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Home / Articles / Columnists / Sports Feature /  They Made a Difference
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Friday, November 4,2016

They Made a Difference

By Mark Tudino  

With the recent passing of young Miami Marlins star Jose Fernandez, we were again reminded of the fragility of life and how a star may shine before it quickly supernovas out of existence. There really is no guarantee of tomorrow, so one must learn to cherish this day – and not worry so much about what happens tomorrow, next week or next year.


Sports is no different. Where careers are measured in seasons, athletic longevity is a truly treasured – and rare – jewel. Rarer still are the people whose careers affect not only their own sport, but in doing so, they change the world around them. They are the difference makers. This month we’ve chosen four such people in the world of sports, people who were icons in their own games, but were also ambassadors to the world at large. As with any list, tough decisions had to be made, but these are the ones I chose to highlight.

Muhammad Ali: When he recently passed away, this column outlined his numerous career achievements. But away from the ring, Ali was a transcendent force whose every move inspired (or infuriated) a generation of people. Ali was a global figure, who was as beloved in the most remote villages in Africa as he was on the streets of New York. When he defeated George Foreman in Zaire in 1974, the whole world was captivated. After he retired, he became an international symbol of peace and tolerance. At one point, a global poll was done to identify the most recognizable person in the world: Ali was more recognized than the Pope or Nelson Mandela.

Pele: When putting this list together, I tried to integrate not only the achievements of the athlete but also their impact outside of sport. In this case, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, or “Pele”, was a natural choice. Not only was he, arguably, the greatest ever to play his game, he introduced the sport to the world, including the United States, when, in the 1970’s, crowds of 70,000 would routinely pack Giants stadium to watch him play for the New York Cosmos. His humanitarian work was legendary, and he was instrumental in making soccer the world’s game – so much so that the World Cup, held every four years, now draws viewers in the billions, with a B.

Arthur Ashe: While his tennis achievements alone qualify him for the Hall of Fame (winner of Wimbledon, the US Open, as well as multiple Davis Cup captaincies) his legacy was cemented because of his unwavering commitment to worldwide social justice. Ashe singlehandedly challenged the apartheid system in South Africa, so much so when Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years of captivity, requested a meeting with Ashe. That’s how much of a difference Ashe made.

Arnold Palmer: I know it may seem strange to place a golfer on this list, but The King was vital to the worldwide growth of what was long considered a game for the wealthy and privileged. He was the ultimate common man, who smoked, caroused (yes it was hidden back then) and played with a go-for-broke gusto that a nascent form of communication called television found irresistible. Because of him people in Europe, Asia, Australia and South America discovered and learned to love the game. Not to mention his decades of charitable work, which will long outlive his many athletic accomplishments.


That’s it. Feel free to agree, disagree or add and subtract as you see fit. The beauty of sports is that all of us have an opinion. You see mine… what’s yours?

Mark Tudino is an attorney with offices in both Miami-Dade and Broward counties, whose practice specializes in all areas of civil litigation. He has lived in South Florida for more than 20 years. Prior to attending law school, he was a political and sports reporter for television stations across the country. His career allowed him to cover everything from presidential elections to national championship sports teams, and he still maintains a passion to observe and discuss the world of sports. Attorney at Law. 954-983-8000. 3475 Sheridan Street Suite #211. Hollywood, FL 33021.


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