One of the signal pursuits on the baseball side of SB Nation — and it’s one I endorse all the way, despite/because of how subjective and fundamentally impossible it is — is determining which player is “The Most [Team Name Goes Here] Of All Time.” This sort of arbitrary thing-ranking is a very (the most?) sports internet thing to do, of course. What elevates SB’s efforts in this area above the hilariously windy, dead-serious list-maintenance at Grantland or the endless, brainless inna-slideshow-stylee ranking of the universally loathed Bleacher Report is that 1) SB Nation, unlike the gasbaggy tryhards at Grantland or the wince-induction specialists at B/R, is that SB’s actually mining some intentional (if very specific) comedy, and has savvy, funny enough writers to pull it off and 2) that everyone involved actually takes the pseudoscientific endeavor seriously in the right way. (The same was true of the much more serious ’90s First Baseman Week project at Pitchers and Poets) It makes a difference, although taking yourself less seriously than Grantland or quality control more seriously than Bleacher Report aren’t really huge accomplishments.
And while the whole endeavor is admittedly kind of a joke — the (great) Jon Bois’s methodology in determining the Most Expansion Team Player of All-Time, for instance, is not something that’s going to wind up in a peer-reviewed journal — there’s also something about it that resonates when the question concerns a team you care about. I was a part of Bois’s Twitter survey of various Mets-fan types on the Most Mets Player of All-Time (I somehow got quoted endorsing Charlie Puleo, who seemed like a reasonable-enough pick for the pre-Keith Hernandez team), but that wasn’t the first time I’d considered the question — at the risk of it sounding like bragging, I do have some friends, and they are dork enough to go over the specific ratio of likability-to-loathability-to-ineptitude-to-inspirational-attributes that it takes to comprise The Ur-Met. (It is Butch Huskey, by the way)
In an essay at SB Nation Atlanta, Jason Kirk tackles the question of whether Deion Sanders is The Most Atlanta Athlete on record that gets at the best (and funniest) aspects of SB Nation’s official question. It’s pretty good on the intermittently beloved and consistently hilarious Prime Time, too, but it’s best at examining the two-way transference and multi-level projection of identity, personality and performance between players and fans, and about the complicated/ridiculous depth of the relationships that creates. “Whatever Atlanta is, drawing a dollar sign in the dirt on Yankee Stadium’s home plate is … I mean, that’s too Atlanta for words,” Kirk writes. “Kinda think having a rap career managed by Evander Holyfield tops even that, though. Let’s move on.” He does, and it’s good stuff:
If we’re talking the most Georgia athlete ever, the discussion beyond Herschel Walker would probably center around Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Chipper Jones and Jessie Tuggle.
Deion wouldn’t qualify for the finals in that conversation. Turning down a scholarship offer from Vince Dooley isn’t Georgia at all — doing so over redshirting is so very Atlanta. Though he’s country — his favorite meal is Golden Corral, his only arrest was for fishing on private property, I say again he was friends with Travis Tritt, and he used to set up rasslin’ matches in Atlanta’s locker room — he’s still big city.
Big, black, southern city that’s obsessed with football, has bizarre and complicated sporting allegiances, attends church and the club with equal measure, cannot simply go to a baseball game without mocking the other team via threats of scalping, will never stop surprising you and will never stop telling you how great it is.