Nearly every society in human history has had gladiators, but no society has ever demanded more of them. We don’t just look to athletes for physical transcendence, we look to them for moral guidance and their unique ability to sell cereal. We ask not only that they chase the Olympian ideals (faster, higher, stronger), but also that they be handsomer, funnier, cleverer, sweeter, and more charitable. In the age of the one-year contract, we root for laundry less and less and individuals more and more. The talking heads might bemoan it, but maybe it’s a good thing — so long as there are individual athletes truly worth rooting for.
And there are. The men on this list are not only good at sports, they are good at being good and looking good doing it. They are fashion plates and side hustlers. They know how to play smashmouth and then delicately hand a ball to a kid. Faster. Higher. Nicer.