Brian Spears

Poet, Editor, Teacher, Blogger.

Why (some) lists are dumb

At The Rumpus, we have a rule–okay, we have a few rules–but one of them is no lists. Why? As Stephen says, “This is the laziest form of journalism.” And this extends beyond the literary scene.

Here’s an example from the world of sports, a world which dearly loves its lists: the top 20 quarterbacks in the NFL. This is a particularly egregious example, but not because of the way the quarterbacks are ranked. There’s always room for disagreement over that, and while the reasons the unnamed director of personnel used are often silly in my opinion, they are, in the end, just opinions. No, here’s the reason the list is stupid.

There are only 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL. That means that this person’s number 20 (Chad Henne of the Dolphins, to be specific) isn’t even in the top half of the rankings. Neither are Joe Flacco, Matt Cassel, and Matthew Stafford. What’s the point of ranking people outside the top half of a group? Hell, what’s the point of ranking people outside the top quarter?

The situation becomes even more absurd when you factor in that 11 of the 12 teams whose quarterbacks were not featured either had a rookie start last year, will likely have a rookie start this year, or have a battle brewing for the position. The only team that didn’t apply to was Jacksonville and David Garrard. Brett Favre is on the list, and there’s no guarantee he’ll even play (even though I suspect he will).

So here’s the story: Sporting News asks an NFL guy to rank the top 5/8 of the NFL’s quarterbacks, and provide some justification for the positions he gives them–justification which includes such riveting insights as “He’s as competitive as anybody” (Drew Brees) and “He is a smart and wise decision-maker who gets better because he puts in the work” (Matt Ryan). Is it any wonder we don’t do lists?


July 29, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

1 Comment »

  1. Okay, top 5 reasons I love lists:
    5) they let you do that thing where you have a ridiculous, meaningless “argument” where all parties are just spouting off nonsense, but it’s all in the name of a good time (except when you’re talking to Jets fans.)
    4) great reads when sitting on the can.
    3) if it’s a football list, you might get a chance to relive the “hook and lateral” play in the ’81 Miami-SD playoff game.
    2) you might learn something you never knew about a subject to use in a future “argument.”
    1) they remind me of my little sister and games we made up as teenagers 🙂

    Comment by Bobby | July 30, 2010 | Reply

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