The Home Team / Playing the rankings game
Who doesn't love "top-whatever" lists?
There's not a film fan alive who can resist reading those year-end "Top 10 Movies" rankings. Whenever SportsCenter's Top 10 Plays come on, every member of the Herman family drops whatever he or she is doing (in the case of a certain member under the age of 20, that's often not much) to watch. And this past Monday, the same could be said for David Letterman's Top Ten List, which was the "Top Ten Facts About the All-Star Game" -- presented on-screen by 10 different members of this year's American League All-Star team. (My favorite was No. 10 from Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander: "This year, they've added an extra base.")
And who among us, if you're a Westport parent of a child between the ages of 8 and 18, doesn't know the U.S. News & World Report''s rankings of the "Best Colleges" -- by heart?
I dipped my feet into the rankings game last December with my column "Climbing the Polls" (December 16, 2011), when I revealed that my family plays a fun but somewhat twisted game in which we rank -- and re-rank every so often, after random acts of colossal stupidity -- all the family members in order of intelligence. (Luke, one of Robby's good friends, enjoyed hearing about this game so much that he now does periodic rankings of his own family. Mike and Debbie, I'd reveal these rankings to you, but then I'd have to kill you.)
My big leap, however, came with my June 1 column, "The Making of the Top 100," in which I unveiled my 100 favorite rock and roll songs of all time. The reaction came fast and furious, and it wasn't always pretty. So much "What about Led Zeppelin?" and "How could you have five songs from the Stones and only one from the Beatles?" was thrown at me that I used my most recent column, "You Can't Please All the People . . ." for explication and rejoinders.
And all this time, unbeknownst to me, my oldest son Matt and his girlfriend have been playing their own rankings game, as well. Whenever the spirit moves them, or whenever they find a few spare minutes on their hands, they'll toss out a category and compile their rankings. The "universe" from which their results are drawn is typically not huge: The largest sample size they've used has been seven, and usually the only people polled are the two of them.
Still, I find some of the results quite intriguing -- not to mention the categories they've chosen to rank. For example, of the nine surveys to which I've been privy, no fewer than four have had to do with food. Within this realm, I was both surprised and disappointed to see "Caprese Salad" come in dead last among the eight appetizers ranked. They should have polled me on this one: I order Caprese Salad any time it pops up on a menu. I was also baffled to find peanuts in a tie for sixth among the eight varieties of nuts considered. Anyone remember the American pastime? Take Me Out To the Ballgame? I mean, it's not "Buy me some pistachios and Crackerjacks," is it? And cherries -- No. 17 out of 17 fruits in the running? Are you kidding me? This upset was explained, to some degree, by the footnote supplied by the pollsters: "Keep in mind this was ranked by boys who weren't even aware of the existence of key fruit players like kiwi and mango."
I was somewhat mollified to find that running, my go-to activity, was ranked No. 1 in the "Exercise/Workouts" category, and that the amazing and wonderful Mr. Kevin Durant came in first among the 10 NBA players in the poll.
Finally, I want to take a good long look at the voting for "Dog Breeds." Now beagles came in tied for first with Goldens, a result not surprising given that four of the seven polled were Hermans, and that the remaining three were guests of the Herman household. But only tied for first? Not the clear-cut winner? Aha -- I see one voter had the beagle at No. 7 among the 11 breeds ranked.
No. 7? Needless to say, that's a visitor who won't be getting a return invite any time soon.
"The Home Team" appears every other Friday. You can also keep up with Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, on his blog, "Beagle Man," on the Westport News website, at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ To reach Hank, e-mail him at DoubleH50@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @BeagleManHank .