3) Beamon's 29'2½" long jump. It has been fashionable to demean Beamon's record (the exercise is called "demeanin'beamon"), primarily because he set it in the thin air of Mexico City—with a strong tail wind to boot—but also because he never approached it again. In fact, Beamon never again jumped 28 feet. By any measure except this one, Carl Lewis is clearly the superior jumper.
But I don't want to start playing demeanin'beamon. The reason I rank his achievement only third—and below that of a horse—is that the record will fall one of these days, as all track records do. Lewis, 28, has jumped 28'10¼" and might still have a superjump left in him; so might Robert Emmiyan of the Soviet Union, whose 29'1" jump in May 1987 is the second-longest in history.
Still, we should look back at Beamon's jump with admiration. In a sport in which records are usually broken by increments of tenths and sometimes hundredths of an inch, Beamon leapt almost two feet beyond the existing world standard (Igor Ter-Ovanesyan's and Ralph Boston's 27'4¾")—a 6.6% improvement. It might be the clearest instance of adrenaline-driven over-achievement that the sports world has ever seen.
4) Los Angeles Ram quarterback Norm Van Brocklin's 554-yard passing game against the New York Yanks on Sept. 28, 1951. I owe Golden and Wasil for recognizing this one, which in their ranking of "great" but not necessarily unassailable sports records comes in second, behind Chamberlain's 100-point game. I don't agree that it should be ranked so high. For one thing, Miami Dolphin quarterback Dan Marino came within 33 yards of the mark on Oct. 23, 1988. And there is the possibility that on some future Sunday afternoon Randall Cunningham, John Elway or some other strong-armed quarterback will get that many yards.
But that's only a possibility. The record has stood for 38 seasons—Golden and Wasil consider duration the most important criterion of a "good" record—and it was certainly no fluke. The Dutchman was that good.
5) Mary T. Meagher's 2:05.96 in the 200-meter butterfly in 1981. It might be folly to suggest that any swimming record is unbeatable, but Meagher's time is so phenomenal that it might stay on the books for a long while. No other woman has broken 2:07, and most 200-fly winners don't even come close to that. The gold medal-winning time of East Germany's Kathleen Nord in the 1988 Olympics was 2:09.51. One men's swimming record, Vladimir Salnikov's 14:54.76 in the 1,500-meter freestyle in 1983, approaches Meagher's mark in longevity, but last month an Australian, Glen Housman, swam the distance in 14:53.59, according to a handheld (and thus unofficial) timer.
6) Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton's 275-yard rushing game against Minnesota on Nov. 20, 1977. The record only slightly surpasses O.J. Simpson's 273 yards against Detroit on Nov. 25, 1976, and, clearly, there are running backs with the talent to exceed 275, Eric Dickerson foremost among them. If the record is broken, it will be because a certain team needs its running back to gain that many yards in a certain game. That was the case with the Bears, who on this record-breaking afternoon gave the ball to Payton 40 times in a hard-fought 10-7 win over the Vikings.
7) Tom Dempsey's 63-yard field goal on Nov. 8, 1970. Teams rarely attempt such long field goals anymore because of a 1974 rules change that gives the opposition the ball at the line of scrimmage, rather than the 20-yard line, after a missed field goal. (Nevertheless, Miami Dolphins kicker Pete Stoyanovich tried and made a 59-yard field goal only last Nov. 12.) And Dempsey's record kick is, after all, three yards longer than the next-longest, Steve Cox's 60-yarder for Cleveland on Oct. 21, 1984. But how worthy is it? Many football people hate the record because Dempsey, on balance, was not a great kicker. "He was horrible," says Minnesota placekicker Rich Karlis. Well, no, Rich, he wasn't horrible. And Dempsey set the mark on natural turf, before a national television audience, under pressure: The kick gave his New Orleans Saints a 19-17 victory over the Detroit Lions. It belongs.
8) The Chicago Bears' 73-point margin of victory over the Washington Redskins in the 1940 NFL championship game. I question the significance of one-sided games, but I include this record because the 73-0 score is ingrained in America's collective sports consciousness. And it was a championship game, and the result did reverse the outcome of a regular-season meeting three weeks earlier, in which the Redskins had beaten the Bears 7-3. Such a rout in such a big game will never happen again. The 23-year history of the Super Bowl has produced relatively few close games, yet the widest margin of victory is 36 points, which occurred in 1986 when Chicago, of all teams, beat New England 46-10.
9) Jim Bottomley's 12-RBI game for St. Louis at Brooklyn's Ebbets Field on Sept. 16, 1924. There's no reason why this record should be unassailable, but it has survived for more than 65 years. Intentional walks and late-inning relief specialists might have had something to do with it. Only one contemporary player, San Diego's Fred Lynn, has come close to Bottomley's mark: Playing for the Red Sox on June 18, 1975, he had 10 RBIs against the Detroit Tigers. The Yankees' Tony Lazzeri came closest to "Sunny Jim's" record with 11 ribbies on May 24, 1936.