Rushin Index: Top Johans
"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.
Today we rank the top Johans in human history:
Could it be any other? Thrower of the first no-hitter in the star-crossed history of the New York Mets, defier of pitch counts and 51 years of no-no futility, hero to his own manager, linguini-armed possessor of a surgically repaired left shoulder, Santana was also beneficiary of an umpire error -- but then so was everyone watching last Friday night, for it allowed us to see (among many other sights) Mets leftfielder Mike Baxter crash into the Citi Field wall in obeisance to the box score rather than his own well-being. By the time Baxter was helped off the field, he had given the lie to every athlete who ever said, emptily, "I'd run through a wall for that guy."
If Mordecai Brown counted on one hand the greatest soccer players of all time, Cruyff would be on the list. He was a three-time winner of the Ballon d'Or as European Football Player of the Year, and resident genius in attack for Ajax, Barcelona and the Dutch national team, whose "Total Football" remains one of the most beautiful iterations of the beautiful game. As Gutenberg produced the Gutenberg bible and Schweppe his line of Schweppes club sodas, so Cruyff put his name to the Cruyff Turn, a bit of magical sleight-of-foot -- used to this day -- that simultaneously deprives defenders of their dignity and jockstraps.
As pioneer of movable type and father of the printing press, Gutenberg gave birth -- in the 1400s -- to modern literacy, and the world of books, magazines and newspapers that would have a good run for the next 600 years.
Even more than his fellow Composing Johans -- Johann Pachelbel and Johannes Brahms -- Bach endures as a relevant cultural force, as witnessed by anyone on hold with the phone company or waiting impatiently for a wedding to begin.
His laws of planetary motion -- how planets move around the sun -- helped us to understand our place in the cosmos, and helped Isaac Newton to formulate his own conception of gravity. It's worth remembering -- as we pass in beautiful ellipses around the sun, in awestruck tribute to Johannes Kepler -- how much we owe to our Johans.
The Norse god and four-time Olympic speed skating gold medalist was SI's "Sportsman of the Year" in 1994 for his humanitarian work, which includes "Right to Play," a foundation that brings sports to young victims of violence in troubled spots around the world.
Playwright, poet, novelist, scientist, lawyer and all-around heavyweight of 18th-century Germany, Goethe (pronounced "Gerta") influenced everyone from Charles Darwin to Ludwig van Beethoven, and thus gets the nod (narrowly) over Johan Petro for the seventh spot. "All things are only transitory," he wrote, perhaps anticipating his own legacy on public transit in Chicago, where Goethe Street is frequently announced as "Go-THEE" Street.
The Paris-born, Gaudeloupe-raised 7-footer plays center for the Brooklyn Nets. And while he has yet to invent anything of note, his place in the firmament was secured last April, when he made the final basket in New Jersey Nets history -- aptly enough, a 20-foot jumper in a 31-point loss to Toronto.
When the Swiss watchmaker took a break from his work in 1783, and went to his office fridge for a soda, he realized that neither fridges nor sodas had yet been invented. So he patented a process for carbonating mineral water, thus creating the first soft drink. (If you are enjoying one now, you have Johann Schweppe to thank for that pleasing tingle on your tongue.) He went on to produce his own line of tonic waters and ginger ales under the brand name "Schweppes," which to this day is inexplicably bereft of a possessive apostrophe.
Backup goalie for the New Jersey Devils, Hedberg started 23 games this season in place of injured Marty Brodeur, for whom he currently swings the gate as bench-minder in the Stanley Cup finals. Hedberg wore a large, antlered herbivore on his mask for the Manitoba Moose in 2001 (and upon his call-up that year to the Pittsburgh Penguins), which explains his nickname -- Moose -- and why chants of "Mooose" and "Bruuuce" remain equally common in New Jersey. (Or very nearly so.)