Monday, January 30, 2012

Fun With Lists: Most Talented Sports Families

During my daily peregrinations through teh intertooooooobz, I came across this list of all-time great sports families, which I thought would amuse a buddy of mine at work. While I was in the process of laying out my own opinion of the choices for him, it occurred to me that they might also amuse my readers here (if any). So, without further ado...

A few thoughts of my own:
  • I object to the inclusion of fictional characters in this list, even if some of them were played by real-life hockey players.

  • I object to the inclusion of professional wrestlers… oh, wait, I already objected to the inclusion of fictional characters, didn’t I?

  • If we are going to have professional wrestlers, where are the Von Erichs? The Funks? Hell, where’s the McMahon family? (Don’t ask me how I knew about all those folks!)

  • I object to the inclusion of racehorses on this list, not for the usual “they’re not human, so it’s unfair to compare them to human athletes” reason that’s usually given for griping about horses on these sorts of lists (valid though that is), but because horse racing is all about bloodlines, so the whole notion of a “talented family” is kind of moot: With very few exceptions, every champion racehorse is part of a “talented family.”

  • If we are going to have racehorses, where’s the Man ‘o War/War Admiral/Affirmed lineage?

  • I object to the presence of MMA fighters: Human cockfighting… er, I mean MMA… is not a sport.

  • Including the Yao family is kind of a cheat: We only know about them because Yao Ming was an NBA star; how many other families in China… or all over the world… would also be on this list if it weren’t U.S.-centric. No doubt there’s some 5- or 6-generation family of cricketers who would be No. 1 on this list with a bullet, if only anyone in ‘Murrica had ever heard of them. I don’t object to the U.S. centrism, but it makes the Yaos a poor choice for inclusion, since only one of them has any presence in U.S. sports. (The Bulgarian soccer goalies probably don’t belong, either.)

  • Bob and Mike Bryan probably belong on the list, and Venus and Serena Williams certainly do, but where are John and Patrick McEnroe? John may be mostly remembered for his mercurial singles play and his volcanic temper, but he was also arguably the greatest doubles player of his era (and one of the greatest of all time), winning 9 Grand Slam titles in men's doubles and one in mixed doubles, and he was also possibly the greatest American Davis Cup player. Patrick was much less successful as a player (though he did win a Grand Slam title in doubles), but he's been a major contributor to tennis as a team captain (Davis Cup for 10 years, and the 2004 Olympics), a team owner (World Team Tennis), and a TV commentator/analyst.

  • How cool is the name Ignatius Gronkowski (great grandfather of Rob and his brothers)? And how cool is it that he was an Olympic cyclist in 1924 (aka the Chariots of Fire games)?

  • Leon Spinks has a grandson who’s a boxer? Dog, I feel old now!

  • Who knew that Jackie Robinson’s brother finished second to Jesse Owens in the Olympic 200m? Cool, eh?

  • Muhammad and Laila Ali? SRSLY? Muhammad Ali by himself belongs near the top of anyone’s list of all-time athletes, but are we really taking women’s boxing seriously enough for this to count as a top-ten sports family?1

  • I actually saw the three Howes play together for the Houston Aeros (the old WHA ones, not the current minor-league ones).

  • I know there’s not much space above No. 5, but shouldn’t the Andrettis be higher on this list?

  • No. 2 is a pair of identical-twin lacrosse players? Lacrosse?? I don’t care if they are the greatest players in the sport’s history… it’s frickin’ lacrosse. Yeah, Jim Brown yadda, yadda… it’s LACROSSE! Wilt Chamberlain played volleyball; that didn’t get a pair of volleyball twins on the list, never mind at No. 2! Dump these guys and move the Andrettis to their spot.

1 Anyone tempted to read this as me dissing women's sports would be wrong; this is me dissing boxing. I only just barely take men's boxing seriously, and only then because its long history means it's "grandfathered in." Starting up a whole new branch of the sport in the late 20th century was just silly... and the more we learn about the effects of head trauma in sports, the sillier it seems.

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