I said in the introductory post to this series that it’s difficult for a blog like this one to draw any firm conclusions. I stand by that statement, but patterns do emerge. Over the past week or so of scouring the web for “best ever” and “top N” lists, I have started to see two trends. First, sports enthusiasts are especially prone to conceptualizing history in this way. Second, European sports enthusiasts may be even more partial to the form. My lasttwo posts are good cases in point.
In the interest of good research, however, I shouldn’t simply trust my gut. Therefore, over the next couple of days, I’m going to try to disprove at least my second thesis by paying special attention to the sports pages to see how many “best ever” stories are posted about the NFL, NBA, MLB, NCAA, and (for Canadians) the NHL. In the meantime, Found History readers should enjoy AutoMotoPortal’s Greatest Drivers Ever: The Best of Formula 1—yet another tops of all time list for the EuroSport set.
InsideEdge, a British sports betting website, has published a list of the “top 25 most outrageous gambles of all time.” Most of these big bets come from the world of sports (especially cricket and soccer), but Nick Lesson’s disastrous turn at Baring Brothers also makes the list, as does Michael Jackson’s move from Motown to Epic.
Video sharing sites like YouTube, Google Video, and Metacafe are full of homemade sports highlight films. Many of these are “best ever” films, with soccer seeming particularly popular for this kind of analysis. The “Best Soccer Moments” and “Top Ten Goals” videos embedded below are just two of many, many examples.
I can’t tell who’s in charge of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, but he or she is definitely dedicated. Since late October, a blogger named “Xadai” has been counting down his or her favorite music videos, beginning with one of my personal favorites, #500, Boston’s “More Than A Feeling.” Each song gets its own post, which includes original historical commentary and a YouTube embed. As of this afternoon Xadai is down to #401, which at this rate means we should see #1 sometime in early spring.
Another quick one for the weekend: Game Set Watch—an “alt.video game weblog”—gives us the Top 10 Silliest Computer Mag Covers in History. Note that this isn’t a casual effort. It is the product of a long term commitment to collecting and cultural history. “Game Mag Weaseling” columnist Kevin Gifford combed though his personal collection of more than 2500 computer magazines to arrive at the ten kitchiest covers from the “classic era” of home computing, the 1970s and 80s. “Who’s silliest” may not be the kind of question scholars would ask of this corpus or this period, but Gifford’s careful consideration of the past and his meticulous attention to the sources certainly qualify his efforts as history.
I have never intended Found History as a place for serious or systematic research into popular historymaking, so it’s hard to talk about “findings,” “results” or “conclusions.” But over the course of nearly a year of anecdotal stumbling, some definite trends have emerged. One is the general public’s tendency to conceptualize history in terms of “best” and “worst” and “most” and “least”; to argue history in terms of “ever” and “of all time”; and to pen history as “top 10” and “top 20” lists. Yesterday’s post on Drivl’s “Top 20 Hackers in Film History” is a very good example of this.
Because it is such a prevalent phenomenon (and also because I have struggled lately to post consistently), today I begin a new series called “Tops of All Time.” Each day between now and the New Year (with maybe a couple breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas), Found History will present a different Top 10, Top 20, “best of” or “worst of” list from somewhere on the web. Some of these are bound to be more interesting than others, and where they are, I will offer some commentary. Where they’re not, I’ll just post them for your casual contemplation. At the end of the series, I’ll try to say something smart about what we’ve seen.
So sit back and enjoy the best (only) Found History series of all time.