At the risk of sounding like an autocrat, when you take something that requires authority and control in order to be accurate and credible and you arbitrarily place it in the hands of the people by way of a popular vote, you risk embarrassing results.
That's what happened to NFL.com this week, with DeSean Jackson's walk-off punt return from a 2010 regular-season game against the Giants being crowned the "greatest play of all time" in a bracket-style, vote-based tournament.
It seems NFL.com is a little flustered by this. Under a broad byline, here's how they reacted to the result in their "Around the League" blog:
It's an understatement to say this selection comes as a surprise. Jackson was a No. 10 seed before he started busting brackets en route to a final-round win over Steve Young's winding touchdown run. But more than 58 million of you decided it was the greatest play in NFL history, so who are we to argue?
(Actually, we'd totally argue. There's no way this is a better play than the Immaculate Reception, Music City Miracle or David Tyree's Helmet Catch. This is the ugly side of democracy. Hope you are happy.)
Jackson admitted in an interview with WIP Sports Radio in Philadelphia that he "was telling everybody to vote for" him. Although the majority of the 58 million who voted for Jackson's play were either blindly supporting their favorite team or were lying to themselves, it's hard to hate on them for making a mockery of a process that was ripe to be mocked.
Jackson's play beat Young's by a nice margin in the "championship," but it has to be considered that those plays were separated by more than two decades. We favor what we remember. There are a lot of potential voters who weren't even alive when Young made that play, but they know where they were when Jackson returned that punt.
And keep Internet demographics in mind. The typical age of those who would be inclined to participate in such a voting process gives Jackson's play a natural edge, while handicapping great plays that took place in previous eras.
It just so happens that Jackson's return was the fourth-youngest play in the 64-play bracket, and a disproportionate three of the eight plays that made the quarterfinals took place in the last three years.
Of course, that still doesn't explain how Jackson's touchdown, which took place in a regular-season game and didn't lead to anything substantial for the Eagles, managed to beat out David Tyree's catch, which was phenomenal in every respect and led directly to a Super Bowl victory.
It's a two-tiered insult for Giants fans, but something tells me they're cool with the snub and their 4-0 edge over the Eagles in the Super Bowl department.