NEW YORK, NY – Today marks the beginning of Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, which ends on April 18th. This is a cause hitting close to home for me, being a two-time survivor of the disease and having family succumb to these types of cancer. It would be selfish of me not to spread the word of getting an oral cancer screening from a dentist or ENT specialist once a year, since these type of cancers often progress to latter stage malignancies where radical means become treatment necessities. This Public Service Announcement aside, today I give you some sports figures famous for what came out of their mouths and what lurked inside a few others.
Muhammed Ali: Most likely the original, if not best, trash-talker among athletes using his mouth to promote pugilistic endeavors. Aside from calling Joe Frazier ugly and an Uncle Tom, Ali is best remembered for the following rant in the lead up to the trilogy’s last installment saying the fight would be a “killer and a thriller and a chiller, when I get that gorilla in Manila.”
Billy Martin: When he wasn’t managing and yelling at umpires on occasion, Martin was a mainstay at bars and hotel lounges during road trips and off-seasons. There was the infamous run-in with a marshmallow salesman but high on his quote list is his description of Reggie Jackson and George Steinbrenner intimating, “one’s a born liar and the other’s convicted.” During one of Martin’s lounge acts, he opined that a man’s wife “had a fat ass” thus precipitating an altercation.
Howard Cosell: The loquacious sportscaster got paid to use his mouth and got every dime out of his vocal cords. Often paired with Ali, the duo was obnoxious but entertaining. Across Cosell’s work came a number of memorable statements which include calling Redskins receiver Alvin Garrett a “monkey” and telling viewers “the Bronx is burning” during a World Series game.
Tony Gwynn :All-around great outfielder for the San Diego Padres, baseball Hall of Famer, eight time NL batting champ, five Gold Gloves, and .338 career batting average. Died in 2014 of salivary gland cancer.
Jim Kelly: A football HOFer, he led the Buffalo Bills to four straight Super Bowl appearances and before that was a USFL MVP and helped put the University of Miami program on the map. In 2013, the common oral cancer carcinoma (squamous cell) was found and removed from his upper jaw bone only to return a year later. Kelly is since cancer-free.
Curt Schilling: Three time World Series champ with one series MVP and three time 20-game winner. Diagnosed with oral cancer in 2014 and said to be in remission, Schilling now speaks out against the use of chewing tobacco, which he believes is the root cause of his cancer.
Babe Ruth:Too many accolades to list and the original Home Run King, not even Babe Ruth could ward off the head and neck cancer that took his life within two years of diagnosis.
Do yourself a favor and get an oral cancer screening some time soon. And come back tomorrow for our largest orator, DJ Eberle.