America has fallen in love with rankings.
Chances are that you'll consult a list of bests and worsts for almost anything you do these days: make a purchase, select a vacation, choose a movie, attend a college, look for a job, or take any step, no matter how big or small, in any direction.
In case you doubt there are lists for just about any human (or pet) activity, just Google five simple words -- "most, best and worst lists." You get 730 million results. Do the same thing at Bing and you get a mere 177 million.
So why have we developed such a ravenous appetite for these lists?
The most important reason is that we are all on information overload.
Consider the following: An average American watches television for five hours a day and with average access to 135 channels. Top this off with an average of more than three hours a day online and more than 600 million (that's right: million) websites. One website alone, You Tube, has more than 200 million videos.
With this staggering amount of information literally at our fingertips, we need simple ways to categorize, understand and process all these words and figures. Without these oversimplifications, we would be paralyzed, victims of our own insatiable quest for information.
But the other reason we love these lists is that they're fun and interesting. It's entertaining to debate the best movie ever made, the greatest left-handed tennis player in the modern era, or even the best lists of all times. (The New Yorker magazine has the periodic table of elements, the Bill of Rights, Craigslist and the Ten Commandments in the top four spots.)