It's not fair to rank the world's Top Toms this week, given that Tom Coughlin's Giants fell to 0-5 on Sunday -- as Tom Waits sang, "It's hard to win when you always lose" -- and Tom Brady failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 52 games. (Ground Control to Major Tom: Take your protein pill and put your helmet on -- you face the unbeaten Saints on Sunday.)
And yet, with the death of Tom Clancy and a new film release from Tom Hanks, we were reminded this past week of the outsized influence carried by the world's Toms, Tommys, Tommies and Thomases. What follows, then, is our All-Time, All-Tom Team. (We've excluded the Thomas surname from this list, which explains the absence of Isiah, Dylan and Frank):
13. Tommie Smith
He won the gold medal in the 200 meters at the 1968 Summer Olympics and played in two games at wideout for the Bengals in '69 -- catching a single pass for 41 yards -- but Smith makes the list for the raised black glove on the medal stand in Mexico City, the Black Power salute that still hangs in the air, like the Cheshire cat's fist, nearly five decades later.
12. Tom Coughlin
His current struggles notwithstanding, Coughlin has won the same number of Super Bowls -- two -- as Bill Parcells, Don Shula and Vince Lombardi (to say nothing of another Tom, elsewhere on this list).
11. Tom Glavine
The two-time Cy Young winner and first ballot Baseball Hall-of-Famer was also the 69th pick (by Los Angeles) in the 1984 NHL Draft, way ahead of Brett Hull (117) and Luc Robitaille (171), whom the Kings had to settle for when Glavine chose baseball. To quote another great Tom -- young Tommy Callahan of Tommy Boy -- "Holy Schnikes."
10. Tommy Heinsohn
As the gravel-voiced homer on Celtic TV broadcasts, Heinsohn hands out "Tommy Points" for hustle, having earned his own while winning a ridiculous eight NBA championships in his one decade playing for the Celtics, followed by two more as their coach.
9. Tom Watson
Watson was made from pressure-treated materials -- of the eight majors he won, Jack Nicklaus was runner-up in half of them. Five of those eight were British Opens, four of them in Scotland, one of them at Muirfield, where next year the US will try to win its first Ryder Cup on the road since 1993, with Watson as team captain.
8. Tom Landry
Beloved and be-hatted, he coached the Cowboys for their first 29 seasons -- including 20 straight winning records -- during which time they went to five Super Bowls, won two and became America's Team. He remained a larger-than-life cartoon presence well into the 21st century. Homer bought Landry's signed fedora at The Spend Zone on The Simpsons, while King of the Hill frequently featured the Tom Landry Middle School.
7. Tom Seaver
Nearly as impressive as his three Cy Young wins are the years he failed to win, especially 1971 (when he went 20-10 with a 1.76 ERA and 21 complete games) and 1981 (14-2 with a 2.54 ERA). Of all the Toms in the All-Time All-Tom Team, there is still only one Tom Terrific.
6. Tommy John Surgery
Right now you're saying, "Is Tommy John Surgery really our greatest Tommy, superior to Misters Bahama and Tutone, whose '867-5309' will be in my head for the rest of the day?" Yes, because without Tommy John Surgery -- and the actual Tommy John who originally required it == we would have missed out on many worthwhile second acts. This postseason alone, Tommy John surgery has given us the pitching of Francisco LIriano, Brian Wilson, Ryan Dempster and AJ Burnett.
5. Tom Hanks
He would be deserving of the list on sports alone: As Rockford Peaches manager Jimmy Dugan, who said, "There's no crying in baseball," or the castaway whose best friend is Wilson the volleyball or as the Crimson Tide kick-return specialist Forrest Gump, going 99 yards for a touchdown as Bear Bryant looks on in awe and says: "He must be the stupidest son-of-a-bitch alive, but he sure is fast." For all these reasons, Hanks gets the movie-star slot over Tom Cruise.
4. Tom Brady
Whatever he is to you -- dreamboat, draft dud, Belichick Whisperer, Bundchen-spouse, Brentwood homeowner, Stetson cologne-wearer, Tuck Rule beneficiary or three-time Super Bowl champion -- there is no doubt that Brady has a quintessential "Tom"-ness rivaled only by Hanks and ...
3. Tom Sawyer
If Brady is the All-American athlete, and Hanks the All-American Everyman, Sawyer is the All-American boy -- or at least was: If you Google "Tom Sawyer," autofill now wants to add "lyrics," suggesting that in 2013 the Rush song has somehow eclipsed Twain's original as a cultural touchstone.
1 (tie).Thomas Jefferson & Thomas Edison
Before Thomas Dolby, Thomas Edison blinded us with science. Without Edison, we have democracy in the dark, but without Jefferson, we're illuminated without enlightenment. The Declaration of Independence is nice (score a point for Jefferson), but the invention of the phonograph made possible Toms Petty and Jones. (Can you hear me Major Tom? Not without Edison we can't.) As men, as giants, as namesakes of countless high schools, even as adjectives--Jeffersonian, Edisonian—they are equals, the Thomases Who Made America.
OTHER TOMS RECEIVING VOTES: Tom (of Tom & Jerry), Tom Selleck, Tom Osborne, Thomas Paine, Tom Wolfe, Tommy Smothers, St. Thomas Aquinas, Tommy Amaker, Tom Thibodeau, Tommie Agee, Thomas Pynchon, Tommy Lasorda and Thomas The Tank Engine.
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