Greatest athlete

My last post raises the question — who is the greatest athlete, and why isn’t Lance it?

First off, I agree with those who’d argue that it’s too hard to define those criteria. And yet, depending on what you set the standard at, Armstrong’s often a fine candidate.

If greatest athlete means the greatest achiever at any athletic event, Armstrong’s seven wins in the Tour de France stand with any other athlete, ever.

If greatest athlete means the most well-rounded (as Bayless argues) then you start getting into the requirements: should they really have to be able to hit a ball, and sprint, but be exempt from endurance and the sheer metal strength of suffering that a biker endures? Why is it okay that some of the two-sport guys Bayless cites weren’t so good at other sports (Jordan and baseball is notably overlooked) while Armstrong’s early history as a triathlete — and a good one, even if he did excel at one of the three legs) is slighted? Why is it counted against Armstrong that he’s not so good at baseball — though it’s never been something he was dedicated to — but it’s not counted against Deion Sanders that he can’t ride a bike over a mountain pass, over and over — because he never tried?

The thing is: set the standard first, and see who makes it. Don’t move the definitions around, adding and subtracting as you see fit, sometimes stooping to fix evidence to fit your own ill-informed beliefs about who should and shouldn’t be in.

If you do that, if you work to come up with a way to measure the strength of accomplishment across sports, Armstrong’s name will start coming up over and over for many of the definitions. I don’t care if you want to say that he “shouldn’t even be in the conversation” — that only means you’re not worth talking to.