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By Laurence J. Sasso, Jr.
The incredible Super Bowl comeback victory of the New England Patriots over the Atlanta Falcons stirred New England fans and football aficionados everywhere to say it was the best football game ever played. Also, there is widespread opinion, at least in this part of the country that Tom Brady is the best quarterback ever, and ditto about Bill Belichick being the best coach ever.
No matter how obvious it might seem to some of us, inevitably there will be a debate. That’s what we do when someone declares that anything is “the best.” We argue about it. We offer evidence pro and con, and we spend stormy nights culling through Google seeking support for our point of view.
So, why not offer a few of our own all-time bests?
To begin with let’s address the question of that iconic game on Feb. 5. From this perspective, the Patriots’ Super Bowl win sure does look like the best professional football championship game ever played, even if we haven’t seen a large enough sample to speak with true authority. No one has seen every such game, so the debate eventually boils down to gut feelings garnished with stats. To us, though, it is the best!
How about the best World Series game? There are a lot of candidates, of course. New York Yankee pitcher Don Larsen hurled a perfect game against the Brooklyn Dodgers in game 5 of the 1956 World Series. Also, some people rate the Minnesota Twins’ victory over the Atlanta Braves in the 1991 World Series as the greatest series ever played, with five of the seven games being gritty battles decided by one run and three games going into extra innings.
Game 7 was a thriller in which WS MVP Jack Morris pitched a complete game, 1-0 ten-inning shutout to clinch the championship for Minnesota. However, for best single World Series game, the verdict must go to the Boston Red Sox game six, 12 inning heart-stopping win over the Cincinnati Reds in 1975. Who will ever forget Sox catcher Carlton “Pudge” Fisk’s iconic game-winning home run off the left-field foul pole? But even more memorable are the twists and turns (such as Bernie Carbo’s thrilling pinch hit home run) that combine to make the entire game a pulse-pounding contest that will not fade away.
Now let’s move from sports to a larger sphere. Who is the best president of the United States? Abraham Lincoln would get a lot of votes. He led the nation through the tragic years of the Civil War, ended slavery and preserved the union. Franklin Delano Roosevelt merits plenty of consideration too. He steered the country toward economic recovery during the Great Depression, directed the United States’ inspiring triumph (at great cost) in World War II, set the stage for the establishment of the United Nations, and was the architect for the emergence of the USA as a world power. Yet, from this vantage point, let’s go back to first causes. George Washington gets the nod.
The father of our country, in fact as well as in fancy, George Washington must be credited for establishing the principles that still guide our definition of the office of the presidency. He initiated the custom of limiting the presidential time in office to two four-year terms (which prevailed until Franklin Roosevelt broke with precedent, ran four times and was elected each time). The 22nd amendment to the Constitution which passed in 1951 in response to Roosevelt’s departure from custom, codified into law a two-term limit.
George Washington also set in place the cabinet system and declined to use the title “Your Majesty,” choosing instead Mr. President, a significant standard in a democracy such as ours, and even though he wore a wig, his hairstyle is preferable to some we have since seen in the White House.
Let’s conclude with one from the arts. Who is the best operatic tenor ever? In this view, there can be only one: Luciano Pavarotti. Possessed of a mind-boggling range, Pavarotti also had amazing timbre and texture in his voice, able to add coloration and grace to passages other tenors, happy just to hit the high notes at all, must have felt great envy for. While they might struggle like climbers scaling Everest above the oxygen line, Pavarotti soars past them still climbing when he hits the summit, still capable of more. For a sample of his immense talent check out “Mes Amis” from Donizetti’s Daughter of the Regiment. The great Pavarotti hits nine high C’s in a row in the famous tenor-killing aria. It earned him the title King of the High C’s from critics. Yet, he could sing “Ave Maria” or “O Holy Night” with such emotion and warmth it brings tears to your eyes. Yes, he’s the best!
This could go on and on, but we’ll leave such titles as the best WWE wrestler and all-time greatest lip sync contestant to the realm of fake entertainment. There’s too much fake news out there as it is.