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Guilty as charged

"You Gotta Be Kidding!" by Mickey Charles
CEO, sportsnetwork.com

Huntingdon Valley, PA - It all began innocently enough over the years. Everyone rushing to judgment on who is number one in every category known to the civilized world and some that we are still trying to figure out. Soon, it spread throughout the land and silver screens of the TV sets like a malaise. Over the past few decades we graduated from four major bowl games to one or more a day between the last day of the college football season right up to New Year's Day and a convoluted method of determining who is number one (Bowl Championship Series) despite how many fingers are pointed skyward after every touchdown. The Academy Awards were joined by everything from the People's Choice to rock, country & western, soap operas, Emmys, Tonys, Espys, Grammys, American Music Awards, comedy, MTV, Billboard's top songs, adult video conventions and trophies, and endlessly on.

Then there were the all good-looking teams, all ugly, all defense, all offense, all old, all young, all tough guy, Madden, Simms, Long, Bradshaw, Look All American, Playboy, Walter Camp, NBA Top 50 of the Century, ESPN top 100 athletes of the universe since the Garden of Eden, ESPN athlete of the century, all NBA team, all baseball team, all football team of all time. The intergalactic presentations are being planned now for the year 2001.

Most are voted on by people who never witnessed the nominees in action. Can Michael Jordan, easily the best that ever graced a basketball court, be compared as an athlete, say, to Jim Thorpe? How many home runs would Ruth have hit today? Might Walter Johnson have been a 40-game winner? Could Walter Payton or Jim Brown have racked up an extra few 1,000 yards or so with some of the offensive lines of today? Is Tiger Woods really as good as Sarazen, Snead, Jones, Nicklaus or Palmer in their respective primes and do you weigh talents by what they did with what they had or by what they might do if they had what the other guy(s) have today?

Walter Payton
Payton lost his battle with cancer earlier this year

Gross box office receipts rank movies and everyone forgets that $7.50 per ticket in 1999 and heading into the Millennium is the equivalent of 30 people going to see "Gone With the Wind" in 1939 when it was a quarter. Got that? Maybe this is easier - $ .25.

Did you ever really see Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra when she was young, Marilyn Monroe, Rita Hayworth, Sophia Loren, Brigitte Bardot, Ava Gardner or Cyd Charisse? How many people voting on the best of this or that in the cinematic universe ever watched Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud, Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, Burt Lancaster, Gregory Peck and John Wayne in their prime? Does anyone dance as well as Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire today?

So, while I am criticizing, castigating, condemning, questioning and doubting all of these self-serving polls our web site content coordinator, Kevin, decides that there are more bona fide experts among our dozens and dozens of writers, editors and field journalists worldwide than exist at any network or magazine concocting these fanciful opinionated without real basis body counts to amass a sampling and census of the best ever. It almost erupts into a food fight at our annual Xmas party when a baseball outfield starts with Williams, Mays, Mantle, Musial and DiMaggio and boils over into Ruth, Griffey, Clemente, Robinson (Frank), Bonds, and Aaron.

Can you just read up on stats or look at old photos? What about each person's contribution to the human race beyond posting in the record books? Would the tenacity, fearlessness and force of Marciano been more than Ali found waiting for him as he tore through boxing? What would you have paid to see him fight Joe Louis, both in their primes? Do we hold Ali's refusal to go to war against him when equating his status as athlete of the century? Michael Jordan playing baseball was more punitive and being let out to pasture until the din of his folly with gambling died down than it was his ability to play the game. As for golf and his talents with a five iron, we will not dignify that with any comparisons to those on the Tour. But, between the hoops, none better.

Pete Rose
Despite his accomplishments, Rose remains banned from the game

What shall we use as a voting barometer? What did our own staff determine to be the definitive and conclusive ingredient that would garner a vote for one person over the other? Pete Rose is on the list for what he did on the diamond and not for the embarrassment he caused for himself, the sport that made his name a household term and the teammates that defended him to the very end when he was banished into the ozone. On the other hand, Jackie Robinson was left out because of the absence of his name in the record books and absent the consideration and acclamation due him for walking onto the field in a Brooklyn Dodgers uniform to break baseball's unspoken agreement barring blacks in 1947. That step changed the landscape of the then national pastime, and most of American sports in general, forever. What would Satchel Paige have accomplished if he were ever allowed to pitch in the Big Leagues when he was young?

Robinson, Paige and lots of others, black, white, and polka dot, belong for what they did off the field as much as for what they did on it?perhaps more so.

We can cast votes into the next Millennium and beyond and, with each passing year, the list of the new group of talent that enters the arena(s), assisted by hi tech equipment coupled with hi tech bodies, will grow and grow and grow. Like Topsy out of control. Another Michael Jordan will come along, as Tiger Woods has on the greens and fairways. A Nicklaus will pick up a putter. A Larry Bird will rise out of the peach basket roads of the Midwest and there is a Walter Payton look-alike coming out of some womb any day now. The Mark McGwire of 2020 will be given a small baseball bat tonight or tomorrow with a glove purchased by his Dad at Toys 'R Us. A future Billie Jean King is hitting tennis balls in Fort Lauderdale right now.

And we at The Sports Network, thanks to Kevin, are right in the middle of the fray, matching our experts against those of the rest of the world. Do we think we know more than anyone else? You gotta be kidding! Guilty as charged.