Posts Tagged ‘ESPN’

In many ways ESPN has been the death of sports for me.  At first, I loved Sports Center, as I could catch all the highlights without spending hours watching the games, but over the years it has become an endless stream of mind-numbing dialogue, staged arguments, and tired narratives.  Filling up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week raises sports talk to the ad nauseam level, and with the success of each channel comes the advent of a new one (e.g. ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPNews, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Bases Loaded…). 

Perhaps the lamest of all dialogues are the ones surrounding the “Greatest of All Time (GOAT)”.  Inevitably, people pick their favorite player, and simply trot out the stats that support their narrative, while ignoring anything that might challenge it. 

If you’re a Michael Jordan fan, you’ll point out that he was 6 for 6 in NBA finals, and act as though he simply willed the Bulls to those championships, but you’ll leave out all the seasons that they didn’t make the finals, and most especially the two seasons spent in Washington.  Indeed, the “Last Dance” wasn’t really the last dance, it’s just the last one MJ wanted you to remember. 

You’ll argue that championships are the measuring stick, and taunt that 6 is better than 5 (Kobe) or 4 (Lebron, Tim Duncan…), but you won’t mention Robert Horry’s 7 rings, or Bill Russell’s 11 (in just 13 seasons).  If it doesn’t support your conclusion, you’ll just leave it out.

It’s not that any of these counterpoints prove that MJ isn’t the greatest of all-time, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves into believing that this is anything more than our opinion.  Attempting to gauge players from different eras, playing different roles, and with different team dynamics is for the most part, impossible.  Moreover, there is really no point in trying to make such an argument, other than the need to fill up space on a slow sports day. 

Perhaps the most damaging element of trying to elevate someone to the GOAT status is that it inevitably leads to tearing down all other potential challengers for the title.  This ultimately steals the joy of watching some of sports greatest figures, and celebrating their unique accomplishments.  You can rant that Lebron is no MJ, or that Elway was no Brady, or that Steffi Graf was no Serena Williams, or that Carl Lewis was no Usain Bolt, but that doesn’t really prove anything.  Each of these individuals were spectacular in ways that their counterparts were not.  Why not just celebrate all of them for what they were.

In a similar vein, talent competitions have created this same sort of dialogue within the artistic realm.  Whether it is singing, or dancing, or cake decorating, we endeavor to judge one person’s artful expression to be superior to another’s.  Does the greatness of Fred Astaire’s dancing somehow diminish that of Michael Jackson’s?  Does Katherine Hepburn’s body of work really need to compete with Meryl Streep’s career?  Can’t we be blown away by the extraordinary talent of both Whitney Houston and Adele?  Do we really need to declare one as the “greatest of all time”?

Finally, there is the comparable issue of BFF’s.  This is a seemingly harmless acronym used to express our deep affection for those who are closest to us, but in order to have a “best friend”, I would have to rate my friends against each other, which seems like a foolish, and destructive thing to do.  The “forever” element of the acronym can also be troublesome, as friendships are often just for a season of our lives.  I certainly have had wonderful friends, who walked with me through incredibly difficult chapters in my life, but who eventually moved on.  That doesn’t diminish the value of what their friendship has meant to me, or their impact on my life.

Ultimately, I find it ironic that a culture that supposedly places great value on the ideas of diversity and inclusion, would be so obsessed with elevating one person above all the rest.  I would rather just celebrate them all for the unique thing that they brought to the table.

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