When one speaks with softball superstar and sports media megabrand Jennie Finch, the self-assurance of her retirement decision is evident.
She’s the anti-Brett Favre; and the antithesis of Roger Clemens. There’s almost no chance she would change her mind and comeback, but even if she did, there wouldn’t be a press conference each pre-season. Her Chicago Bandits teammates would not be forced to fly to her Arizona home to beg and plead for her to return.
Jennie Finch is more than an icon of her respective sport, she’s an icon with stability. It’s rare today, as we see athletic icons dropping like flies: Clemens, the steroid era sluggers, Ben Roethlisberger, and Lance Armstrong will be next, once the investigation of his doping allegations concludes.
Other sports role models, such as Favre and LeBron James have committed no crimes, but through their selfish actions, and attention-whoring sideshows, have damaged their public images beyond repair.
Finch, however, leaves her game with a perfect personal reputation.
“I love what I do and thanks to the women before me I had an incredible opportunity,” Finch said during my exclusive with her on Friday night.
“I just hope to continue to provide more opportunity for the future of our sport, because through this game I’ve been able to do things that I haven’t even dreamed of doing,” she continued.
By Paul M. Banks
I then asked Finch what she thought about her iconic status.
“I’m grateful, I’m definitely appreciative of it, I feel this game has given me way more than I could possibly have imagined and maybe even deserved. I’m 29, a wife, a mother. My son’s four and I’ve still been able to play the game that I love professionally,” Jennie responded.
Finch said in a recent AP interview that the couple have spent about two weeks together at their Arizona home over the past year, so it’s definitely understandable why she wants to retire to spend more time with her family. Everyone gives the “I’d like to spend more time at home” line in their retirement exit interviews, but in her case it’s long overdue.
But Finch’s legacy goes well beyond a gold medal in 2004, a silver in 2008 and in being the world’s most famous softball player. She’s won National Pro Fastpitch championships and Pitcher of the year awards with the Bandits, but no evaluation of her cumulative legacy is complete without thoroughly assessing Finch’s approachable charm and stunning beauty.
“She set the standard for softball in a new era of being able to be feminine and play this sport,” U.S. outfielder Jessica Mendoza said. “Not that you have to be feminine to play this sport, but I see hundreds of thousands of little girls now with glitter headbands, hot pink bats, makeup….when I was growing up, it wasn’t like that.”
These days, your Jenn Stergers and J Wows (women showing off their body as much as possible to attain publicity) are a dime-a-dozen. Finch instead went against the grain and turned down the big money Playboy and Maxim offered her for a photo spread.
In 2003, Finch was voted the “sexiest female athlete” on ESPN.com and one of People magazine’s “50 most beautiful people” in 2004. Yet her stunning good looks have always been ancillary and supplementary to her fame; not the cause of it.
Today, an exceedingly high number of celebrity women release sex tapes and flaunt flesh whenever cameras flash. Obviously, this creates a shortage of wholesome female role models for little girls to aspire to.
And that’s what makes Finch’s star power so important. She can throw a riseball better than any softball pitcher, but her most profound and important achievements are off-the-field.
I took in her penultimate home start for the Bandits on Friday night, and I saw this phenomenon in person. Hundreds of little girls showed up for her pregame clinic, and the adoration in their hearts and minds was evident.
At a time when famous women with a squeaky clean image are in short supply, Finch taught young women all over the world that is possible to achieve greatness, look beautiful while doing so, and still remain grounded and humble about it.
“This (professional softball) wasn’t around when I was growing up, so it’s awesome to see how far the game has grown and I feel grateful to be a part of it,” Finch said when reflecting about she influenced the sport.
for part two of this interview go here
Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
You can follow him on Twitter @thesportsbank and @bigtenguru