Who’s #1?

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Zach Johnson’s inspiring Masters win sparked debate on SoundOFF and elsewhere. Is it the greatest single sports feat by a native Iowan? (note: Cael Sanderson’s is definitely one of us now, but his 159-0 record at Iowa State doesn’t qualify for this discussion because Cael’s originally from Utah.)

My buddy Ryan sent his list. Let me (and Ryan) know what you think on the feedback tab, and don’t forget to vote for your #1 on the whotv.com Web poll.

Ryan’s list (in bold italics)

1. Dan Gable wins gold and doesn’t give up a point in the 1972 Olympics
2. Jack Fleck beats Ben Hogan in 18 hole playoff to win 1955 U.S. Open
3. Zach Johnson wins 2007 Masters
4. Kurt Warner wins 1999 Super Bowl MVP
5. Nile Kinnick wins 1939 Heisman Trophy
6. Bob Feller throws a no-hitter against the Yankees in New York in 1946

Here’s why:

Gable – no one else has ever done it. Ever. The 1972 Olympics is remembered for terrorism, and so many Iowans and people with Iowa connections have achieved greatness in wrestling so accomplishments in the sport sometimes get grouped together. But no one did this before and no one has done it since.

Fleck – he went head-to-head with the best golfer of that era in an 18 hole playoff and won. At the time, Hogan had won three of the last five U.S. Opens. In 1953, just two years earlier, he won the Masters, U.S. Open and the British Open.

Johnson – it’s the Masters and it’s an individual sport which gives him the nod over Warner, Kinnick and Feller.

Warner – Super Bowl MVP and championship culminate NFL MVP season.

Kinnick – once again, what keeps Iowa football from greatness (and what keeps Kinnick from being higher on the list) is a loss to Michigan.

Feller – he had the greatest career of anyone on this list, other than Gable, but there have been numerous other no-hitters. Feller himself threw three of them.

I agree with what’s on Ryan’s list, though I would change some of the order. I also think Feller’s no-hitter on opening day in 1940 is even more impressive than the one at Yankee Stadium. Why? Because it was OPENING DAY!

Here’s my list:

1. Gable wins gold in ’72. He didn’t give up a point! There’s nothing to compare it to. It’s unthinkable and unbelievable.

2. Zach Johnson wins 2007 Masters. I give him the edge over Fleck because golf has now gone international. In ’55 it was still primarily a game for white men from the U.S. Plus, great as Hogan was, no golfer has ever intimidated like the sports star of our generation, Tiger Woods.

3. Jack Fleck stares down the legend, Ben Hogan, and beats him in a U.S. Open playoff. Fleck couldn’t just concentrate on his scorecard the way Zach did, he had to watch Hogan too.

4. Bob Feller throws a no-hitter on opening day. It’s a team sport, but this is about as individual as it gets. Think what kind of coverage this would receive in today’s world. In fairness to my previous mention of golf being a white man’s game in ’55, the same can be said of Major League Baseball in ’40. (note: if you haven’t visited the Bob Feller Museum in Van Meter, it’s a must for any sports fan. Visit bobfellermuseum.org for more info.)

5. Kurt Warner wins Super Bowl MVP. It’s the biggest stage in sports now, but again, it’s a team game.

6. Nile Kinnick wins the Heisman Trophy. Individual award, but takes a team to win, and it’s not really a single sports feat; it’s a collection of games. Extra points for one of the greatest speeches a sportsman ever gave.

Who’s on your list?


  • Anonymous

    Well, I guess the first requirement of making the “Greatest Single Sports Feat” list would be that the individual would have to be participating in a sport. We all know golf is a game, not a sport, so Zach doesn’t qualify. Unless we want to label this as the “Greatest Single Sports/Games Feat” list, then I’d have no problem putting this in the top 5.So, for Sports Feat, I would go with:GableWarnerKinnickFellerFor Sports/Games Feat, I’d probably put it as:GableWarnerJohnsonFleckKinnickFellerA sport would be an activity that requires athleticism AND playing defense.Bryan

  • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    Wipe that tear away, Herky. It’s making it difficult for you to read clearly. The guy never said Michigan ruins every season, he simply pointed out that Michigan has had a tendency to keep some of the Hawkeyes good years from reaching a higher level. Case in point – without the loss to Michigan in 1939, Iowa would have been 7-0-1 and in line for its first bowl bid in school history.

  • Anonymous

    Typical Hawkeye. It’s a discussion about the single greatest sports feats by a native Iowan and he/she tries to shift the focus solely to the Hawkeyes.

  • robert

    Kinnick’s was a season longs achievement while the rest were one time deals.All were great, but I gotta go w/ Kinnick.

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