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Volume 2, Number 11
December, 1997

Fun & Games
The Greatest of All Time...

By Dean Shutt

Hello and welcome again to Fun & Games. This month is going to be an exercise we've all done before. We are going to talk about the greatest of all time. Every major sport, every league, one (at the most two) player from each sport will be crowned King this month. I feel the need to explain the criteria of selection for moment. I am not talking about stats or talent or potential or any of that. I am talking about the guy who played the game better than anyone else. I am talking about the guy who, if aliens were to land tomorrow and asked how to play a sport, you would say "Go watch that guy."
The first sport we are going to cover is far and away the easiest to pick...Hockey. The selection here is aptly called 'The Great One', Wayne Gretzky. To all of you who right now are wondering "what about Mario or Gordie Howe or Bobby Orr?" Let me just say this, "Shut up moron." If you even for a moment have to wonder who the greatest player ever to wear skates is, then you know nothing about the game of hockey and I refuse to even talk to you. You all know that I am not much for stats as a measure of greatness in an athlete. However I feel the need to point out that Wayne Gretzky has more assists than the next closest player has TOTAL POINTS. That is akin to a baseball player having more singles than anyone else's hits. If you don't believe me, watch him play, don't even bother to watch tapes of him in his prime, just watch him today. At least once a game he will do things that no one else can do. The only difference between now and then is that now Gretzky is merely human, before he was consistently supernatural.
Our next sport is also a pretty easy pick, Basketball. I don't follow basketball much to be honest. I don't even have a favorite team. I have to go with Michael Jordan here, folks. I know that you can make a, convincing argument for Magic or Dr. J (they both have better nicknames, after all). When it all is over and done with though, Michael is the only guy that can simply decide "It's time to win the game now," and then go out and do it.
Now things get a bit murkier. Our next sport is Football. This is the only sport where you can't pick just one player. Our co-greatest of all time are Reggie White and Lynn Swann. I can hear you all howling already. "What about Jerry Rice?" you cry. I'm sorry but Jerry is a fabulous pass catching machine, but Swann caught anything near him and did it with a grace that lifted the entire game of football. What do stats mean compared to that? Reggie is a no-brainer on defense. Again, watch the man play. You can watch him decide that a drive has gone on long enough and simply stop it. If that doesn't do it for you, watch him throw a 320 pound offensive tackle a couple of yards downfield WITH ONE ARM and tell me who you would pick.
In baseball I don't think there is much argument either. Babe Ruth is really the only guy to talk about. The Babe absolutely dominated his sport when he played. Not only that, but his trade to Yankees has kept the Red Sox from winning a world series for nearly eighty years. You can talk about your pitchers or your hitters. The fact is, Babe hit for power, for average and he had several twenty game winning seasons AS A PITCHER. He completely and forever changed what was meant by a good season. He hit more home runs than most teams of his day. When Ken Griffey Jr. wins twenty games or Greg Maddux leads the league in homers (and average, by the way) you can consider anyone other than the Babe Ruth as the greatest of all time.
As an added bonus I am going to tell you the greatest boxer of all time as well. Mohammed Ali is in fact, The Greatest. Don't even talk to me about Mike Tyson. In his prime, Ali hands Tyson his head on a platter and I guarantee you that Mike doesn't get close enough to bite Ali's ear.
Well that's it, let the arguments begin. I'm sure you all have your own lists. I'm sure you all have valid arguments for your picks. Just keep one thing in mind while you these things endlessly in your local pub. You are wrong and I am right.
Dean's Favorite Teams
SJ Rhinos
This Space for Rent!

Red Sox
NY Rangers
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