Every time a championship comes around whether it be a Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, or an NBA Championship, the sports media hypes up who is the Greatest Of All Time (G.O.A.T.). Even though trying to identify a G.O.A.T. for any sport is in impossible task, they go beyond a particular sport and try to pick the G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T.’s across all sports. This is lunacy.
During this year’s Super Bowl week, there was much discussion about Tom Brady vs Michael Jordan as being the G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T.’s. Further, after the Patriots lost, most sports media reporters stated that Jordan has sealed the title of the G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T.’s. Although, in my opinion, this is laughable, these kinds of discussions stir up more conversations and “sells newspapers”.
Every major sport has the Hall of Fame (H.O.F.). Players are selected into the H.O.F. based on some established criteria and for the most part, those elected are very much deserving. The H.O.F. players were the best of the best during the period and era that they played the game. The basic fallacy of trying to identify a G.O.A.T. is that as father time passes, many things change. Players are paid more and more over time thus their training becomes a year-around requirement. Diets and drugs (some legal and some illegal) have had a profound impact on the players’ conditioning along with their training regimen. Major rule changes make it impossible to compare players across eras. In the NBA, the game was much more physical in the 70’s and 80’s. The 3 point line was adopted in 1979 which revolutionized the game. Like the NBA, the NFL was much more lenient on physical and dirty play in the 60’s through the 80’s. Today, the QB’s are treated like girls and are now protected against both low and high hits. With the implementation of camera replays, nobody now knows what a “catch” is. In the MLB, how baseballs were made was changed in the 1920’s and ended the “dead ball era”. In the same era, rules are put in place to disallow “doctored” balls. Prior to this, it was common to use the same ball for a full game. Foul balls were routinely retrieved from the stands and re-used. Babe Ruth hit 54 HR’s in 1920 and 59 in 1922 thus ending the dead ball era. In 1973, the American League adopted the Designated Hitter to improve the offensive output.
Performance enhancing drugs (PED’s) ran rampant across all professional sports but MLB has taken center stage as baseball records are held sacred with the HR record at the top of the list. PED’s were not available until the 90’s, but the use of other drugs have been documented throughout MLB history. Babe Ruth injected himself with sheep testicle extracts. Mickey Mantle used amphetamine injections and other steroids available at that time. Hank Aaron was known to have tried amphetamine pills for a short period of time as he was frustrated by his lack of HR’s but he quit as it made him ill. Mike Schmidt and Goose Gossage also admitted to using amphetamines. To top things off, Bud Selig was the commissioner of the MLB from 1992 through 2014 which has been best known as the PED era. MLB revenues soared to new highs as over 50% of the players were juiced and offensive output were at all-time highs. Interestingly enough, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Mike Schmidt, Goose Gossage, and Bud Selig are all in the H.O.F. Additionally, Gossage has consistently said that PED users should NOT be elected in the H.O.F. under any circumstances. It was not until 2005, after the congressional investigations of the use of PED’s did the MLB institute stricter rules and penalties for the use of PED’s. After these rules were put in place, players shunned these new rules and continued to use PED’s with the most notable player being Alex Rodriguez. He is doing everything he can to make himself visible to the public and to the MLB H.O.F. voters in a positive light. Time will tell if he does enough to get voted into the H.O.F. My fundamental question in all sports is “how many cheating players have made the H.O.F. and how many deserving players will never get in because they choose not to kiss the voters’ asses?”.
Getting back to the G.O.A.T.s…
In the NFL, the undisputed G.O.A.T. appears to be Tom Brady. Even though his team lost to the Eagles this year, his performance was outstanding as he threw for 505 yards, threw 3 TD’s and had a QB rating of 115.4. Having said that, the media pays most of their attention on Wins and Losses. With this SB loss, Brady now has a record of 5 wins and 3 losses in SB’s. In 2001, the Patriots were given a gift when Brady fumbled with a few minutes left in the game and trailing against the Raiders. But, the referees ruled that the play was not a fumble which lead to the infamous “tuck” rule. Thus, Brady’s first SB win should not have even happened as the Raiders should have won that game. In 2015, if the Seahawks would have given the ball to Marshawn Lynch on the 1 yards line with a minute left in the game, Brady would have lost. In 2016, if the Falcons would have run the ball 3 times from the 25 yard line with less than 3 minutes left and kicked a field goal, Brady would have lost. Thus, instead of having a 5-3 Super Bowl record, Brady could very easily have a 2-5 SB record. I’m not saying that Brady doesn’t deserve the title of the NFL G.O.A.T., I’m just stating that there are more than win/loss records in identifying truly great players. Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills was a truly great QB but since his SB record is 0-4, he’ll never be mentioned as a G.O.A.T.
If I follow the sheep and try to name G.O.A.T.s instead of my belief that H.O.F’ers are the standard, following are my picks.
In the NBA, Michael Jordan is the undisputed G.O.A.T. No more needs to be said about that.
In the MLB, Willie Mays is the undisputed G.O.A.T. No more needs to be said about that.
In the NHL, Wayne Gretzky is the undisputed G.O.A.T. No more needs to be said about that.
In the NFL, Tom Brady is the acknowledged G.O.A.T. Brady has 5 SB wins but also has 3 SB losses. Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw both have 4 SB wins with zero SB losses, but Montana is heads and shoulders better than Bradshaw. Lively discussion… lol
However, if I were asked to name a G.O.A.T. of all G.O.A.T’s, it is a simple choice… It would be Roger Federer. His career spans from 2001 to the present and at age 37, he is playing his best tennis. He has won an astounding 20 Grand Slam Tournament titles and 3 in the last year against much younger opponents. My second choice would be Serena Williams. She has 23 Grand Slam Tournament titles and is the same age as Federer. Serena is one slam victory away from Margaret Court and currently on maternity leave. Her goal is to come back and win at least 25 Majors. I give the nod to Serena over Court as Serena is playing much stronger competition as current Men and Women tennis players are living and breathing tennis all year long.
At the end of the day, G.O.A.T. discussions breed lively conversation, but the H.O.F. tells me everything I need to know about the greatest players in sports throughout history.