Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Greatest Ever…Why Label?

By Tim Richardson

In high school, I would smirk when a kid in my class was recognized for perfect attendance. But when that type of feat translates to a professional athlete and their commitment to their respective sport, there’s nothing funny about it.

On December 13, Minnesota Vikings’ QB Brett Favre’s streak of consecutive game starts came to an end as he was inactive against the New York Giants. After 297 consecutive NFL games, a span of almost two decades, Favre finally met an injury that he could not play through… as he did for the majority of his NFL career.

Favre’s streak is often compared to the 2,632 consecutive games played streak of baseball’s all-time Iron Man, Cal Ripken, Jr., an accomplishment that spanned from 1982-1998. Ironically, both streaks ended against New York teams (Ripken vs. the Yankees, 9/20/98)

Since Favre’s streak ended, the sports talk airwaves, bloggers, newspapers columnist (yes, they still exist) TV personalities and others debated which streak is more impressive or should go down as the greatest in sports. Here’s my question…why does either have to be labeled? Are they both not amazing in and of themselves? Does the physical pounding encountered in Favre’s sport outweigh the grind of a grueling, 162 game baseball season or Ripken’s longevity…or vice versa? My point is that you can’t, and shouldn’t, compare these two feats. Instead, why not just marvel in both of them and, if you were lucking enough to witness either or both play, be thankful for that opportunity…these level of achievements do not come around often (in Ripken’s case, probably never again).

This recent debate reminded me of a phrase that makes me cringe each time I hear it - “greatest of all-time.” Every sport seems to find it necessary to assign a ranking to its players. Recently, the NFL Network revealed The Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players as determined by a “blue-ribbon panel.” Once the results were in, wide receiver Jerry Rice was ranked the greatest player in NFL history.

No disrespect to Jerry Rice, as I think he was an amazing player, but I don’t understand how you can rank players of different eras and classify one as “the greatest ever.” Look at how the sports changed over the years. In the days of players like Johnny Unitas, defensive linemen could literally clothesline the quarterback and try to rip his head off. In today’s NFL, if a defender sneezes near the quarterback it’s a 15-yard penalty and/or a $25,000 fine. Uhm, when did football become a non-contact sport? Plus, there was no instant replay, face shields, elaborate game films to study, etc. in the game’s early years. I’m not saying that players such as Peyton Manning and Troy Polamalu aren’t as good as the likes of Unitas and Deacon Jones. I’m actually saying the opposite.

This is an even bigger issue for me with baseball since that sport’s records are revered so much more than any other game. Using straight raw statistics to compare a player from 1910 to a player from 2010 is just illogical. Barry Bonds hitting 762 homeruns does not make him better than Babe Ruth, who first set the home run record with 714. Their styles of play were just so different.

Instead of always analyzing who’s “the greatest,” just sit back and appreciate sports for the enjoyment they bring to our lives.

Thanks Cal. Thanks Brett. Both are amazing feats!

Tim Richardson
is Executive Vice President at Maroon PR. Contact him at

1 comment:

  1. What a great blog! I agree with Tim, can't we all get along?