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Not Quite Lewis and Clark

Nature's Runner-Ups

Do you know the longest river in the United States? If you instantly blurted out, "The Mississippi!" You're probably not alone, but you're also wrong. I know I kind of set you up for that one. If it makes you feel any better even my bother (the one who is going on this trip) guessed the Mississippi. The correct answer is actually the Missouri River, which at 2,341 miles has a 21-mile advantage over its more well-known counterpart. While second place is not an option for famed race car driver Ricky Bobby, here at Not Quite Lewis and Clark we have no problem recognizing the world's perpetual silver medal winners. At least it's better than the 6th place ribbons (out of 8) I constantly received during my short swim team career.  

In honor of us wimping out and canoeing just the second biggest river in the US, here are a few other things that will never be top dog in their respective categories.

The World's (Second) Tallest Animal

We begin with a cop-out. I'm sure any kindergartner could tell you the giraffe is the world's tallest animal. Heck its 19-inch tongue is longer than some species. But who comes next? Go ahead and welcome in the African Elephant. These gargantuan beings grow to be 11 feet tall and weigh in at around 13,000 pounds. We're not particularly proud of this one because while an elephant can never be the tallest animal, it is (easily) the heaviest land animal. 

The World's (Second) Fastest Animal 

When it comes to elementary school superlatives there was no bigger badge of honor than being named the fastest kid in class. Since this is my website I’m going to say this distinction holds the same type of pedigree in the animal kingdom. Thanks to a 5th grade project (which included a 2 ft. model consisting of a pool noodle, wires, and a papier-mâché coating) I can confidently tell you the cheetah is the fastest land animal. As for the second fastest land animal, that title goes to the Pronghorn antelope. These bad boys can run up to 60 mph. While they can’t hit the cheetah’s top speed they can maintain a higher speed for a longer period of time. Bonus fun fact: the pronghorn antelope was first discovered during the original Lewis and Clark expedition.

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(A couple of speedsters just hanging out)

The World’s (Second) Smartest Animal

If you’ve been holding this list to a high scientific standard (and why wouldn’t you) I’m warning you this next entry isn’t as cut and dry. It may sound crazy, but testing an animal’s brain power isn’t simple. I found multiple sites with conflicting reports so I picked the one that I though was the most interesting. That being said, this animal appeared (in varying spots) on every list I came across. It turns out the pig is not just a tasty animal, but it’s also pretty smart. Apparently a middle aged pig possesses the brain power of a three-year-old. So think about that the next time you’re clamoring for more bacon.  

Second Place Athletes

We end the list in rapid fire form with a nod to some of the greatest runner-ups in sports history.

  • The 1991-94 Buffalo Bills: They lost four straight Super Bowls, enough said
  • Elgin Baylor: Baylor went 0-8 in the NBA finals as a member of the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers. To add insult to injury the team finally won in 1972, or the season Baylor retired halfway through.
  • Jack Nicklaus: We can all agree the Golden Bear is one of the greatest golfers of all time, but did you know he had more second place finishes in major championships than titles? While Nicklaus can boast 18 major championships he also finished as runner-up 19 times.
  • Shirley Babashoff: Shirley Babashoff was a force to be reckoned with in the pool. The former Olympic swimmer set six world records, and won eight Olympic medals on her way to the Swimming Hall of Fame (which I’ve actually been to). But despite her dominance she never captured an individual Olympic gold medal. She instead was showered with silvers in the 1972 and '76 Olympic games. Don’t worry old “Surly Shirley" (but don’t call her that to her face because it’s actually an insult) won two gold medals as part of the 4 x 100 m freestyle relay team. Furtheremore, after her career was over she became a letter carrier in California which we all know isn't the worst outcome for a former sports star. 


(Just getting in a few strokes at the Swimming Hall of Fame)

 So hold your head up high Mississippi River. Although you're not the longest river in the world, North American, or even the United States you'll still have a special place in our hearts. 




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