February 26, 2009


   Home Page

 News & Features


 Columns & Opinions

   Publisher's Note





 Pop Culture



   Video Games
   CD Reviews




   Grazing Guide



   Music Roundup

   Live Music/DJs

   MP3 & Podcasts





 Find A Hippo




   View Classified Ads

   Place a Classified Ad




 Contact Us

   Hippo Staff

   How to Reach The Hippo

 Past Issues

   Browse by Cover

LONGSHOTS: A mountain over this molehill
by Dave Long

If this were an episode of Boston Legal, I would stand up and stipulate to the court that on this particular topic I am nuts.

That’s because I can honestly say I’ve never seen anyone driven more around the bend by something as silly as lists ranking the best this, or best that, in sports as it does me. It’s not quite at the same level as what Inspector Clouseau does to Chief Inspector Dreyfuss, but it’s close.  And if you don’t believe me, just ask my friends Petey K and Andy Statires, who got both barrels during the SNHU basketball game on Saturday, a day after ESPN had narrowed down its top five states in the Mt. Rushmore of sports series. It made me crazy because it included Illinois (me) and include Massachusetts.

Now why would that set me off? Hard to say. On surface it’s just stupid. But what it really is is my Niagara Falls-like irritation over the culture’s love of style over substance, celebrity over production, and its utter indifference to the importance of historical perspective. So they pick the flavor of the month, or the undeserving one they’ve heard of but don’t really know that much about, over clearly better players time and again. It’s how Nolan Ryan gets picked as the top right-handed pitcher on the All-Century team by folks who heard about his seven no-hitters and have no clue his 292 losses are the second MOST in baseball history.

The main perpetrator of this is mayhem is ESPN — who I think does these things to me on purpose. In today’s case, it’s the Mount Rushmore of Sports series, which is a great idea. It has people talking and debating this topic, which is great. I just wish they’d give a tutorial beforehand for what “great” is, so voters have a better chance of not looking so stupid. The Illinois vs. Mass. thing set me off, but two others made me even crazier — although the latter helps explain how Illinois moved on.

The first was seeing Joe Namath in my hometown’s Rushmore. I like Joe, and that win in Super Bowl III was the NFL’s greatest upset, but never has one guy lived off one game in history more than he has. He wasn’t even the best QB in New York when he was playing — Fran Tarkenton was. He was 63-63 as a starter, threw 170 TD passes and 220 interceptions and completes just 50.3 percent of his passes. On my NY Rushmore of honorable mentions he’s so far back in line he’s somewhere between Iowa and Minnesota waiting to move up. The first 11 that come to mind ahead of him are Gehrig, DiMaggio, Berra, Mantle, Willis Reed, Tom Seaver, Willie Mays, Lew Alcindor, Jimmy Brown, Jackie Robinson and probably Jeff Van Gundy.

Massachusetts voters picking Bobby Orr, Ted Williams, Tom Brady and Red Auerbach for its Rushmore made me even crazier as it left out the greatest team player in the HISTORY of sports in Bill Russell. Brady over Russell is the pop culture going with the guy in the moment. Williams over him is the stats over the only one that matters — 11 titles in 13 years. I could live with Brady over Ted maybe, but not over Russell or Larry Bird for that matter. I’ve got no quarrel with Bobby Orr in the group, as he also belongs on hockey’s Mt. Rushmore, but over Russell? I mean get serious.

But seeing the Chicago group of Michael Jordan, Walter Peyton, Ernie Banks and — are you ready for this — Mike Ditka ahead of them set me off. Not that he wasn’t really great, but people are so ga-ga over Jordan, llinois would’ve gotten into the top five if he were paired with Rex Grossman, Tom Boerwinkle and Sam Giancana. But voters got it wrong there too. Ditka over George Halas — who only invented the NFL — is even worse than Brady over Russell. And you can make a case for Dick Butkus over the great Peyton, who was Ray Lewis only scary. But they were both great and I can live with either. But how about Phil Jackson over Ditka?

Anyway here’s my take for Chicago vs. Boston Rushmores:

Bobby Orr vs. Walter Peyton: Greatness vs. greatness. Peyton retired the all-time leading rusher and did it while never playing with an all-pro lineman until the twilight of his career. He blocked, caught passes and played with honor. I’ve got nothing bad to say about him, but Orr revolutionized hockey in production and artistry. He was the first defenseman to win the scoring title, he ignited an unprecedented team scoring deluge, scored the winning goal in OT for Boston’s first title since the ’30s. And because it’s much easier to do in hockey than football he transformed a moribund franchise quicker than Walter. While I get why they won’t agree with me in Chicago, I have no hesitation to give a slight edge to Orr even with the admiration I have for Peyton.

Red Auerbach vs. Mike Ditka: This is laughable. Auerbach’s organization won 16 titles in 30 years. Nine came as a coach when he had his sport’s greatest winning percentage. Dikta turned around a program that had been failing for many years to win once. And while he had the single most determined and greatest run I have ever seen as a player, that great Bears defense was together for four years and never got close again in underperforming until he was fired. Given all that. he’s also behind Coach B, Tito, Bill Parcells, Joe McCarthy and Stan Spirou. Not even close.

Ernie Banks to Ted Williams: Ernie won two MVP’s, hit .274 and 512 homers in cozy Wrigley. Ted won two MYP’s, got robbed in ‘42, hit .344 lifetime with 521 homers to right at Fenway and was the last to hit. 400.  The Kid arguably is on the Mt. Rushmore of hitters, while with Mays, Aaron, Mantle and Koufax around Banks ain’t even on the Rushmore of his era. Again – not real close. Boston wins

Russell vs. Jordan: The reason Michael seemed so much better than everyone is that he didn’t play with a comparable talent. He didn’t win squat when Bird was at peak and owes getting his first title in large part to the fact that Magic and Byron Scott got hurt and missed the finals, leaving L.A. with no back court. Then Magic retired the next year. Bird had Magic. Russell had Chamberlain. I love Michael, but if you’re talking about dominating your era, Russell was just as dominant in a different way. And even if you go with Jordan as most do, it’s 1 to 1a.

So I’m taking Boston, because while Michael had the style to go with his substance, the title count was 18 to 7 in this crew, or 18 to 13 if you count Halas, and that matters most.

Dave Long can be reached at dlong@hippopress.com. He hosts the Absolute Sports Experience at Billy’s Sports Bar in Manchester each Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon that is broadcast live on WGAM – The Game, 1250-AM Manchester, 900-AM Nashua.

2/19/2009 Steroids muscle in on game's strength

2/12/2009 Bonner bombs away on Cs in garden party homecoming
2/5/2009 Nation's angst ends as V-Tek says what the heck and rejoins flock
1/29/2009 Super Bowl Sunday brings to mind past and present
1/22/2009 The elusive quality of greatness is the topic of the day
1/15/2009 Spring cleaning of the sports mind a little early
1/8/2009 Will hall have Rice on the menu come July
1/1/2009 Predictions and wants for the year ahead
12/25/2008 A look in the rear view mirror at 2008
12/18/2008 The Pats' playoff run and new Yankees contracts make big news
12/11/2008 Random thoughts and associations
12/4/2008 Pats should consider options when it comes to Cassel and Brady
11/27/2008 Putting the thanks in Thanksgiving
11/20/2008 News of the week has people talking
11/13/2008 Cassel's in the clouds compared to early expectations11/6/2008 Mail bag delivers some interesting questiont10/30/2008"Yankees Suck" - like mentality fuels political discontent10/23/2008 No ray of hope as season closes in Tampa Bay
10/16/2008 Going to the nines a thing of the past
10/9/2008 C-eeing some interesting stories unfold this week
10/2/2008 "How come?" is the main question of the day
9/25/2008 Observations on baseball in 2008
9/18/2008 If I were a QB, a DB, a stat geek or a soccer mom ...
9/11/2008 After disaster Brady's bunch won't pass on season
9/4/2008 Pats start off with high expectation and some concerns
8/28/2008 A race to the finish to take all month long
8/21/2008 National news items of interest for local folks
8/14/2008 A little of this and that from the good side of sports pile
8/7/2008 Manny happy returns from the Evil Empire
7/31/2008 Manny being Manny - the sequel Part XXXII
7/24/2008 Open the mail bag for some Red Sox questions
7/17/2008 Hall-worthy or not the latest question on Schilling
7/10/2008 Baseball season has actually started
7/03/2008 UL editorial in denial — stop the presses
6/26/2008 Boston turnaround makes NBA green with envy
6/19/2008 Letters from the NBA finals
6/12/2008 A Father's Day letter to dad
6/5/2008 Twenty-one and six are the lucky numbers for the Cs
5/29/2008 Sometimes a bat is just a bat
5/22/2008 Some questions for folks right up there in the front row
5/15/2008 Numbers don't add up to supposed Fenway
5/8/2008 Cavalier attitude nearly derails first meeting with LeBron
5/1/2008 I'm so old,I remember ...
4/24/2008 Sox Line-ups, Celtics and ESPN investigations are in the mail bag
4/17/2008 Show me the way to that All-Star Game
4/10/2008 For C'ing a great time ahead as playoffs arrive this spring
4/3/2008 Bill James and the stats for 2008 — Take Two
3/27/2008 Drowning in the NCAA office pool
3/20/2008 Whether forecast is right or not is the question
3/13/2008 Comment sparks wonder over just what I did
3/6/2008 New hires, new trades in pro sports
2/28/2008 Celtics issues far from black and white in the early days
2/21/2008 Congressional ineptitude muscles in on steroid hearings
2/14/2008 Basketball rounds into form under the cover of Pats football
2/7/2008 A giant win leaves Patriots fans feeling blue
1/31/2008 Foxboro lads earn pats on the back, and old Celtics mystique makes sense
1/24/2008 Mail bag asks about Rice, the hall and wild-eyed liberals
1/17/2008 Peyton manning the fort back home as Pats take on Chargers
1/10/2008 Grumpy old Dolphins are lost at sea on this one
1/3/2008 The primary concern is getting a clear picture
12/27/2007 The annual sports awards close out 2007
12/20/2007 Holiday gifts for the deserving and not so deserving
12/13/2007 Jets land in Foxboro as pat go number 14
12/06/2007 To include or not to include Ellsbury — that is the questione
11/29/2007 Yanked from the sports pages in the Big Apple
11/22/2007 Here's what I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving
11/15/2007 Waiting game leads to a series of random thoughts
11/8/2007 OK — it's week nine and I'm ready to talk
11/1/2007 Finally a little shut-eye for a sleep deprived nation
10/25/2007 A rocky mountain high for Red Sox Nation
10/18/2007 Time to go to the mailbag
10/112007 Who'd more popular, Patriots or Red Sox
10/4/2007 IA weekend chock full of nuts, chokes and great moments
9/27/2007 I hate to say I told you so...
9/20/2007 Media and fan bias shades the severity of sports crime
9/13/2007 All round baseball week starts with a look at leaders
9/6/2007 It's Superbowl or bust for Pats in 2007
8/30/2007 The race is on as baseball enters September
8/23/2007 Spine vs. lack of spine theme for school board debate
8/16/2007 Time for thoughts from the summer mailbag
8/9/2007 Will this three make it big in Boston?
8/2/2007 Trading places all in a day's work for Boston GMs
7/26/2007 Getting out of a slump; an ameteur golfer can feel Sox' pain
7/19/2007 Does second chance guarantee a great outcome?
7/12/2007 Masse still a honeymooner in local baseball culture
7/5/2007 Brown Monster a big Fisher Cat hit
6/28/2007 Rambling along with some random thoughts
6/21/2007 The future is now for the C's come Thursday night
6/14/2007 Homers create bonds among fans for generations
6/07/2007 Sox win by losing two of three this weekend
5/31/2007 Lutz of things to think about
5/24/2007 Down 2-0 M’s for playoff payoff
5/17/2007 Baseballs' conventional wisdom is for the birds
5/10/2007 The Rocket lands in Gotham during Monarchs' playoff break
5/3/2007 Raiders say "No Moss" in fight with talented wideout
4/26/2007 A little history on the ancient Sox and Yanks rivalry
4/19/2007 Lessons to be learned from Robinson, Monarchs and I-Man
4/12/2007 A few questions for the sports gods
4/5/2007 Stanton his case on a variety of current topics
3/29/2007 Sox spring back into action on Monday
3/22/2007 A guide for having fun on NCAA hockey weekend
3/15/2007 The madness of March kicks off on Thursday
3/8/2007 Jumping through hoops after an odd season
3/1/2007 A trip to the mail bag for Hippo Sports
2/22/2007 Six degrees of Muhammed Ali
2/15/2007 Monarchs rule as streak reaches 12
2/8/2007 Talking a good game ahead on all-sports WGAM
2/1/2007 Manning the Super Bowl watch more difficult in '07
1/25/2007 Winning and what else matters in college coaching
1/18/2007 ESPN polls are fanning the flames of national lunacy
1/11/2007 Patriots marching to MIami promised land
1/4/2007 Predictions for 2007
12/28/2006 REcognizing the best on the national front
12/21/2006 Present under the tree for all
12/14/2006 Mailbag open for busines at a time filled with questions
12/07/2006 Lions and Gators and Bears, oh my
11/30/2006 Does Fenway frankness roll to the negative side?
11/23/2006 Turkeys and thanks as the big day arrives
11/16/2006 Green-around-the-gills Celts looking to earn some respect
11/9/2006 Blame game reaches new local low
11/2/2006 A week of highs and lows in sport
10/26/2006 Curses! The U is foiled again
10/19/2006 Time for a trip to the sports mailbag
10/12/2006 U turns Granite Stare around on football
10/05/2006 James' gang riding into town to face the Celtics
09/28/2006 Words to describe a lost Red Sox season
09/21/2006 Football Friday can't stack up to Saturday
09/14/2006 A lesson to be learned in remembering a somber day
09/07/2006 Usual pat choice to win AFC East questioned
08/31/2006 Whining won't yank AL East away from NY
08/24/2006 Spring forward or fall behind for Sox
08/17/2006 Trash talking abounds in the Empire over Sox and Pats
08/10/2006 Monarchs call press conference to crown new leader
08/03/2006 Deadly Fenway duo leave mark on history
07/27/2006 Word of the wise gets lost in sports translation
07/20/2006 Looking beyond the Big Three
07/13/2006 Cream rises to the top of baseball talk at the Dot
07/06/2006 Greetings and salutations toThe Nation at mid-year
06/29/2006 Being dealt is a consequence of the trade
06/22/2006 A year later, Boudreau's cup runneth over
06/15/2006 See dogs and cats battle for a different fan experience
06/08/2006 Not Bad Anymore league makes a comeback
06/01/2006 Luck goes Sox way with Lowell in Massachusetts
05/25/2006 Pitching in to help the Sox trade a few places
05/18/2006 Going to school by cutting Red Sox payroll
05/11/2006 Columnist blows his mind; here are the results
05/04/2006 Yanks stormed Manchester 37 years ago this week
04/27/2006 Regular crowd nowhere to be found come playoff time
04/20/2006 Questions and answers from the mailbag
04/13/2006 Local sports teams spring into action
04/06/2006 Predictable Red Sox season lies ahead
03/30/2006 Analyzing this and that as Pats roster shrinks
03/23/2006 A week of following the bouncing balls
03/16/2006 The beginning of four days of basketball bliss
03/09/2006 Many miss the central point of the story
03/02/2006 Better late than never to jump through local hoops
02/23/2006 Celtic green means raw, not envy as it once did
02/16/2003 An issue that is all black and white
02/09/2006 Nomar curses from the UL's Sullivan
02/02/2006 Super memories from 40 years of watching the big game
01/26/2006 A certain uniformity to the inquiries in the mailbag
01/19/2006 Sudden end to Pats' season leave just one thing to do
01/12/2006 Pats on the back for the football team
01/05/2006 Predictions for Manchester Sports 2031
A lesson for Leo the Lip and nice guys everywhere

Chop House opening is Berra of good news
Event-filled weekend missed en route to evil empire
Hero’s death lays to rest misuse of the word
Saint Theo ascends to new heights in The Nation
Santa sack filled to the brim with sports
Patriots march through injuries toward threepeat
Sports talk should be on the air
Stars shine brightest when winning is in the mix
The Demonization of Johnny Damon
Thirty-seven topics and so little space
Too many holes in Sox for repeat
Trip to the injured list makes it a long weekend for local scribe
Turkeys and giving thanks take center stage this week
Yanked from the edge of your seat