The Varsity Life Team is composed of people who, in Keller’s opinion, are the cream of the crop, the epitome of Humanity.  These are truly great men and women who have, through great deeds, demonstrated themselves to be possessed of tremendous intestinal fortitude and grit.

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Alexander the Great – Started as the King of Macedonia (those of you not addicted to Wikipedia will be forgiven for asking, “where?”) then conquered the known world, ending up as Hegemon of the Hellenic League, Shahanshah of Persia, Pharaoh of Egypt, and Lord of Asia before drinking himself to death at 32 and leaving several successor empires who’s influence would be felt for over a thousand years.  Not too shabby.

Winston Churchill – It is difficult for us in the post-Cold-War era to imagine just how dire was the state of democracy in 1940.  There were roughly a dozen Democracies left World-wide and, of these, more than half were either cooperating with or severely threatened by Axis powers.  Against this backdrop, Churchill’s defense of Great Britain seems more like truly Homeric heroism than your run-of-the-mill statesmanship.

He was also a brilliant writer and coined one of my favorite treatises on the absurdity of modern grammarians, “Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.”

Tom Dowd – The word “legendary” gets thrown around a lot in the music industry.  A short list of artists Tom Dowd produced: Ray Charles, The Drifters, The Coasters, Bobby Darin, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker, Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tito Puente, Derek and the Dominos, Rod Stewart, Cream, Lulu, Chicago, The Allman Brothers, The J. Geils Band, Meat Loaf, Sonny & Cher, The Rascals, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross, Kenny Loggins, The James Gang, Dusty Springfield, Eddie Harris, Charles Mingus, Herbie Mann, Booker T. and the MGs, Otis Redding, Aretha Franklin, and Santana, to name a few.

Dowd was initially on the path of becoming a nuclear physicist.  As an undergrad at Columbia University, he contributed heavily to the Manhattan Project, but quit after much of his work was classified and Columbia was unable to grant him a degree.  His technical bent resurfaced later, however, when he became the first engineer to replace large potentiometer knobs with sliding resisters, singlehandedly enabling the development of the modern audio console.

Kathleen Elliassen – Manages to cohabitate with me and puts up with my bullshit.

Haile Gebrselassie – Held (or holds) every world record from 2 miles to the marathon at least once and is approaching the world record for holding the most world records.  He is 5’5″, weighs 123 lbs. and can kick your candy ass.

Amanda Jee – Found my girlfriend’s $45 text book for $0.85 on Ebay in, like, minutes.

Takeru Kobayashi – Dude can eat literally dozens of hot dogs in a matter of minutes.  Bad ass.

Aldus Manutius – Invented italics and the semicolon.  Good genes too; his grandson wrote a treatise on Latin spelling at age 14 and also invented a mark which is the direct predecessor of the modern comma.

Grigori Rasputin – The first murder attempt on Rasputin was by a former prostitute who cut his belly open such that his entrails literally hung out of his body.  During the second, successful, attempt, he was fed a lethal dose of cyanide, shot several times (first in the back and then as he attempted to strangle one of his assailants), bludgeoned to a pulp, castrated, wrapped in a carpet and dumped into a freezing river.  He was found with his arms frozen above his head and water in his lungs, indicating that he broke free of his restraints and drowned as he attempted to break through the ice above him. That boy was one tough dude.

Cal Ripken Jr. – This guy is the reason why the Guiness Book of World Records doesn’t say “a record that will probably never be broken” anymore.  He may also be the last truly humble professional athlete we see for while, “I know that if Lou Gehrig is looking down on tonight’s activities, he isn’t concerned about someone playing more consecutive games than he did.  Instead, he’s viewing tonight as just another example of what is good and right about the great American game.  Whether your name is Gehrig or Ripken, DiMaggio or Robinson, or that of some youngster who picks up his bat or puts on his glove, you are challenged by the game of baseball to do your very best day in and day out.  And that is all I’ve ever tried to do.”  He voluntarily ended his consecutive games streak at 2,632, a record that will probably never be broken…

Brooks Robinson – Third coolest nickname of all time: “The Human Vacuum Cleaner.”

Hunter S. Thompson – “But our trip was different. It was a classic affirmation of everything right and true in the national character. It was a gross physical salute to the fantastic possibilities of life in this country – but only for those with true grit. And we were chock full of that.”

Townes van Zandt – Anybody who can write that well while ingesting so much booze and drugs deserves to be on this list.  Deal with it.  [Interesting tid-bit; Townes had much of his long term memory wiped out from insulin shock therapy which was administered to him to treat manic depression.]


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