(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Is Frank Deford Right?

Deford, in this SI column, suggests that the Patriots, Tom Brady, Tiger Woods and Roger Federer are the best ever.

Here are my thoughts:

1. The Pats are up there with the Bears of way back when, the Packers of the 60's, the Steelers of the 70's, the 49ers of the 80's and the Cowboys of the early 90's. Something tells me that the Bears of way back when (30's?) fall short, and I don't think that the Cowboys of the early 90's were as good as the Steelers, 49ers and Patriots. But are the Pats better than the Steeler teams that won 4 Super Bowls? The Joe Montana-led 49er teams? Hard to say.

2. Ditto for Brady, who, again, is up there in the QB pantheon. But it's hard to say whether he's better than Montana, Unitas or even John Elway. And who really cares? He has 3 Super Bowl rings to his credit, might get a fourth, and is in rarified air anyway.

3. As for Federer, he's won 11 straight Grand Slam titles. He's also playing at a time where, seemingly, tennis doesn't compel the audiences it did during what appear now to have been its golden age in the early 80's with Connors, McEnroe and Borg pounding it out in heroic matches. Still, his record of accomplishments is so compelling that it's hard to argue that Federer isn't the best ever.

4. As for Woods, well, he's close. He has some more "major" work to do to overtake the Golden Bear, Jack Nicklaus, for the all-time title in majors, but, again, he's up there in an elite club, along with Nicklaus and perhaps one or two others -- Bobby Jones, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer. Within 5 years, I believe Woods will stake the claim to best ever, because he'll have won more majors and removed what, if any, doubts there are that he isn't the best ever now.

And, yes, of course, the players are more gifted today, the scrutiny tougher, the competition better, because you don't have the amateur/open distinction in tennis, you have salary cap issues to contend with in football, among many other factors. All of the above -- the Pats, Brady, Federer and Woods -- transcend, period. They are elite, at the top of their game, and they play to win all of the time. They remain calm under pressure, keep their focus, and deliver the goods.

Week in and week out.

And they're fun to watch and root for, to boot.

So, is Frank Deford right?

It's hard to say, but we can conclude that we are watching all-timers in each category.


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