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NASCAR drivers Elliott Sadler and Dale Earnhar...

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Enough of the serious side of sports. It’s time to look at the Romance side of Chicks Dig Sports and Romance… and what better way to get the conversation rolling than to talk about the athletes girls love to watch! 

These are the guys who get us hooked on a team, and we follow that team just because… The guys who make watching sports fun… the guys who transcend team loyalty. If one of our guys gets traded, we follow the new team and perhaps abandon the team that had the nerve to trade one of our guys.

My guys fall into four categories: Off the Charts; Good Guys; Bad Boys, and Banished.

Off the Charts include those athletes who have risen beyond mere “favorite” status to Forever All Stars. Athletes like Lance Armstrong, Greg Maddux, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Michael Jordan. Athletes you love to love, just because…

1. Lance Armstrong’s inspiring battle with cancer, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, advocate and visionary who gives millions the courage to LiveStrong® each day.

Greg Maddux

2. Greg Maddux, the artist whose mastery of placing baseballs exactly where he wished, delighted us season after season. Maddux felt no need to overpower batters with power or speed. He finessed each pitch, took delight in knowing where the ball would travel when it connected with a bat, and is the only pitcher in baseball ever to win 15 or more games 17 seasons in a row. Pretty good for a guy who looks more like a lawyer than an athlete.

3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr., NASCAR‘s greatest asset, a genuinely nice guy who takes the pressure and expectations that come with the name in stride.  If it weren’t for Dale, Jr., NASCAR would never have captured my interest nor replaced baseball as my favorite sport. Love the Junior Nation!

4. Michael Jordan, the reason why young basketball players want to wear #23; probably the reason LeBron James wanted to wear #23 until this past season. Michael was always a joy to watch sail through the air taking the basketball to the net.

These guys all rise above the cut.

That said, here are my top athletes—First, The Good Guys:

The Good Guys include athletes you love to watch and who are easy to like (not in any particular order):

1. Shane Battier, Memphis Grizzlies. Competed four years at Duke before heading to the NBA. Earned his degree (with a 3.96 GPA), named National Player of the Year Award, led the Blue Devils to a National Championship… and gained a first round draft pick. Ten years later, Battier’s still at the top of his game.

2. Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons. After the devastation Michael Vick brought to the Atlanta sports community, this kid from Boston College delights week after week. Just what we needed to cause the Falcons to Rise Up once again. From his very first play in the NFL, a 62-yard touchdown pass, Matty Ice will continue to delight us for years to come!

Chipper at home, third base Turner Field

3. Chipper Jones, Atlanta Braves. The captain, the heart of the team, who in his late 30’s still plays with the heart and intensity of a kid. We watched him grow from a “Baby Brave” to the leader and mentor of the current crop of young guns.

4. George Hincapie, professional cyclist. Completed 15 consecutive Tours de France (so far), guiding nine Maillot Jaunes to Paris on three different teams. Cycling’s MVP, yet an unsung hero even to the casual fan.

5. Carl Edwards, driver of the #99. Who could not like Cousin Carl? He turns back flips off his car when he wins, runs up into the stands to shake hands with the crowd, never backs down, but is the first to apologize if his mistake on the track causes another driver to crash. Carl earned extra props this year when he elected to remain at Roush Fenway Racing despite a bidding war with Joe Gibbs Racing. Loyalty to his team solidifies his appeal.

6. Cadel Evans, winner of the 2011 Tour de France. Who said nice guys don’t finish first? Cadel proved that adage wrong this past July when sheer determination led him to the top of the podium in Paris. This gentleman from Australia is pure class.

Next time, we’ll look at The Bad Boys and The Banished. Meanwhile, who are the athletes you find Off the Charts or would put on The Good Guys lists? Please leave your lists in the comments section below!

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