- - Thursday, March 22, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

ESPN, as part of its continuing business plan to appear irrelevant and clueless, has put together a list of the 20 most-dominant athletes that has five-time Super Bowl quarterback Tom Brady at the bottom — No. 20.

It’s another embarrassing use of numbers — “foolproof math” they call it — in the movement to quantify success with information instead of knowledge. Then again, the kids’ squad at ESPN — the ones who work much cheaper than the veteran reporters they have cut loose — have little real knowledge of some of these athletes. But they’ve got numbers, lots of numbers, and apparently, they add up to Brady being last on ESPN’s list.

Of course, there are only two NFL players on the list. Peyton Manning is the other, and he is at No. 3. Talk about inflated footballs.

It’s a list that includes athletes who have been dominant in their field – Tiger Woods is No. 1, followed by LeBron James. Golfer Annika Sorenstam is sixth, sprinter Usain Bolt is 11th — but no Michael Phelps on the list. Apparently, 28 Olympic medals over the past 20 years is too difficult to compute.

The list has Michael Schumacher at seven. For those of you who may not know who Michael Schumacher is, he is the dominant Formula One racer of the past 20 years. I’m sure the five of you who have seen a Formula One race are impressed.

I get the international inclusion — Formula One is one of the more popular sports in Canada, Europe and other parts of the world — so then why not Jacques Kallis? He is considered one of the greatest cricket players of all time, with a career from 1995 to 2013. After all, cricket is considered the second-most popular sport in the world.

And no mixed martial arts fighters? No Fedor Emelianenko? Anderson Silva? Georges St-Pierre? Yet the list includes Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao?

As is typical with ESPN, the international pretense of inclusion is somewhat disingenuous.

The list includes two baseball players – Barry Bonds and Mike Trout — but not one pitcher, and, if we are being honest, no player, save for quarterback, on a team sport dominates it like a pitcher does. Pedro Martinez certainly was more dominant within his sport, as was a number of other pitchers — certainly more than the short sample size of Trout (this, of course, is the geek’s revenge over Miguel Cabrera’s MVP award over Trout in 2012).

Here is ESPN’s list, in order of alleged dominance: Tiger Woods, LeBron James, Peyton Manning, NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson, tennis ace Roger Federer, golfer Annika Sorenstam, Formula One’s Michael Schumacher, boxer Floyd Mayweather, women’s soccer star Marta, sprinter Usain Bolt, soccer’s Lionel Messi, tennis’ Serena Williams, the WNBA’s Lauren Jackson, soccer’s Cristiano Ronaldo, tennis’s Novak Djokovic, track’s Allyson Felix, MLB’s Barry Bonds and Mike Trout, boxer Manny Pacquiao and Brady.

What would a similar local list look like?

First question might be — how low would you have to go to list 20 Washington area dominant athletes over the last 20 years? We might have to lower our expectations a little bit — from 20 to perhaps 10 of the most dominant athletes here over the last 20 years — or we’ll wind up putting Nyjer Morgan on the list.

The first one should be easy — we just celebrated his 600th career goal.

Whatever Stanley Cup holes the Washington Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin may have in his resume, he has been the most dominant athlete in Washington over the last two decades, transforming every game at the now Capital One Arena into a hockey event. Even if hockey still ranks behind football, baseball and basketball in the pecking order, Ovechkin has raised the interest in the game here, and, with his three Hart trophies as the NHL Most Valuable Player and a trophy case full of other individual awards. He ranks with Walter Johnson and Sammy Baugh among the greatest athletes that have competed in this area.

Next — you have to acknowledge the dominance of Katie Ledecky, the star swimmer who has won five Olympic gold medals and is a 14-time world champion. She holds numerous world records. She is one of the most dominant American Olympic athletes of our time.

Also on the list is a newcomer — Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer. With two Cy Young Awards and two no-hitters in the three years he has been here, Scherzer has become the athlete that you are most likely willing to pay to see, because the potential is there for history every time he steps on the mound.

After that, it gets a little dicey. The Wizards’ John Wall is in, but then so is Gilbert Arenas, the team’s clown prince who packed the Verizon Center from 2003 through 2009 and then destroyed the franchise by bringing a gun into the locker room — just one in a string of bizarre incidents. The franchise still hasn’t recovered.

The Redskins? OK, we’ll get to them. I guess we have to. But it’s complicated.

There was a debate recently between cornerback Champ Bailey and running back Clinton Portis over which team got the better of the trade of the two stars.

Denver, which got a perennial Pro-Bowler in Bailey, may have the edge in that argument, but you have to acknowledge the dominance of Portis, especially when compared to some of the other good-to-mediocre players who wore the uniform. In seven years here, Portis rushed for 6,824 yards and 46 touchdowns — including 1,516 yards in 2005 and 1,416 yards in 2008.

Now it gets a little weird. We are still stuck in the mire of the debate of the value of Kirk Cousins, even though he had three of the greatest record-setting seasons of any Redskins quarterback over the last 20 years — 81 touchdowns and 13,176 yards. So Cousins would have to be on the list.

But so would Robert Griffin III, perhaps ahead of Cousins. No one has ever seen a season like Griffin’s rookie year in 2012, when he threw for 20 touchdowns, just five interceptions, and 3,200 yards passing, while rushing for seven touchdowns and 815 yards, leading the Redskins to seven straight wins at the end of the year to win the NFC East.

He proceeded to torpedo the franchise after that, but there is no denying that when it comes to dominant over the last 20 years in Washington, few were more dominant than RG3 in 2012.

A dominant season puts Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper on the list. He may wind up being a Hall of Famer when his career is all said and done — wherever that may be — but in 2015 he put together one of the all-time seasons, with 118 runs scored, 38 doubles, 42 home runs, 99 RBI, and a .330 average. He was named National League MVP, and since no Washington baseball player since Johnson in 1924 won a version of that honor, Harper makes the 20-year dominant list of top 10 players.

Rounding out the list — former Capitals goalie Olie Kolzig, who, before Ovechkin arrived, was the face of the franchise and the only recognizable player on the team. He played 14 seasons for Washington and was a dominant goaltender, a Vezina Trophy winner in 2002 and the driving force behind the Capitals only Stanley Cup finals appearance in 1998.

The next 10 to fill out a top 20 list? Good luck with that.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays, find it on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.


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