Published Wednesday, October 16, 2013 AT 9:50 AM / Updated at 12:48 PM
Mad Chatter: 5 most entertaining athletes, my favorite sports year and more Big 12/Big Ten feedback
Dirk Chatelain Omaha World-Herald

You know those fancy online polls that reputable news organizations use to tabulate votes?

Yeah, Mad Chatter isn’t quite that efficient. Usually it doesn’t matter. But every once in a while, one of our Twitter polls blows up into something Gallup would be proud of.

Monday I asked followers to name the five most entertaining/thrilling athletes in sports. I spent half the afternoon tallying your ballots — there were about 120 total.

Sixty-two athletes received at least one vote. Forty-one received at least two votes (including Taylor Martinez and Doug McDermott).

I’ll get to No. 1 eventually, but here’s your Top 20:

20. Marcus Mariota, 8 votes

18 (tie). Floyd Mayweather, 9

18 (tie). Cristiano Ronaldo, 9

16 (tie). Rafael Nadal, 10

16 (tie). Aaron Rodgers, 10

14 (tie). Yasiel Puig, 11

14 (tie). Miguel Cabrera, 11

13. Steph Curry, 12

11 (tie). Mike Trout, 13

11 (tie). Calvin Johnson, 13

10. Usain Bolt, 14

9. Kobe Bryant, 15

8. Lionel Messi, 19

7. Tom Brady, 20

6. Tiger Woods, 23

Now we get down to the elite:

5. Kevin Durant, 30

Durant’s combination of length, athleticism and skill make him unlike anybody in sports. He can get 40 points shooting jumpers, or dunking on centers. And his best days are still coming.

4. Adrian Peterson, 31

Peterson is the rare NFL player who makes his peers look physically inferior. His strength, quickness, speed and violent running style are unprecedented. He’s a freight train — and a durable one. A year after tearing his ACL, he fell nine yards short of Eric Dickerson’s NFL rushing record.

3. Peyton Manning, 75

Look at that gap between Peterson’s votes and Manning’s. This contest comes down to three athletes — and Peyton takes the bronze. Unlike others in the top five, Manning doesn’t impress athletically. But it’s still art. When you watch Manning, especially this year, you’re seeing perhaps the greatest football mind ever.

2. Johnny Manziel, 80

For a guy who’s been on the radar screen for 13 months, Manziel’s status in sports is jaw-dropping. He deserves it, too. He’s the most exciting college football player I’ve ever seen. And his personality (and off-field tribulations) make every accomplishment even more epic. When he starts scrambling, I can’t look away from the TV.

1. LeBron James, 92

The King. Appeared on more than 75 percent of ballots, which is amazing considering he hasn’t performed in four months. You can find athletes on this list and say, “You know, his sport has never seen anything like him.” But LeBron is the only one that makes you say, “SPORTS has never seen anything like him.”

So who’s my top five?

Ndamukong Suh, Michael Vick and Roger Federer would’ve been on it three or four years ago. RG3 would’ve made it last year. Bolt blows my mind, but nine seconds once a year just isn’t enough. Djokovic, Rodgers and Megatron are oh-so-close.

But I’m taking Manziel at No. 1; James, Durant and Curry 2-4; and Phil Mickelson at No. 5.

Thanks for voting. Now I can return to actual work.

* * *

>> U.S. soccer highlighted a thrilling night in World Cup qualifying with a 3-2 win against Panama. The Americans dashed Panama’s hopes and restored hope to rival Mexico. Quite the hex performance for the U.S.

>> Bo Pelini is one of 10 D-1 coaches on the hot seat, according to Ty Duffy.

>> I hate to make too much of Big Ten schedules five years down the road — especially because they may be remodeled if/when the league goes to 16 teams — so I’ll just say this: It sure will be nice to see Michigan again. The Huskers don’t play the Wolverines from 2014-17.

The Big Ten scheduled a few more league games for September, but I still wish it were more. A notable Big Ten matchup every Saturday of the season should be the goal.

>> So Creighton basketball gets picked third in the Big East preseason coaches poll? That’s where I’d want to be if I were Greg McDermott. Clearly the coaches need to see the Jays go 18 games with Georgetown and Marquette before crowning them.

>> We’ve seen seven LCS games the past four days and the largest margin of victory was three runs. The average runs per game: four! It’s like the College World Series all over again.

So why does the “baseball at its purest” argument work in the playoffs, but not in college? Because a well-hit ball like Matt Holliday’s Tuesday still goes a long, long way. That’s not the case in college right now. It’s funny how just the potential of a home run adds entertainment and drama to games.

>> Tuesday night was the 25th anniversary of Kirk Gibson’s legendary homer in Game One of the ’88 World Series.

I was on the couch in my living room that night, a 7-year-old A’s fan dumbfounded by the result. My dad and brother (unbiased) were cheering while I was mourning Dennis Eckersley’s invincibility. If I didn’t shed a few tears, I came pretty close. It’s one of my first vivid sports memories.

But it’s not my only one from ’88, which I say is one of the best sports years of all-time. This all happened in 12 months:

• Earnest Byner’s stunning goal-line fumble in Denver ruins Cleveland’s Super Bowl hopes.

• The greatest slam-dunk contest of all-time, Jordan v. Dominique.

• “Danny and the Miracles” upsets Duke and Oklahoma in the Final Four, completing the last great Cinderella run to a national championship.

• The Lakers go back-to-back, outlasting the Pistons in seven games. We didn’t know it then, but it was Magic’s last championship.

• Perhaps Mike Tyson’s most famous knockout. He drops Michael Spinks in 91 seconds.

• Wayne Gretzky is traded to the L.A. Kings.

• Steffi Graf, just 19 years old, wins all four Grand Slams, then tops it with an Olympic gold.

• Ben Johnson wins (and then loses) gold in Seoul.

• Notre Dame knocks off Miami, 31-30 (on the same day as the Gibson homer) and eventually goes undefeated, winning its last national title.

• Barry Sanders produces one of the best individual seasons in college football history en route to the Heisman.

• On New Year’s Eve, the Bears beat the Eagles in the “Fog Bowl.”

That’s a hard year to beat, right?

>> Should the NFL get rid of Thursday Night football?

As “Unsportsmanlike Conduct” producer Josh Peterson and I discussed last night, the better options are 1) Have a doubleheader on Sunday or Monday night with NFL Network receiving the nightcap; or 2) Return to an 18-week schedule with two byes assuring teams a bye heading into a Thursday night game.

Both are good choices, I believe. Asking players to compete twice in four days (and often travel in between) is simply too much.

>> A week ago, I assessed the Colts’ Peyton/Luck decision. Now the Indy Star chimes in on the fascinating debate.

>> A nice Q&A with LeBron from Chris Broussard, including his thoughts on his relationship with Michael Jordan.

>> David Aldridge’s columns are always must-read for NBA fans.

>> Will tighter officiating in college basketball help offense — or just bog down the game with free throws?

>> As Roger Federer’s skills diminish, he’s chosen to go without coach Paul Annacone. What it means for the rest of Federer’s years.

>> The feedback on my Friday blog question — Would the Huskers be better off in the Big 12? — continues to roll in. Monday I stated that responses were 70-30 in favor of the Big 12. Now it’s more like 60-40. I enjoy reading the arguments on both sides. I’ll post a few more emails today and save a few for Friday.

 

Jace says: Your column was like you are reading my mind. Yesterday I was thinking, what have we got ourselves into.

When we got into the BIG I thought we would, like you wrote in your column, be “…watching football at Michigan and Ohio State.” But a steady possible diet of Rutgers, Maryland, Purdue, and Indiana is not what I signed up for…

My DVR missed most of the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game. But after my initial *#$x’ing exclamations I found that I didn’t really care. That is not good from a fan whose first Husker memory was kicking his feet laying prone on the kitchen floor in 1957 as Lyle Bremser described NU beating Bud Wilkinson’s Oklahoma Sooners.

I guess the short answer to your question of “what do I think” is — the BIG is a B I G BORE.

 

Mark says: Honestly, I miss the tradition of the Big 12 schools, but the alternative of sucking at the teat of Texas swings the argument in favor of the B1G. It was move that had to made at the time. No reason to look back.

Looking ahead, I see a lot of mediocre football, with a lousy schedule resulting in more 11 am start times, which will lead to less national significance.

 

John says: I wish we were in the Big 12 today. The addition of Rutgers and Maryland dramatically changed the schedules and weakened the overall B1G product. Instead of Michigan and Penn State, the Huskers play Purdue and Wisconsin yearly.

It’s simple, football is entertainment. And like entertainment, “stars” with national brands add drama and intrigue to an event. …

But the B1G teams are not the only “bore” factor for Husker fans; Nebraska does not compete like a titanic program anymore, so it doesn’t matter who the Huskers play right now, you can’t have a “big” game if your team is not a top-ten team.

That said, hindsight is 20/20; the Huskers took the best option at the time, the B1G. But honestly, I mainly miss playing Oklahoma every year. My wish: dump Maryland and Rutgers and pick up Oklahoma and Missouri.

 

Kelly says: Winning solves everything!

Had Nebraska held on and beat Texas in the 2009 Championship game, a political war may not have occurred between Nebraska and Texas. It may have prevented animosity between the front offices in Dallas and the rest of the Big 12 North teams, that later caused multiple teams to look elsewhere. A Nebraska win might’ve strengthened the conference and gave NU an image of “being back.”

Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Nebraska ends up moving to the Big 10 and struggles, while the Big 12 continued their squabbles. I don’t think Husker fans have accepted the Big Ten because we’re not winning, at least our expectations of winning. However, up until this year, I don’t think Nebraska’s defense could’ve handled the offenses from the Big 12 the past 2 seasons either. Nebraska appears to be in limbo, especially football, and that is a hard pill to swallow right now for fans.

Long-term, I believe Nebraska made the right decision by leaving the Big 12, a conference that appeared on the brink of collapse a few years ago and still don’t appear to be solid like the Big Ten or SEC.

Short-term, it hasn’t been easy as Nebraska can’t win the big games, nor can they keep it close, which I blame coaching (another topic of discussion). Nebraska appeared to have a slight bit of success in the Big 12 because they knew those teams. Nebraska is still struggling to find their identity and where they belong at the table in the Big Ten.

Bottom line…it doesn’t matter if Nebraska is in the Big Ten, Big 12, or the NFC North. Winning solves everything!

 

Mike says: The headline w/your column Sunday struck a nerve. A lifelong (I’m 53) Husker fan I’m also a lifelong big 10 hater. So you can imagine how happy I was when we turned our backs on our traditional conference rivals.

I still consider myself a fan, albeit a lousy one @ that. At Husker parties i now find myself more interested in the ladies’ curtain talk. I skipped this year’s Wyoming game to go to a movie for crying out loud! And it was Animal House — not real new but better than the game from what i hear. Your colleague Tom Shatel wrote awhile back about fear of apathy setting in with a small faction of husker fans.

My apathy started July 1, 2010 (?can’t remember exact date), the day Nebraska officially became a member of the big 10.

 

Dave says: Strongly support being in Big-10.

1. Lets remember why Neb left, foremost was the great uncertainty of the league’s future.

2. Texas….they have, they are, and they always will “call the shots” unlike the Big-10 which is democratic. Then there are the calls on the field that always seem to support them (ISU this year; Oklahoma State last year; and Neb in the title game in ’09).

3. Two other “northern” teams of the conference left as well (Missouri & Colorado). Beyond them being reasonable drives, it makes the league even more focused on 1-state (Texas). …

4. You seem to point out that Purdue doesn’t have much following in your article….well look below at an image from the KU-TCU game yesterday. Compare this to what you saw in West Lafayette yesterday. By the way, there were 100,000+ at the PSU-Michigan game; 70,000+ at the Wisconsin game; and 60,000+ at Michigan State. The Big 10 has 5 of the top 12 attendance teams on avg over the past 5-yrs (PSU, Michigan, Ohio State; Neb; and Wisconsin) whereas the Big 12 has 2 (Texas and OU)….and Texas doesn’t even sell out unless it’s considered a “big game”.

So no thanks, I’ll stay with the Big 10.

About Dirk Chatelain

Dirk Chatelain is a staff writer for The Omaha World-Herald and covers Nebraska football and general assignments. You can follow Dirk on Twitter (@dirkchatelain) or email him at dchatelain@owh.com