We start with the sweet 16! From here on out, the winners of these polls automatically enter the CGB Hall of Fame! One of Cal's greatest athletes clashes with one of its finest Olympians.
For each athlete, you can vote in the poll; it closes a week from today at midnight. After the jump, you can read the athlete profiles written up by our commenters, and discuss in the comments your memories of each athlete and which one deserves to move on. (Check out the full bracket here. To check out the original nomination thread, click here. For those who want to track the CGB Hall of Fame posts exclusively, click here or right next to the timestamp above where it says "Hall of Fame".)
Tony Gonzalez, perhaps the greatest tight end in NFL history (although John Mackey and Mike Ditka might have something to say about that) starts off our list. Let's take a look at a brief sampling of his career.
Since we can talk about Gonzalez's accomplishments, people might be interested to know that Gonzalez toyed with veganism for awhile, at his peak, as a pro, in his contract year (it's crazier because all these things happens at once).
It took Mooch and his West Coast offense to fully exploit Tony's skills as both an explosive run blocker and deep receiving threat. In his junior season of 1996, Gonzalez caught 46 passes for 699 yards and 5 touchdowns. He was named all-Pac 10 and first team All-America by the Football News and Sporting News magazines.
All the while, of course, Gonzalez was logging double duty as a starting forward on Cal's basketball team. In 1996-97 he developed an offensive game to complement his rugged rebounding and led the Golden Bears to a surprise berth in the Sweet 16.
1. He was so giant catching balls in the 1995-96 season, that among my group of dorky friends we subtituted "Tony Gonzalez" as a synonym for "huge" as in: "Jeez, that burrito is Tony Gonzalez"
2. After losing to UNC, Coach Dean Smith said about Tony G "I believe that man has a great future in football. He’s certainly very strong"
3. I once asked NBA All Star Antawn Jamison what was it like to play against Tony G – he said "he’s not an NBA player – but that’s no knock on him. He’s a really really good basketball player, and strong as hell. He was a tough defender"
Twist has a little anecdote from his youth about the Olympian.
I grew up in Biondi's hometown of Moraga, CA. I swam as a kid at Moraga Valley Pool, his childhood swim team (M-O-R space A-G-A space V-A-L-L space E-Y!), where his brother held all the records. I went to his high school. I went to his college. I think I was even there when they dedicated a rock fountain to him after his Olympics.
Ohio Bear shared this hilarious anecdote:
Guess the lifeguard didn’t recognize him.Biondi was swimming with his son Nate, in the deep end of a pool in Hawaii. The lifeguard shouted at Matt to take Nate to the shallow end, because the child was not a good enough swimmer.
When the Biondis did not move, the lifeguard repeated the request and added to Matt, "You’re not a very good swimmer, either." Biondi, dumbfounded, resisted the temptation to identify himself. He and Nate went to the shallow end.
So much for Matt Biondi, Olympic Hero.
Here are two of his most famous races available on YouTube from Seoul: The 50 m freestyle & the 100m butterfly. Biondi is Lane 4 from the bottom race here (and the dialogue is in Spanish). One of these is an epic win, and one of these is an epic loss (what is being a Cal athlete without some heartbreak)? Feel the pathos.
Here is some additional information on Biondi from Wikipedia:
Early life and athletics
Biondi started his aquatics career as a swimmer and water polo player in his hometown of Moraga, California. As he moved into his teens, his incredible abilities as a sprint swimmer began to emerge. Though he did not start swimming year-round until he started at Campolindo High School, by his senior year Biondi was the top schoolboy sprinter in America with a National High School record of 20.40 seconds in the 50-yard freestyle. He accepted a scholarship to the University of California, Berkeley to swim and play water polo, and enrolled in 1983. In his freshman year, he played on Berkeley's NCAA Championship water polo team, and made the consolation finals at the 1984 NCAA Swimming Championships.
The summer of 1984, Biondi surprised the swimming community by qualifying for a spot on the U.S. 4x100 meter freestyle relay at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics. The team won the gold medal in a world record time. Returning to Berkeley, Biondi once again played on an NCAA Champion water polo team in the fall and in the winter of 1985 won the first of his 8 individual swimming titles at NCAAs. He would be named NCAA Swimmer of the Year in 1985, 1986, and 1987, and would set several American and NCAA records.
Biondi set the first of his twelve individual swimming World records in 1985. He was the first man to swim the100-meter freestyle faster than 49 seconds, and by 1988 he owned the ten fastest times swum in that event. He won a total 24 U.S. Championships in the 50, 100, and 200-meter freestyle events, as well as the 100-butterfly. In two World Championships (1986 and 1991), Biondi won 11 medals including six gold. During his career, he was a James E. Sullivan Award Finalist, the UPI Sportsman of the Year, the USOC Sportsman of the Year, and twice the Swimming World magazine Male Swimmer of the World (1986 and 1988).
Biondi was involved in perhaps the most notable defeat of any competitor at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. In the100 metre butterfly final, caught between strokes as he approached the finishing wall, he chose to glide rather than take another stroke, & was pipped by Anthony Nesty of Suriname by 1/100th of a second.
He still managed to win 5 gold, 1 silver & 1 bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics, achieving World records in 4 of those triumphs, 3 in relays & one in the 50 metre freestyle, clocking 22.14 seconds for the sprint 50. This was the third time he had broken or equalled the existing 50 metre freestyle World record.
Biondi's time in the 100 metre freestyle final was the only sub-49.00 second swim of the competition, setting a new Olympic record of 48.63 seconds, the second fastest time in history.