Friday, November 2, 2007

The All-Underrated List

Recently published on was an article about why Houston Astro great Craig Biggio is the most underrated ball player of his generation. Of course, Caitlin and I have had great fun over the years discussing the merits of various underrated things including blueberries, Tennessee, and our hometown hero, Biggio. Also in the news was the now wildly underrated Carol Burnett and her publicized lawsuit w/ Family Guy getting tossed. I believe her to be underrated b/c nobody seems to discuss her any longer in the list of great pioneers of comedy even though she was one of the first great female comics of the modern television era.

So while the concept of underrated has always been a topic for Caitlin and me, I figured more people might enjoy an expansion of this topic as it has always brought us great amusement. Below is a list of 20 underrated people, places and things plus an explanation of why they're there. Excluded from the list are Craig Biggio, blueberries, Carol Burnett and Tennessee. They're already documented as being underrated.

Hakeem Olajuwon: One of the most dominant big men ever, he secured 2 championships, leads the NBA all-time in blocked shots, and in his prime he utterly destroyed David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Shaq in an 18-month span. Yet he always seems overshadowed by Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem in the lineage of great centers. This doesn't seem right to me.

Idaho: Beautiful state, charming people, a city greatly on the rise in Boise, and one of the state's universities gave us one of the most memorable plays in college football history (Boise State's Statue of Liberty play). Tons of stuff to do outdoors including fishing and kayaking on the Snake River and world class skiing in Sun Valley and Hailey. And yet Idaho's neighbors Oregon and Washington get more love in the Pacific Northwest.

French Toast: Waffles and pancakes both have restaurants named after them, but I'll still take French toast over either one of them.

Kitchen sheers: One of the handiest kitchen utensils, I always use them especially when trimming the fat off of certain things like skirt steak. And they're easier to use plus safer than a knife and fork.

John Fogerty: The man penned some of the most memorable songs of his era, wrote some of the greatest rock n' roll in a 7-year span w/ Creedence Clearwater Revival, but is constantly overlooked by others of his era that burned out more quickly than he did. Hendrix, Joplin, and Morrison seem to gain more critical acclaim. But John Fogerty is still alive. The others aren't.

Iceland--Volcanoes, geysers, statuesque blonde women, and rounds of golf at 3 AM are all pretty awesome. The literacy level is at 90%, the country boasts little crime and it has one of the greatest parties scenes in Europe w/ the capital city of Reykjavík. It continously boasts one of Europe's best economies. It's also home to one of the world's most unknown liquores in aquavit. And yet the UK and Ireland dominate most of the headlines.

Brisket--Has brisket ever not delivered the goods? Ever? Ribs may get more critical acclaim, and sausage may be more versatile, but in terms of a great Texas BBQ, brisket is the one thing everyone can agree on.

Bass guitar--Yeah, I know I'm incredibly biased in this regard, but here me out. The bassist is typically the most unknown guy in the band. There's the lead singer that's the focal point, the guitarist gets the solos, the drummer is typically the loudest and craziest guy in the band (see Keith Moon, John Bonham or any of Spinal Tap's drummers). But the greatest rock star of all time, Gene Simmons, plays bass proving that despite being completely unknown bassists can still have a presence above and beyond the other three guys in the band.

Portugal--Spain is oftentimes romanticized, and I suppose w/ good reason, but Portugal is closer to the ocean, just as warm, and they've got a cool offbeat language. Lisbon might be the most unknown major city in Western Europe.

"Macho Man" Randy Savage--In his absolute prime w/ the WWF, we probably couldn't classify him as underrated. In fact, he's a great example of someone who was overrated then, but completely underrated now. He was an acrobatic pioneer in his day, someone who popularized top-turnbuckle manuevers now seen quite commonly in pro wrestling today. He was never quite as popular as Hulk Hogan, Andre the Giant or the Ultimate Warrior, but looking back on it, he may have had more impact than those three in terms of how we watch pro wrestling.

The Muppet Movie--Given the popularity of films like Shrek, it seems more and more implausable that The Muppet Movie doesn't gain more acknowledgment as the Godfather of these types of movies. Forget about The Rainbow Connection for just one moment, and consider this. Jim Henson managed to get Steve Martin and Richard Pryor both in their comic primes to do cameos. He got Mel Brooks to play a mad German scientist, and got Madeline Kahn to reprise her role from Blazing Saddles. Read that again. He managed to weasel prostitute references into a kid's movie! How this film doesn't get mentioned as one of the great comedies ever is beyond me.

James Young--He was the lead guitarist in Styx. The band itself is properly rated (a tad overrated seeing as how they stuck around wayyyy too long and fired their trademark lead singer), but JY is wildly underrated, and isn't even in the discussion of great rock guitarists of his era. But any doubt as to whether he should be there should be dismissed when listening to the Paradise Theater album. JY whips out tasty butt-kicking riffs on Half-Penny Two-Penny, shifts to funk riffs halfway through the album, and caps it off w/ a shrieking, gutbucket blues solo on Snowblind that's so bad-ass, it feels like he should be wearing a top hat and writing riffs for his forthcoming 1987 album called Appetite For Destruction.

Pete Rose--Like O.J., society has focused more on what he's infamous for rather than what he was famous for originally. And probably w/ good reason too. But when the topic of greatest hitters of all-time come up, why is Pete Rose, the all-time hit king never in the discussion? He has more of them than anyone else in baseball history! Ted Williams, DiMaggio, Tony Gwynn, Ty Cobb, yeah they were all tremendous hitters w/out question, but doesn't Pete Rose deserve the same kind of respect despite his gambling issues? Even Shoeless Joe gets more praise for his hitting ability than Pete Rose has.

Acadia National Park--Conde Nast Magazine once called it the most beautiful place on Earth. But in the list of national parks, it doesn't even seem to register compared to Yellowstone or Yosemite. And it's not like it's impossible to get to either. It's about three hours north of Boston off of I-95 making more accessible than the aforementioned two. Coupled w/ the fact that a ferry ride from the park's center in Bar Harbor, Maine takes you to Nova Scotia, Acadia deserves more love than it's getting.

Dana Carvey--Most people forget this b/c Saturday Night Live in his era was absolutely loaded but he was the biggest and possibly the best cast member of that lot. And that was a cast that included Mike Myers, Phil Hartman, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, and Chris Farley. He gave us Ross Perot, George H.W. Bush, Garth, The Church Lady, pulled off an incredible one-man skit as Tom Brokaw announcing the death of Gerald Ford, but despite all of this, he still doesn't receive his due as one of the pantheon members of SNL.

Playboy--How is one of the world's best-selling magazines underrated? Consider this: The market is currently saturated by soft-core men's magazines that have more or less what Playboy offers. Porn itself is so saturated itself just by virtue of the Internet. One can literally find what Playboy offers just about anywhere on the Internet. And yet Hugh Hefner consistently finds America's best writers--everyone from Stephen King to Issac Asimov has contributed in the last decade--lands cutting edge interviews w/ big-name politicians, and has one of the best sports sections in any men's magazine. It is always relevant, but never mentioned amongst the best magazines of any genre. And frankly, it should be.

Christopher Moore--One of America's finest humorists, he actually managed to write a hilarious book about the first 30 years of Jesus's life w/out anyone being offended. That, in and of itself, is worth noting. He has put out innumerable best-sellers spoofing vampires, science, religion, and angels amongst others, but is still in the shadows of more famous humorists like Dave Barry and Kinky Friedman.

The Boondock Saints--Truth be known, this movie about two Irish-Catholic brothers that take on the Russian Mafia is starting to become properly rated. It should be considered in the Pantheon of great film noir movies made of the last twenty years, but it still hasn't gotten the acclaim of anything Tarantino has released. Willem Dafoe gives an Academy Award-winning effort as the gay FBI agent, but never even sniffed such a nomination. He was better here than he was in Last Temptation of Christ.

Albuquerque, New Mexico--Still a hidden American jewel despite its consistent growth. 300 days of sunshine year-round with no humidity, fantastic, damn near Pantheon level grub (check out Los Cuates) and world-class hiking through the Sandia Mountains. Put that together w/ really friendly people, a major university in town, and a recent study that said it was the fittest city in America, and you have a really likeable place. Regionally, though, Santa Fe, Denver and Phoenix get more love. Speaking of those places...

The Mountain Time Zone--Monday Night Football starts at 7 PM. It ends around 10:30 PM. That's enough time to get off work, head home, get something to eat, and then go out w/ your friends and listen to the likes of Kornheiser and Theismann verbally abuse the English language. Well, OK, that sucks, but the rest of it is pretty cool. The NCAA Tournament starts at 10 AM, and virtually all major sports events start at decent hours that won't leave you sitting in traffic when they start or going to bed in the 5th inning either.

We at Sports Karma are always looking to glorify the underrated, so please feel free to post comments as to what else needs to be added.


Anonymous said...

-Mexicans are underrated.

Sting was a bassist too, no?

Tray said...

True, true...Sting was a bassist. But Sting sucks too.

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