There is good news from the hinterlands: The Mount Rushmore of Sports meme is dead, and anyone who uses it from here on will be found guilty of cultural lameness, and forbidden to create new life forms until this blot on his or her resume is cleared.
Hey, don’t yell at me. This is America talking -- an entire nation sick to death of the idiotic construct that there is validity in naming the top four in any sport when no team sport has either a four-person lineup nor a four-person roster.
In other words, someone -- probably a television producer, on whose head there should be a sufficiently high bounty -- decided four was a nice, arbitrary number that made for a “cute” graphic. Wars have been fought over the idea of “cute” graphics trumping sensible thought, and people have died as a result. If television producers had souls, they would have been forfeited by now.
But we digress solely for the purpose of mocking television producers. Let us return to the point, which is that Mount Rushmore-as-sports-metaphor is just plain dumbassery that ran out of steam pretty quickly when people realized that four is too small a number for anything of sense.
This is what happens when you stop believing that people have the attention span capable to make an actual list that includes more traditional numbers -- like five (basketball), six (ice hockey), seven (quidditch), nine (baseball), 11 (football, cricket or soccer), 13 (rugby league), 15 (rugby union), 18 (Australian rules football) or in the immortal game invented by Mad Magazine, 43-Man Squamish, 43.
Oh, and a golf foursome doesn’t count, because the players are not actual teammates in any meaningful sense.
Our own standard, frankly, is the Sergeant Pepper Metric, in which a list of the best of anything goes 77 deep, to match each of the humans (or close to human figures) on the cover of The Beatles’ seminal 1967 album, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Why 77? Because only a certifiable, card-carrying, meeting-attending, fully vouched moron would argue about the exclusion of the 78th person, which dramatically cuts down on tavern arguments that end with someone taking 26 stitches due to a flying beer stein.
It also serves to reduce most arguments about what player is better than what other player to the puddle of drool it must be.
For instance, when you list the greatest players of all time, you are encompassing different eras, different positions and different conditions. Comparing such players may a nice way to kill some time with advanced math, but it settles nothing. Equipment has advanced, color lines have been broken, teams have been added, and eras have changed.
In other words, these arguments compare oranges and lamb chops, or Jimmy Fallon, a 39-year-old chat show host, and Flaco Jimenez, a 73-year-old Tejano accordionist.
That’s the next thing. All these arguments about “best of all time” immediately morph into “best I ever saw,” as though your specific life span should be the overarching metric -- an extraordinary level of conceit, when you think about it: “Nothing before I started paying attention matters” -- a staggering level of delusion by any measurement.
It allows lazy people not to do any research on those who predated them, or to claim loftily, “Well, I can’t know anything about a player I never saw.” Okay, then. Shut up with your myopic opinion. There. That’s easy enough.
And ultimately, all these “who’s better than who” things are just time-wasters anyway, and gull innocents like LeBron James into wondering when he can bump Oscar Robertson off some fictional rock face that he just put him on instead of, say Elgin Baylor, or Jerry West, or George Mikan, or Gus Johnson -- just to name four great players he probably never saw.
Fortunately, the Internet multiverse has already wearied of the Mount Rushmore dynamic as the epic silliness it is. The dynamic is being mocked hither and yon, and like it or no, that’s how shelf lives are now determined -- as soon as enough shrieking popinjays on Twitter say, “Enough,” enough it eventually is.
Now, if you’ll all gather and prepare briefs for your first new assignment -- Which NBA Players Belong On The Sergeant Pepper Album -- we can make a real advancement in the cause of sports debate in this nation.
Or better yet, we can reduce it to more meaningful topics, like “How many millions should be taken from Roger Goodell just on general principle?” or “If your favorite team signed Richie Incognito, how quickly would you get rid of your season tickets, burn your jerseys and take up 43-man squamish?”