I let the dentist and her assistant do the work and when they showed me the finished product, I smiled. I thanked them they asked how I was doing. Feeling both relieved and grateful I said, "Do either of you like soccer?" Surprised by my question I said "the reason I ask is because the coach of the Liverpool Reds, Jurgen Klopp has these majestic teeth. A sports writer described them as 'the Hoover Dam.' As you were working, I channeled my inner Jurgen." The assistant went to the computer in the office and pulled up his smile. "Is this him?" she asked. "Yes!" I said, "I think he has one of the most remarkable smiles in sports." And with that comment, the idea for this blog was born.
I did a mental inventory of athletes and their smiles. I invite you to do the same before you look at my list. I realized, it's not something a lot of athletes do; they're quite serious. But, a great smile lights up a room. It is tough to extinguish.
We love smiles because, like the eyes, they reveal something about our soul. They can be forced, they can be fake, but we know....you know....when it's not. Furthermore, smiles emanate from a reservoir of joy, which makes them all the more interesting to me. What makes a person more joyful than another? And how can "bad" people still be joyful? Can I become more joyful? Can I smile more often? These are worthy, universal questions!
I invite you to consider your own and please share them with me, post on this blog. For example: Whereas I wouldn't write about the best legs in sports (or buttocks, other body parts) I can write about the best smiles (or eyes...or hair) and no one is offended? What makes them so different?
I received a postcard that says: "Your day will go the way the corners of your mouth turn." Smiles might be contagious....so look at these athletes and coaches and let me know if it makes you smile, too. Undoubtedly, I will forget more people than not. In the interim, here's a list.
1. Jurgen Klopp: As the inspiration for this post, I had to start with the German coach. Much to my disappointment (not sure why) my dentist revealed to me what is probably obvious to you. Klopp has veneers. I would contend that smile is much more than the teeth, it speaks to one's spirit. But I would be incredibly naive to think that's all it is. Together we looked at the before and after photos. It's hard to deny his smile is not of epic, megawatt proportions now without those teeth. Still, knowing his persona, he and his smile still make this list.
2. Cam Newton: I wonder if Patriots' fans were smiling when the Carolina Panther's quarterback signed with New England in a one year deal. They lost one NFL MVP when Tom Brady took his talent to Tampa Bay but managed to pick up another Newton. He is still smiling.
3. Mary Lou Retton: Retton appeared on the cover of the Wheaties Box in 1984 because she was the first-ever American woman to win the all-around gold medal at the Olympics. I'd like to think her great smile had something to do with it too. I write that because Retton reminds me we can also smile with our eyes. She competed with joy, which is just one reason the Olympic Games in Los Angeles were so memorable.
4. Carl Lewis: While on the topic of the 1984 Olympic Games, I think I would be smiling too if I won four golf medals in track and field. This historic feat matched the achievement of Jesse Owens at the 1936 Games in Berlin. I mention Lewis, because he has had me smiling in his willingness to put himself out there. His ceremonial first pitch is one of the worst I have seen as is his rendition of the national anthem at the 1993 NBA Finals is horrible. Smiling and laughing go hand in hand.
5. Chris Webber: I am certainly missing my annual sojourn to Lake Tahoe for the Celebrity Golf Classic. A group of friends and I travel to casually watch golf and the many athletes who participate in the tourney. They are fun to talk to, giving autographs and posing for photographs. In search of a way to connect with C-Webb, my friend said "I will say Go Blue!" I looked at him and said "Why not tell him he has a great smile." It's true. She did and the result? a fantastic photo. Smile included.
6. Tiger Woods: This is more than great orthodontia. Woods' smile is one of the best. For a long time Tiger didn't smile. We get it. And even now, when he does, I know a lot of people who can't even look at him. However, his smile—which is often quite authentic—reveals something about his humanity. Yes? No?
7, Megan Rapinoe: When I picture the US Women's National soccer team captain, I see a woman who is pensive and serious. She is often caught in a moment where it appears as though she is looking off in the distance. But quite often she smiles beautifully—laugh lines and all. She's an important face—and smile—for the game!
Many athletes give their mug shot, instead of a smile. This is also a fun topic to debate with other coaches. Why are our athletes NOT smiling? Aren't sports a source of joy in their lives? Should they be serious? Next time you're in the dental chair, talk to your hygienist and dentist and get their thoughts.