Our Favorite Feats
They astonished us by going where no athlete had gone before, boldly surmounting the hurdles, both literal and metaphorical
Posted: Tuesday December 21, 1999 11:20 AM
By Richard Hoffer
We now wind up a year of millennial list-making by looking at our favorite individual feats. Once more, you may find it impossible to guess what we were thinking (or smoking). Johnny Vander Meer's back-to-back no-hitters, but not Don Larsen's perfect game? Exasperating, isn't it? (Judging from our mail, it's been a little more than that for some of you.) Greg LeMond's comeback in the Tour de France, but not Lance Armstrong's? (Infuriating is more like it.) You've put up with a lot from us this past year, absorbing one list after another, barely able to shake off one bit of monumental nonsense before another is delivered: Hogan's 1953 U.S. Open win, but not Tiger's triumph in the '97 Masters? (You've about had it, right?)
So, at the risk of more angry letters, we feel compelled to state once again our guiding principle, and principal defense: that this business of sports is acutely personal. Surprisingly so, considering the extreme measures we have taken to give our games an aura of objectivity. We have stopwatches, tape measures, instant replays, yardage markers, punch-stats and an ever-swelling army of fanatics churning out statistics of such mathematical refinement as to render all argument futile. Yet, we still don't agree on much.
Apparently sports are far more complicated than we thought. In our minds, though, Roger Bannister's four-minute mile is the kind of achievement that deserves a millennial endorsement. And you, having been ringside at the Hearns-Hagler firestorm during which nobody remembered to breathe for eight full minutes, yawn at our refinement. Neither event can ever be replicated. Nor, as we've learned over the past year, universally appreciated.
But let's not argue. Let's agree that certain events -- not merely athletic milestones, but also exultant displays of spirit and work and (yes) luck -- have established the outer boundaries of human achievement. It doesn't get any better than this. It won't get any better than this. It can't.
Anyway, we've got a fresh new millennium coming up, and if we can just work together a little more closely this time (and keep in mind just how personal games are), we will surely find something we can agree upon. For example -- and this might be a good starting point for our 3K list -- is anybody ever going to hit safely in 57 straight games? Not in a thousand years.
Issue date: December 27, 1999
Copyright © 1999 CNN/SI. A Time Warner Company.
Read our privacy guidelines.