Are we witnessing the best of the best of times?

In these times of win right now and at all costs mentality, where fans flock to cheer professional athletes who have been caught cheating and others pay the ultimate price for abandoning their families, how do we know what the best is?

Spurred by the incredible performances over the weekend by tennis player Roger Federer and golfer Tiger Woods, sportscasters and sportswriters scrambled to find their secret black books that calculate who is the all-time best at their particular speciality.

We cannot wait to anoint an athlete into his or her respective Hall of Fames and that kind of talk puts my hackles in an uproar. I concerns me when one of my brethren of the great unwashed (sportswriters) begins such chatter.

Two weeks ago, there was a smattering of interest when the Los Angeles Lakers won the world championship and people began to try and compare the team's selfish star Kobe Bryant to Michael Jordan. Huh?

It took President Obama to put an end to that ridiculous notion. There is only one Michael Jordan and if there is another one walking around out there, it won't be the villanous, ball-hogging Bryant.

Federer Federer On Sunday, Federer surpassed Pete Sampras' record of 14 majors with the Wimbledon win and was quickly crowned King of Tennis.

And this, with John McEnroe, Bjorn Bjorg, Rod Laver and Sampras himself sitting in the crowd.

To be honest, I don't know enough about the interstices of the sport to know whether he is truly the greatest.

A lot of tennis experts who have seen both Federer and Laver play will tell you that Laver was better.


Although he has not surpassed Jack Nicklaus' mark for major victories, I'm pretty sure that Woods has already been called the best—from the first tournament he played in as a professional.

Woods wins 50 percent of the tournaments he enters. Let that sink in for a minute.

Sunday's triumphs by the dynamic duo marks the sixth time they have both won a tournament on the same day.

Woods was apparently late for his tee-time Sunday because he was watching Wimbledon the tie-breaker between Federer and Andy Roddick.

What makes you great is the competition you face.

Joe Frazier and Ken Norton made Muhammad Ali great. Larry Holmes had the best fight record ever. Quick, name a couple of his opponents.

I'm not so sure that who we consider the best is a generational thing.

I saw Willie Mays play—in person. You'll never convince me there is a better baseball player than him.

I'm not so sure Bill Russell isn't better than Jordan, he just wasn't a big scorer, but he did have to cover the greatest scorer of all-time, Wilt Chamberlin.

My argument has always been, can we let these guys at least finish playing and gain some perspective before we start heaping these kinds of lofty titles on them?

I know Tigers Woods is the best of all-time, I'd just like to think about it for a couple of minutes.

The 5ive

Here are the five greatest athletes in their respective sports:

1. Baseball—Willie Mays.

2. Football—Jim Brown.

3. Basketball—Michael Jordan.

4. Hockey—Wayne Gretsky. 5. Tennis—Rod Laver.

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2009-07-09 digital edition

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