Behold! Some of the slowest, most porcine, molasses-esque professional human athletes in existence! Yes, step right up and gape in horror at a list comprised of some of the most unathletic paid athletes the world has ever seen. Seethe with rage at the knowledge that some of these people earned millions of dollars despite having the ridiculous handicap of being from a Big Ten state, rendering their skills and talent completely moot.
What kind of sports do they even play in the Midwest anyway? Can I really in good conscience cobble together a 1600ish word post comprised of nothing but bowling pros?
Well... yeah. I could. I totally could. And I wanted to. But, seeing as how I like my apartment in its current non-firebombed form, I decided to take this at least semi-seriously. Still, we've only got a few more of these before football season kicks in and we have to say goodbye to completely arbitrary lists pulled out of my ass three hours before the publishing deadline, so I'm going to have to be at least a LITTLE trolly before we call it a wrap. Just repeat to yourself "it's just a list, I should really just relax."
Anyway: athletes! Kick a ball, run real fast, high five your mom, dope your blood, cheat on your spouse, get involved in a pyramid scheme, be last seen in the Bitterroot mountains in 2004. Woah that got dark quickly. Luckily no one this list was ever involved in any such shenanigans, ever. EVER!
11. Minnesota – Dave Winfield
The very nature of this list makes it pretty dumb. I mean, I'm trying to rank athletes from a ridiculous variety of sports, time periods, and backgrounds. Dave Winfield is a freaking Hall of Famer. In no way can anyone objectively say that he's a crappier athlete than anyone else on this list.
But on the other hand, he totally is. Dave Winfield is in the Hall of Fame because he was a good player for 22 seasons. Emphasis on good, and note lack of modifiers like "very," "really," or "incredibly." Basically people just agreed that dudes in the 3000 hit club have a get in free pass to the HoF, ignoring the fact that Winfield didn't hit for power, only batted over .300 four times in a multi-decade career, struck out more than he walked, and never once had an on base percentage over .400.
Still, Hall of Fame, iconic 70s player blah blah blah congrats.
10. Indiana – Larry Bird
Okay, let's be real here: on one level I love Larry Bird. If you took the most ridiculous looking whitebread Midwestern dude ever and somehow gave him the powers of one of the top 10 basketball players of all time, and THEN said that if he ever stopped looking awkward and goofy as hell for even one second he'd lose those powers, you would have Larry Bird.
On another level, I hate Larry Bird. Because I too am awkward and goofy looking, and yet I was not bestowed with even a hundredth the athletic prowess that he had. As a little goofy kid, teammates, coaches, whoever, would try to encourage me by saying that I could somehow overcome inherent gangliness and become great at sports. LIES, LARRY! ALL LIES!
9. Illinois – Dick Butkus
Butkus is probably one of the few elite players from the 1960s and 70s who could translate to today's NFL. At 6 foot 3 and 245 pounds, he was every bit the prototypical linebacker that you'd see today. One of my favorite facts about the dude is that he made the NFL's All-Decade team for the 70s despite retiring in 1973.
Also the Beastie Boys shouted him out once, so there's that. And who wants to be the king Ad-Whammy, anyway?
8. Iowa – Dan Gable
If you care about wrestling, even a tiny bit, you probably know who this dude is. 181-1 record as a wrestler at Iowa State, Olympic gold medalist, legendary coach at Iowa, basically the biggest BAMF in US wrestling history. Don't give me that Rulon Gardner crap, yes he beat Karelin but he also lost a bunch of his toes to frostbite because he was an idiot.
Gable presumably has all of his toes, which are attached to his foot, which he will presumably use to kick the crap out of the IOC if they don't keep wrestling in the Olympics.
7. Wisconsin – Eddie Idzikowski
One of the greatest bowlers in Milwaukee history, Eddie Idzikowski maintained a 188 average over the course of 26 bowling tournaments during the 1950s and 60s. He was inducted into the Milwaukee Bowling Hall of Fame in 1979 alongside such greats as Dick Goepel, Walt Janke, and of course Elmer Neeb.
Eddie Idzikowski remains an inspiration to bowlers in the greater Milwaukee area, even to this day.
6. Nebraska – Bob Gibson
Bob Gibson is probably one of the top 10 pitchers in MLB history, who also put together maybe the greatest individual pitching season in MLB history when he went 22-9 with a 1.12 ERA and a .853 WHIP in 1968. That season he also threw 13 shutouts and finished 28 complete games. I'm not making any of those numbers up, holy shit.
He was also legendary for being a huge asshole on the mound, which you should love. This is what Dusty Baker has to say about the dude:
"(Hank Aaron told me) 'Don't dig in against Bob Gibson, he'll knock you down. He'd knock down his own grandmother if she dared to challenge him. Don't stare at him, don't smile at him, don't talk to him. He doesn't like it. If you happen to hit a home run, don't run too slow, don't run too fast. If you happen to want to celebrate, get in the tunnel first. And if he hits you, don't charge the mound, because he's a Gold Glove boxer.' I'm like, 'Damn, what about my 17-game hitting streak?' That was the night it ended."
Later that night Gibson shot Baker's dog on his porch, right in front of him, and laughed while he did it. Then he struck out Baker's cat and goldfish on 6 straight pitches.
5. Michigan – Magic Johnson
The coolest kid on the playground. I admire the guy for a lot of reasons that have nothing to do with being an amazing basketball player. Dude has helped HIV/AIDS awareness, is an incredibly successful businessman, had the good sense to go to Michigan State instead of Michigan, and generally seems like an all around good guy. Also, I'll be honest: sometimes it's nice to see an athlete who genuinely enjoys the spotlight, and Magic did more than almost anybody and somehow managed to avoid being a douche about it.
4. New Jersey – Shaquille O'Neal
Not even gonna talk about basketball, let's just list everything else this dude does in his spare time:
- Got his doctorate in Education
- Made a Miami Beach reserve officer
- Released five horrible rap albums
- Starred in a couple of equally horrible movies
- Got taken to the rim by Aaron Carter
- Is a Freemason for some reason?
- Dated the 1st season winner of Flavor of Love
- One said "I'm Muslim, I'm Jewish, I'm Buddhist, I'm everybody 'cause I'm a people person."
- Two words: Shaq-Fu
Simply put, Shaq "MayorMcShaq" "Hobo Master" "The Big Aristotle" "Wilt Chamberneezy" "The Big Baryshnikov" "Manny Shaq-iaou" "Superman" O'Neal is one of the greatest Americans alive, and don't you forget it.
3. Pennsylvania – Joe Montana
Pennsylvania has about a billion incredible athletes, so I just went ahead and picked the one that everyone can generally agree is super freaking amazing and will hold up as possibly the best QB in NFL history.
But you know as well as I do that some small part of your brain wanted me to put Terrelle Pryor here.
2. Maryland – Babe Ruth
1. Ohio – LEBRON JAMES
Jesse Owens was born in Alabama. Cy Young played ball literally a hundred years ago. Pete Rose was pretty much just Dave Winfield times two. Jack Nicklaus actually probably should be here but I'm trying to make a point.
Look, Ohioans who still hold an inexplicable grudge against Lebron, it's time to let go of your hatred for this dude. He's undeniably the best basketball player on the planet. He's an unselfish dude, and has never even had a whiff of controversy surrounding his career, save for a two hour period in his life where he raised millions for charity. "Oh but he left us in our time of need, he stabbed us in the back, he's a traitor oh nooooo!"
Here's the thing: no one cares but you. Ohio State basketball players love him. His teammates love him. After his great example and leadership in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics, the world started to love him too.
I'm not saying that you have to love or even like the dude. But I just hope that sometime in the future we can let go of this petty and increasingly sad-looking hate, so that we can at least acknowledge that one of the greatest of all time is a Buckeye and one of our own. Because honestly we only have room for one petty hatred, and making fun of Michigan is a lot more fun than stewing in sour grapes.
Plus, you know, free agency is coming up. Gotta keep up appearances.
And that will do it for this week! We are so, so close to the start of football season, which means the time draws near for the end of this list. By my reckoning we have one more to go, and I'm going to try and make it a special one. See you next week.