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Thom Loverro: It doesn't take science to know Jim Thorpe is the greatest

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Sports,NFL,MLB,Thom Loverro

So ESPN's "Sports Science" has determined Bo Jackson is the greatest athlete of all time.

What does Jim Thorpe have to do -- have his grave moved to Bristol, Conn., the home of ESPN, to get anyone to remember him?

Does "all time" include before ESPN went on the air?

I know this is an exercise in attention for ESPN and its "Sports Science" segment, but the debate about the greatest athlete of all time should start and end with Thorpe, with a little Jim Brown mixed in.

Jackson? A great athlete, an All-Star in both the NFL and major league baseball.

But Thorpe will take your pro football and major league baseball and not only match it but trump it with an Olympic gold medal in the pentathlon and, oh, by the way, another gold medal in the event generally acknowledged as the measuring stick for the greatest athlete -- the decathlon.

Thorpe played pro football until he was 41. He played major and minor league baseball for 20 years. And in 1912, he won his two gold medals.

He was a larger-than-life athlete at Carlisle Indian Industrial School, who, according to legend, walked past the track and beat all the team's high jumpers with a 5-foot-9 leap in street clothes. He was not just a star football player -- a two-time All-American who played running back, defensive back, kicker and punter -- but he was a standout in lacrosse and baseball as well.

In 1912, in a legendary performance against powerful Army, Thorpe led his team to a 27-6 win. The story goes that he ran for a 92-yard touchdown, but the play was called back because of a penalty. On the next play, Thorpe ran for a 97-yard touchdown.

There was nothing scientific about this determination, no matter how many metrics ESPN supposedly used to measure speed and other standards. The list started based on a fan vote, so the field was flawed from the start.

We live in a time when nobody remembers anything that happened before them. When talking heads debate who was the greatest basketball player of all time -- Michael Jordan or LeBron James -- it's as if Oscar Robertson, who averaged a triple-double for an entire NBA season, didn't exist.

LeBron himself is guilty of this, declaring several years ago that he would no longer wear No.?23, because no one should wear Jordan's number because of his greatness. Instead, he picked No.?6 -- as if Bill Russell, who should be in every debate about the greatest player in basketball, didn't exist.

You want to make the case for Brown, fine. He remains the greatest running back in NFL history and was an All-American lacrosse player at Syracuse in addition to being the leading scorer on the basketball team as a sophomore and a star track athlete.

Jackson? Please. Next thing these so-called sports scientists will tell us is that the world is flat -- and it begins and ends in Bristol.

Examiner

columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.

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