The list swerve

This probably will not win me any friends, but I have never cared even a little about Time magazine’s choice for Person of the Year. Even worse, I consider many of the lists that pop up all the time to be more trouble than they’re worth. The Best Movies always leaves off some great films and includes some real dogs. Same with the Best Rock and Roll Hits of All Time, or whatever. Lists can be a pain. So you can imagine how I feel about Time’s list of the 10 finalists for Person of the Year.


Before the announcement that Pope Francis was the winner, people the world over were holding their breath, barely able to wait to find out who’d be No. 1 — the Pope, Edward Snowden (who was runner-up) or Miley Cyrus. A tough choice if there ever was one.

To be fair, some lists are useful. Evidence that the annual rankings of colleges have some merit is the fact that they drive academics bonkers — same with hospitals and their administrators. It’s not all bad.

In fact, maybe we should consider a few of our own. So, without further ado, let’s start by accepting nominations for 2013’s Most Admired Politician in the United States.

Anyone? Who wants to go first?

Oh, c’mon, folks. Surely someone must have a favorite. Why not? Look no further than the inane brouhaha over President Barack Obama’s handshake with Cuba’s Raul Castro at the Nelson Mandela memorial or the ridiculous commentary over the admittedly foolish “selfie” featuring Obama and the leaders of Britain and Denmark. Stir in real embarrassments like the government shutdown and the rollout of the Affordable Care Act, add the things that haven’t gotten done, such as tightened gun control and immigration reform, and it’s easy to understand why politicians apparently aren’t anyone’s personal taste right now. Still another poll has quantified that low regard: Associated Press/GfK’s newest one tallies 86 percent disapproval of Congress and 58 percent for our president. Let’s bag the Admired Politicians list.

We probably can do the same with Best Airline, Favorite Health Insurance Company and Most Honest Major Bank. They may be “too big to fail,” but when it comes to public esteem, they do fail, unless the standard of success is squeezing money out of customers while offering lousy service that gets worse with each passing day.

Let’s not overlook the world of sports. We certainly don’t need a list to determine the worst franchise these days. One doesn’t even have to be a football fan to be entertained by the intrigue that fouls the air around the Washington NFL team, the one I call the Slurs. Remember that in sports, any troubles usually are totally camouflaged by layers of cliche that keep any bickering out of sight. Not this bunch. The “my way or the highway” head coach Mike Shanahan, the meddling owner Dan Snyder and the pampered quarterback Robert Griffin are involved in a very public, very ugly spat. It’s gotten so bad that the local sportscasters and writers are talking about it, even the most ardent “homers.” When you think about it, maybe the team is just doing its job to reflect the D.C. area. Perhaps, with the constant fighting, and embarrassing record, they should change their name to the Washington Government.

I’d suggest a list of favorite pundits and columnists, but the ego hit for not being on it would be hard for me to take. Let’s suffice with a list of foolish lists. The problem is that there are far too many to count.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.


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