This weekend Seattle TV viewers will have a chance to observe the most accomplished athlete in the history of Minnesota. I'êm tempted to put an asterisk here but that'ês too much of a challenge for my limited online content-producing skills. If there were an asterisk it would be followed by: 'êNote that I wrote 'êmost accomplished,'ê not necessarily the same thing as 'êgreatest.'ê'ê
Stumped? So was I when a similar scenario was presented to me a few years ago. The riddler was one Hugh Millen, former University of Washington quarterback, eight-season National Football League vet, and now peerless gridiron authority for several broadcast outlets. I made Millen'ês acquaintance when he was taking some summer courses at the UW.
One afternoon, with no warning, he asked me to name 'êthe most well-accomplished athlete in the history of Washington state sports.'ê
Facetiously I answered: 'êI'êm tempted to say 'êHugh Millen,'ê if only for your gutty performance in the 'ê85 Orange Bowl. I was there that night.'ê
This obviously was wrong, if only for the fact that Jacques Robinson won the Orange Bowl most-valuable player award, making Robinson the probable only player in history who ever will have claimed the MVP plaudit in both the Orange and Rose Bowl (1982).
'êJacques Robinson?'ê I asked. Nope, Millen said, suggesting that I think about it a little longer. Clearly he already had an answer in mind.
Well, let'ês talk basketball, I proposed. Elgin Baylor? Gary Payton? Football: Steve Largent? Maybe Steve Emtman would have qualified except that injuries prevented him from ever having much of a pro career. Hugh McIlhenny? The other sports: Fred Couples? Gerry Lindgren?
'êThink baseball,'ê Millen suggested.
'êWell,'ê I said, 'êGriffey, maybe. A-Rod or Ichiro someday. Randy Johnson?'ê
I was getting warmer in Millen'ês estimation but I quickly started to cool.
'êThis is a trick question, right?'ê I finally said.
Sort of. Moreover, it'ês eminently subjective especially when trying to compare career feats in different endeavors. Pound for pound, inch for inch, sport for sport, Seattle University'ês Johnny O'êBrien may have been the greatest jock ever to walk the local pavement.
Millen, who went to Seattle'ês Roosevelt High School and knows a little about the city'ês sports history, said O'êBrien also was the wrong answer.
'êThink baseball,'ê he said.
Well, I thought, clearly Mario Mendoza isn'êt it.
'êIt'ês a she, right? Lauren Jackson?'ê
Nope. So I gave up.
With apparent satisfaction, Millen then paused before opining that the most accomplished athlete in the history of Washington sports was (note that this was five years ago, before Griffey, Ich, A-Rod and R.J. had amassed all of their Hall of Fame stats) ...
It had been a trick question. Obviously I was tricked.
'êRickey played for the M'ês,'ê I conceded, 'êbut only for — what? — half an hour or so? It was his — what? — 20th team?'ê
Actually, Henderson only played for nine big-league teams, some of them several times. And, when you looked at his major-league career stats and accomplishments, it was hard to argue with Millen'ês opinion.
That, here again, is the deal with sports: It'ês subjective. Someone with whom I watched the Husky-Notre Dame game a few weeks ago supposed afterward that, had the UW 'êwon the @#$%! thing,'ê it would'êve amounted to the greatest Dawg road victory in history. I disagreed, harking back to several Rose Bowls and, of course, the 'ê85 Orange Bowl, which I'êd call the second-best Husky away win.
The greatest was about nine years later at the same stadium, when those of us on hand in Miami wondered at halftime how the Huskies, trailing 14-3, could possibly prevail against the vaunted Miami Hurricanes, especially given un-Seattle-like humidity of, seemingly, about 120 percent. Miami had won 58 straight but lost, the Dawgs putting up 22 points in five minutes, winning the suddenly dubbed Whammy in Miami 38-20.
Oh, yeah, and the most accomplished athlete in Minnesota history, on display this weekend? Obviously it isn'êt George Mikan, Kirby Puckett, Bronko Nagurski, Patty Berg, or Chief Bender because they'êre all dead.
The winner, even though he'ês played just nine games for a Minnesota team, answers another trick question but it's a no-brainer:
It'ês Packers, er, Jets, ahem, Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. He and the Vikings host the Seahawks at 10 a.m. Sunday, on Channel 13 locally.