Back when Ali first proclaimed he was “The Greatest of All Time”, the phrase didn’t exist in the lexicon of sports. The moment he flew from his mouth, he changed the sports landscape forever. It began then. Sports fans began to seriously consider and question that statement. Over time, it has infiltrated all sports, every aspect of each sport and now here we are some forty years later and that’s all we hear, with every event, with every player. It’s not good enough to win a title any more, you have to be so dominate that you can be ranked in the “greatest ever” category, so the evil Four Letters can replay and replay and replay and replay and replay an athlete’s greatness.
To break this down further, let’s take an athlete who many consider the greatest of all-time: Mr. Tiger Woods. The man has an uncanny resolve, a fire to win and it’s not against the other men on the course, but the course itself, and himself, of course (and a horse is a horse). Even when he passes Nicklaus in major wins how could you say he’s greater. We think he’s greater because we’re witnessing it before our very own eyes, in HD on a giant 60” LCD Flat Screen with surround sound. It’s quiet different when you compare that to grainy black and white footage of Jack sinking a five foot putt on the 18th to win one of his early majors.
So we shouldn’t say “Greatest of All Time”, but instead, what should be said is someone is the “Greatest of All Time Up to Now”. But wait, let’s take a look at the man everyone now is claiming to be the greatest ever at his sport: Mr. Roger Federer. His fifteen Grand Slam titles are now unmatched. But wait, look at his record on clay against a certain Spaniard. So he’s the greatest ever except when playing on clay, against Nadal, who coincidentally after winning the “greatest match of al time in tennis last year” suddenly ripped away the number one raking and even had Sports Illustrated question whether Nadal should be carrying the “greatest of all time” mantle at the ripe old age of 23…
So this is what should happen: Everyone, stop, take a deep cleansing breath. Time constantly moves forward and as I look down at my watch, time has yet to end, so putting the moniker of Greatest of All Time (let alone ANY Time) on anybody for anything is something straight out of Idiocracy. (If you haven’t seen this movie by the brilliant man who brought us Office Space, you need to see what our world will be in two hundred years, if we stay on our current course.)