Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Why Are People So Resistant To Tebow As Best Ever?

Riffing off the last post, about Kirk Herbstreit laying out the "on-paper" case for considering Tim Tebow the greatest college football player ever...

The "accomplishments" alone (national titles, SEC titles, Heismans) is probably enough for "Greatest of All Time" (GOAT) status.

But then throw in two other core criteria -- the "intangibles" (like "competitiveness") and the myth-making around him.

In each of THOSE categories, individually, he is the greatest in college football history. Put all the criteria together and it's not even a question.

I think what people balk at is two things: (1) Anointing him "GOAT" before the season has played itself out (fair), and (2) They can't believe that this is happening in real-time.

To (2): We think of "GOAT" as legendary -- in part -- because they are ancient: Babe Ruth, Vince Lombardi, John Wooden... even Michael Jordan, who last played a meaningful game when kids in college were too young to remember him vividly.

Is it so crazy that we are living through the GOAT in college football right now? No, just as it is hardly crazy to think that, in Albert Pujols, we are watching one of the Top 5 baseball players of all time. Or that LeBron may just be the greatest basketball player ever.

Ironically, folks seem to be pretty comfortable saying that Michael Phelps is the greatest swimmer of all time and even that Usain Bolt is the greatest sprinter of all time.

Maybe because we feel less of a connection to those sports than we do college football or baseball or other "major" sports.


  1. It is very easy to name someone the greatest of all time when it is an individual racing against a clock. Looking at you, Phelps and Bolt.

  2. It is difficult to label the GOAT in college football and baseball, because of the nostaglia of the old-timers. Think about Hank Aaron as the Home Run King, but we still only talk about Babe Ruth. The same goes for college football even over the NFL with the exception to Jim Brown. The greatest NFLer of all time, in WR, QB, LB, TE have all been in the last 20 years. Now college football, is a whole different animal. It seems most people talk about the old Notre Dame teams of the 50's and 60's as the greatest. I know we mention Nebraska in 95/96 as maybe the greatest of all time, but those players from that team are not consider legends today. Take poor Vince Young, who I consider the GOAT at this point. (Tebow is knocking on this door) Vince is taking a lot of flak now with his NFL career not working out so well. Mack Brown never wins a National Championship without Vince. Now 20 years from now do we look back at the youtube clips and say "WOW, VINCE was the Greatest!" I say yes. Just like we will with Tim Tebow.

  3. Greatest of all time is nice, but as long as he is the greatest in his time, that's what will matter. Looking back at how the game has changed maybe Tebow might not have been the greatest at some point in the past b/c training, player development, recruiting and the way the game was played was something entirely different from what it is now. Forget all time, Tebow is the best of his time.

  4. Part of the problem as pointed out before is that it's easy to say Bolt or Phelps because they're racing against a clock. No one else ever ran/swam that fast before, clearly you are the best.

    In a team sport, especially something like football, the argument becomes muddier because while you can certainly say the GOAT of college footballs should be a quarterback, someone else might believe it's a running back, or a defensive player, and while these are different positions maybe you could rank Tebow as the greatest college quarterback of all time.

    But even then you won't have traction. I don't think it's a matter of even the old timers remembering the 50's, 60's, and 70's, do you think it's possible that anyone who isn't a Florida fan will ever agree with this? Texas fans will say Vince Young, Boston College fans will bring up Doug Flutie, and Nebraska fans will dig up Tommie Frazier.

    Football's a difficult sport to make this claim, I think, because in Basketball Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson and Larry Bird could shine individually even with a great team around them. But I've long had friends tell me that if Barry Sanders had played with the offensive line Emmett Smith had in Dallas that he'd have shattered every record conceivable. Would that make him the greatest NFL player ever? Maybe. But given that, would Frazier or Young or Flutie be the greatest ever if they had the team Tebow has around him? I can't say. But if he's replacable with one of those other guys than is he the greatest ever? Again I shrug.

    Oh, and just for future reference, I don't think it helps to say that as far as INTANGIBLES he's the best ever is a good way to make the argument, because clearly that's just an opinion. It may be yours, but if it's not mine you've already lost the argument because I'm already convinced that there's no discussion with you, you've made up your mind.