"What's in a name?" asked William Shakespeare, who remains the best William of all time (just ahead of Shatner) and the second best Shakespeare ever (after the late Miami Hurricanes receiver Stanley Shakespeare). Answer: Names contain multitudes. Names connect people (and non-people) of wildly different talents, be they Mickeys (Mantle, Mouse) or Rickys (Rubio, Ricardo). The following power index, which will appear at regular intervals, is a definitive ranking of people who share the same first or last name. It is almost entirely serious and thoroughly pseudo-scientific. It is arbitrary and inarguable and above all fair-weather, reflecting the subjects' status this very week, preferably this very hour.
This week, to honor Independence Day, we rank the top Georges in human history:
The cherry-tree-choppin', wooden-tooth-chompin', Delaware-crossin', dollar-bill-gracin', powdered-hair-wearin', bridge-to-New-Jersey-havin' Army general (and general all-around badass) became the Father of Our Country by out-Georgeing that other George, George III, who was King of Great Britain, but not King of All Georges, a title that could just as well go to ...
Beer-quaffing, dog-eating, tater-swatting Goliath of the American imagination. If he didn't exist, we'd have had to invent him. And we did, in part, as we did with George Washington, who never really chopped down a cherry tree and told his father, "I cannot tell a lie." That story was a lie, told to promote honesty. And there's something strangely admirable about that.
As a Beatle, he wrote Something, Here Comes the Sun and While My Guitar Gently Weeps. That's quite enough, of course, but his band the Traveling Wilburys also inspired an excellent nickname for Stephon Marbury's extensive and ubiquitous entourage: The Traveling Marburys.
Even before he'd sold a single one of his 100-million-and-counting fat-burning grills, Foreman had knocked out Joe Frazier, Ken Norton and 37 other palookas before meeting history, and his match, in Muhammad Ali. The Rumble in the Jungle was held in the big city of Kinshasa, Zaire, not in an actual jungle, so that George of the Jungle (1967 Saturday morning cartoon show from the creators of Rocky and Bullwinkle) remains the top rainforest-based George of all time. Still, Foreman is the greatest George ever to step in a ring, eclipsing the preening wrestler Gorgeous George Wagner.
Only childhood friends knew to call him George. "When someone yells George," he said of stadium crowds, "I always turn around." He won the World Series in both leagues, with Cincinnati and Detroit, but it was George's skills as an orator --� he rivaled Casey Stengel in syntactical creativity -- that earns him this place of honor. As he once said to me: "I truly don't know the language. I wish I could know the difference between a noun and a pronoun and an adverb and a verb, but I don't know, and you know, I don't want to know."
Belfast-born bon vivant who starred for Manchester United, Best's superlative surname, his all-around flair (and flared pants), his glorious muttonchops, his singular gifts as a goal-scoring savant -- all of these were obscured in later years by the ravages of alcohol, accounting for the memorable title of his autobiography: The Good, The Bad and The Bubbly. Best was the subject of national hand-wringing, his brilliance doing battle with his squandered talent, as evidenced by the famous story of him being found in a hotel bed with Miss World -- surrounded by casino winnings -- and being asked by a dismayed room-service waiter: "George, where did it all go wrong?"
Like another genius named George, Brett had a brother in the same line of work who did something completely different. The composer George Gershwin wrote music (Summertime, They Can't Take That Away From Me, I Got Rhythm) to which his brother, the lyricist Ira, gave words. Likewise, Ken Brett pitched while George Brett -- swinging his pine-tarred bat like a conductor's baton -- provided the music. With the Royals of the 1970s and '80s, Brett was a rhapsody in blue.
Not since Danny Murtaugh managed the 1971 Pittsburgh Pirates has a man in a yellow hat been so privileged to witness to such glorious play.
Of number one on our list, Carlin once said: "George Washington's brother, Lawrence, was the Uncle of Our Country." Apropos of number five on our list, he said: "If the Cincinnati Reds really were the first major league baseball team ... who did they play?"
The author, editor, actor and first-person journalist who played quarterback for the Lions, toiled on the PGA Tour, goaltended for the Bruins, created Sidd Finch and founded the Paris Review, he is best-loved -- for our purposes this week -- � as the world's greatest aficionado of Fourth-of-July fireworks. I had dinner with him once and he wore a Celtics championship wristwatch, from the '69 season, during which he had played with the team. It was the second one he had owned. The original, he explained, fell off his wrist while he was paying a toll on the Massachusetts Turnpike, landed in snow and was promptly run over. The story had me thinking, not for the first time: His life is more interesting than mine.
This dry cleaning magnate moved on up to the East Side, and in doing so became an even more iconic put-upon TV husband and father than that other dee-luxe apartment-in-the-sky dweller, George Jetson.
As assistant to the traveling secretary, Costanza was heir to former general manager George Weiss as highest-ranking George in the Yankees' front office. Or rather, second-highest ranking George, as Costanza labored under the tyrannical reign of his boss, The Boss ...
Born on the Fourth of July, Steinbrenner was the Yankees logo, or would have been, had the Yankees logo not already been a red-white-and-blue top hat on a baseball bat. Which is appropriate, for the Yankees -- the word itself a stand-in for "American" in most of the rest of the world -- are far more America's team than the Dallas Cowboys ever were or will be. In that regard, Steinbrenner has earned his Ozymandias-style monument at Yankee Stadium, the one that casts Ruth and Gehrig in its shadow.
Others Georges Receiving Votes: George Orwell, George Clooney, George Gipp, George Washington Carver, George Mikan, George Clinton, George Burns, George Bernard Shaw, George Lucas, George Karl, George Friederich Handel.