Tuesday, August 22, 2006

How to classify greatness

Tiger Woods' dominant victory at this years PGA Championship in Medinah revealed what the definition of greatest player ever means.

Margin of victory is how we should define these athletes in debating who is the best ever. All great athletes in their respective eras have competitors with equal skill. What seperates great from greatest ever is consistantly large margins of victory.

Let's look at a few that head the list:

Annika Sorenstam: some say the lack of competitors in her era have fueled the decline of the LPGA's viewership. She has equal competitors, it's just that in her prime, her margins of victory have mislead the media into believing that she plays a weak field. Se Ri Pak is to Annika as Phil Mickelson is to Tiger.

Lance Armstrong: opponent cyclists were afraid to say or do anything outside of the unwritten rules of cycling during a tour for fear he would use it as motivation to crush an opponent. Jan Ullrich is to Lance as Sergio is to Tiger.

There are other dominant athletes (and teams)...Michael Jordan...The New York Yankees...Wayne Gretsky...to name a few, but they are all team-specific, and not individual. I'm not taking anything away from team player accomplishments, but I'm drilling down to the individualist subset for the definition of greatestness.

Tiger has competitors, it's just that he has the ability to seperate himself from the pack by virtue of his margin of victory. Nobody in golf's era had that ability. Not Nicklaus....Hogan....or Snead. All were great golfers, but none had the ability to consistantly seperate themselves from their peers. For proof, you can look at those three and you immediately think of their rivals. But not in Tigers case.

He has no rivals.

Thanks for reading. Keep it in the short-grass,


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