to the first team of every All-American women’s basketball team that matters, including the most prestigious one of all, The Associated Press’ top five. Nobody from the University of Delaware has ever done that before and nobody will ever do it again, unless you count Delle Donne, who will probably repeat next year.
We’re the First State, but we’re close to last when it comes to producing world-class athletes. Most of our best athletes have come from the more obscure sports, like field hockey and lacrosse, or a sport that people pretty much ignore except in Olympic years, like ice skating and swimming.
But as far as the sports with which most Americans identify and watch – football, baseball, basketball, hockey and golf – Delaware just hasn’t been a contender, which is why having one of the best players in the nation playing for a Top 10 team was such a heady experience this winter.
Of course, there are lots of people who put women’s basketball in that obscure-sport category. It’s big in a few places, like Connecticut and Tennessee, but the women don’t get many appearances on national television and their professional league, the WNBA, doesn’t attract large crowds or large television audiences and the league probably wouldn’t survive without the aid of its Big Daddy, the NBA.
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of talented women out there to play the game, but there aren’t enough women who want to watch the game. And until women start buying tickets to women’s team sports, those sports will continue to be minor league.
That’s why, no matter how much Delle Donne accomplishes in the future, one athlete stands along as the best of Delaware – Randy White. He was an All-American football player at the University of Maryland and then an All-Pro for the Dallas Cowboys and today he’s enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, which – to steal a phrase from the late, great Matt Zabitka – is the sport’s Valhalla.
It’s ironic that White was one of the best in the world and he wasn’t even the best in his state, at least according to the people who voted for Delaware’s All-State team in 1971, the year White graduated from McKean High. I once looked up who made the All-State team instead of White, but I forget who it was now. I know one thing – he isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
That’s what really boosts White’s stature – the sport he played and the level at which he played it. The NFL is, by far, the most popular spectator sport in America. And White has the added advantage of playing America’s favorite sport while playing for America’s Team. He played in nine Pro Bowls and three Super Bowls (and was co-MVP of one of them) with the Cowboys and was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.
That’s tough to beat and the odds are that nobody ever will.
Contact Kevin Noonan at firstname.lastname@example.org.