Pro Stars: Reboot
HAPPY NATIONAL CEREAL DAY!!!
Don’t tell me you forgot again this year? It’s like you just don’t care…about cereal.
Honestly as a kid, I wasn’t a huge cereal eater. Occasionally, Cap’n Crunch or Corn Pops, but there was one that I demanded my mom buy for me: Pro Stars. Largely because at the time of production it featured my hero, Wayne Gretzky, on the box. Now the cereal wasn’t anything great from what I recall, but it did have The Great One.
A few years later, the Pro Stars brand expanded to encompass a Saturday morning cartoon featuring the aforementioned Gretzky, teaming up with Michael Jordan and Bo Jackson to fight evil in the world. This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the cartoon, so I thought it would be fitting to think about who would star in the contemporary version of the show.
The original version had three athletes as the stars of the show, so we’ll stick with that. Gretzky, Jordan and Jackson each came from hockey, basketball and baseball/football respectively. Now first off, there is currently no two-sport athletes on par with where Bo Jackson was in his prime (is there any right now?). Hell, finding a comparison to Jackson in either sports individually would narrow the field considerably. Dude was a freak. So, I will have to choose either a baseball or football player.
I also briefly considered expanding my search beyond the “Big 4” of North American sports. There are any number of sports fans that will tell you the real football is the one played everywhere else in the world with a round ball using, oddly enough, one’s feet. They’re kinda like vegans and people who do cross fit that way. But soccer is the most popular sport on the planet and a case could be made that Lionel Messi or Christano Ronaldo would have similar appeal in the United States as Wayne Gretzky did. Obviously they have huge followings everywhere else on Earth. But those places don’t matter. Not to U.S. television executives at least. So for the sake of this exercise, we’ll stick close to the original.
Well this one is probably the easiest choice,…kinda. There is no player that really rivals the consistent high level of play and dominance right now more than Lebron James. He is climbing the All-Time NBA ladder quickly and his marketing influence can only be rivaled by, you guessed it, Michael Jordan. I say “kinda” because there are a couple of players that I’d put in the same category as Lebron today and at least deserve to be discussed. Kevin Durant is a treat to watch. Smooth and athletic, I find he makes the game look effortless. Playing in Oklahoma City and just going about his game, he doesn’t make the headlines of James. An NBA title would help, but he has been in the tough Western Conference his whole career. The other is Steph Curry. He is not the flavour of the day, but he just hasn’t been doing it as long as James. Granted he’s already got the NBA title and he makes crazy shots from everywhere and is populating the typically dunk-saturated highlight reels despite not being a high-flier. In a couple of years, he’ll have a stronger case for knocking Lebron off, but for now, James is the King.
The hockey market in the U.S. is much better than it was when the Pro Stars cereal came out. That is thanks in large part to Wayne Gretzky. Now initially my thoughts drifted once again to trying to cater to the American audience, but who is the face of American hockey? Patrick Kane is arguably the best player from south of the border, but his off-ice issues make for an awkward transition to Saturday morning. After that…? It’s not that there aren’t great players, but none of them have reached superstar status. Joe Pavelski or Zach Parise are players I would take on my team any day, but would any non-hockey fan know who they are. Jack Eichel may reach that level some day, but he’s only completing his rookie season.
I would bet that the two best known hockey players in American right now are Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. I think Crosby is still better known to the casual sports fan than other hockey players. He is still one of the best all-around players in the world, despite a slow start this year. He’s also a poster boy for the type of guy moms and dads would love to see their daughter bring home: polite, respectful, no visible tattoos or piercings. On the other hand, Ovie is a cartoon character. He is outgoing and colourful and takes entertaining fans to a different level every opportunity he has for interaction. Added to the fact that he is the captain of the team that plays in the capital of the U.S., and he is very marketable. Oh yeah, and he is still pretty good at hockey. I talked myself into Ovie.
Now the hard part. Pick one athlete from either baseball or football to round out the trio. I am more of a baseball guy, so my mind naturally starts there. There are some good choices in terms of superstars. I would love to keep a Canadian twist to things, and with Gretzky no longer in this and having selected Ovechkin over Crosby (as a Nova Scotian, I’m gonna pay for that), I’d have to look at the Toronto Bluejay. The Jays have a powerful lineup and Jose Bautista or Josh Donaldson could easily be placed amongst the likes of Lebron James and Alexander Ovechkin, but I have been pandering to the U.S. audience all post; why stop now? While Donaldson is American and reigning AL MVP, he is not the biggest name in the sport. Bryce Harper is early in a career that seems destined for the Hall of Fame (yes, I know its early, but I’m right). Mike Trout is probably the best all-around player we have seen in decades. Either one would be a good choice.
If I look at football, the biggest names are the quarterbacks, which in my mind doesn’t lend itself as well to role. Maybe if it were the general that stays at the command centre and strategizes. I’ll put Cam Newton as the closest to fulfilling that role. Is dabbing a superpower? Strength and power were the two main characteristics of Bo Jackson’s character on the cartoon, but in real life he added speed and agility in a rare package. When I apply that criteria to the NFL, two names come to mind: Rob Gronkowski and JJ Watt. Well Gronk, easily meets the character criteria that I applied to select Ovechkin, but his exploits often dip toward the PG-13 and for that reason alone I leave him out. But even if I don’t discount Gronk, I think Watt would take this. Watt is a physical freak, and displays it on a regular basis. JJ “Turn Down For” Watt completes my group, and I think makes it a pretty nice trio.
Of course, I am basing this on nothing more than my own whims. I am open to any other suggestions. Who you got?