Maybe Fans Are Not So Ruthless After All

True or false: When a star athlete has passed visibly beyond his prime, Americans cast him aside and lavish their enthusiasm on the next up-and-coming star. One would be tempted to say “true” were it not for the conspicuous case of Michael Jordan. Few fans would argue that the Jordan of today is in the same league as the Jordan of the 1990s. And yet, in a new Harris Poll, he won the most votes when adults were asked to name their “favorite sports star”—just as he did in similar Harris surveys throughout the ’90s. Filling out the top five were Tiger Woods, Brett Favre, Jerry Rice and Shaquille O’Neal. Two female athletes made it into the top dozen: Michelle Kwan (at No. 8) and Serena Williams (in a tie for No. 9). Long inactive as a player but still popular as a sportscaster, Terry Bradshaw was among those tied for No. 9. So was John Elway, although he is (as the Harris analysis delicately puts it) “just a memory.” No baseball players made the roster this year, but that may have something to do with the fact that the poll was fielded in January.

Apparently fans aren’t so ruthless after all.