Philly Sports Live

Remembering: The Superstars

Tennis star Andy Murray will compete in the newest version of the TV show The Superstars which US football players have previously dominated.

The Superstars was great television.  The Superstars was a gimmicky television show that appeared from 1973 to 1994 on ABC and NBC.  It pitted top athletes from numerous sports competing in competitions that included: 100 yard dash, 800 meters; obstacle course; weight lifting; bowling; rowing; table tennis; tennis; bicycle race; basketball; shooting; swimming.  Competitors chose 7 of 10 sports (the sports varied throughout the years) and competed against other superstars.  The show was created by ex-Olympic figure skater and TV commentator Dick Button.

Some competitors took it very seriously and others kind of just had fun with it, but there was a considerable amount of money at stake.  Of course, that money meant more to amateur athletes like Olympic pole vaulter Bob Seagren who won the first ever competition in 1973.  Seagren competed against the likes of heavyweight boxer Joe Frazier who nearly drowned in the swimming event.  Frazier admitted after the show that he didn’t know how to swim.

Soccer player Kyle Rote Jr. won in 1974, 1976, and 1977.  His only loss came in 1975 to now infamous O.J. Simpson.  Rote participated when soccer was considerably less popular in America than it is today and the money earned by Rote Jr. was significant to him, at least much more so than it was for professional athletes like Simpson.

Football players fared very well over the years in The Superstars competition.  Winners were Greg Pruitt, Charles White, Mark Gastineau, Renaldo Nehemiah (a 3 time winner who also won as a Track & Field superstar), Herschel Walker (2x winner), Willie Gault (2x winner), and Jason Sehorn who won three competitions from 1998 to 2000.  In fact, football players won The Superstars competition for 15 of the 28 times that it aired.

In the competition, athletes were not permitted to compete in sports that they played.  This left some area for interpretation.  For instance, tennis stars Bjorn Borg and Arthur Ashe participated in The Superstars.  While tennis players had difficulty competing in sports such as weight lifting and sprinting, they were very good at one sport: table tennis.  A loophole in the rules permitted tennis players to play table tennis where players such as Borg and Ashe held a distinct advantage.

The BBC recently announced that it is going to bring The Superstars back to life with a 2013 program.  In fact, David Beckham has been rumored to be a possible participant.  One athlete that is competing is Andy Murray, currently the #3 ranked tennis player in the world.  I don’t know if they are going to have table tennis in this competition, and I don’t think I’ve ever bet on tennis or table tennis.  But, if this newest version of the show offers table tennis, I’m definitely betting on Murray.