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Twenty for Twenty

The 20 Greatest Acts of Sport Since 1992
Ken Shouler
From the Print Edition:
Jeremy Irons, March/April 2013

(continued from page 6)

Pittsburgh triumphed again in 2008, as Santonio Holmes recorded a postseason for the ages. Against San Diego he returned a punt for 67 yards and a touchdown. The Ravens were victims next, and Holmes hauled in a 65-yarder from Ben Roethlisberger. He saved his best for the Cardinals.

With 2:47 remaining, the Steelers started on the 12, and Holmes caught passes of 12, 13, and 40 yards. With :42 left, he hauled in a laser and tapped both feet in the corner of the end zone for a 27-21 win. Pittsburgh (now “Six-Burgh”) owns a record six Super Bowl wins. The greatest ever? They aren’t. Around since 1933, Pittsburgh was titleless over their first 41 years. Green Bay owns 13 titles—the Bears nine, the Browns and the Giants eight apiece.

18. Rangers
A Streak Ended

It wasn’t merely 53 years without winning. This wasn’t ordinary futility; this was existential futility—futility so galling that Sisyphus would run from it. Just years after their third cup in 1940, the Rangers plummeted to the abyss. They lost one mid-1940s game 15–0. One Ranger goalie was so permeable that he registered a 6.20 goals-against-average.

The Islanders, the babies who entered the league in 1972, not only stole their Manhattan uncle’s lunch over the next decade, but ate it right in front of them. It started with an upset of the Rangers in the 1975 playoffs and ended with the Islanders snatching four consecutive Stanley Cups from 1980 through 1983, evicting the Rangers three times in the process.

Even with Messier, the Blue Shirts finished sixth in 1993. But with Richter between the pipes—and a team best 112 points, a franchise record 52 goals by Adam Graves and stellar defense from Conn Smythe winner Brian Leetch—the Rangers came through. Messier’s victory guarantee against the Devils in game six lives on in sporting lore. The parade and the countless “I can now die in peace” sentiments that followed shook our still unharmed city.

19. Messi v. Ronaldo
Who Rules?

Since Lionel Messi plays for Barcelona and Cristiano Ronaldo leads Madrid, a competition between the two squads often leads to a Mantle-versus-Mays-style debate about which player is the best. Nicknamed La Pulga Atomica (“The Atomic Flea”) because of his diminutive 5'7" stature (compared to Ronaldo at 6'1"), Messi was FIFA player of the year from 2009–2011. He topped out with 74 goals and 27 assists in 68 games for the 2011–2012 campaign.

By contrast, Ronaldo, a physically imposing winger, is more adept at finishing with the head than Messi, who produces most of his goals left-footed. Messi is the superior dribbler: the ball can appear glued to his feet, even while maneuvering in tight situations. His edge is his chemistry with Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta. Ronaldo has been criticized for going it alone. He may shoot from impossibly difficult angles and great distances, even when his mates are better situated to score. Who is best? Ronaldo says it is like “comparing a Ferrari with a Porsche.”

20. Farewell
Warriors Departing

Farewell to those passing from the scene over the last 20 years, including Wayne Gretzky and Joe Montana, Jerry Rice and Bird, Stockton and Malone, Johnson and Nolan Ryan, Lemieux and Ken Griffey Jr., Ripken Jr. and Maddux.


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