You know what I’ve been thinking about lately? The Greatest.
This past Sunday was no ordinary Sunday. It was Super Bowl Sunday. And for the second year in a row, the game lived up to the ridiculous amount of hype – as much as that’s actually possible. The underdog Arizona Cardinals stormed back from a 13-point deficit in the fourth quarter, to take the lead with under three minutes left. But alas the Pittsburgh Steelers answered with their own monumental 78-yard touchdown drive, securing their record sixth Super Bowl Title.
Minutes after the game ended, commentators, columnists and pundits were lining up to proclaim Super Bowl XLIII “the greatest” Super Bowl ever, a mere year after collectively declaring the New York Giants upset win over the then undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII “the greatest.” Pittsburgh’s interception return at the end of the first half was being hailed by some as “the greatest” Super Bowl play ever, Santonio Holmes’ acrobatic game winning touchdown was, according to some, “the greatest” Super Bowl TD catch in history and I even heard a few voices proclaim Jennifer Hudson’s rendition of the national anthem as “the greatest.”
Apparently, if you missed this year’s Super Bowl, you missed out on a lot of greatness.
So much greatness, in fact, that if anyone at home was playing a drinking game which required participants to consume their alcoholic beverages of choice anytime one of the myriad of post-game talking heads threw around “the greatest” moniker, they most certainly found themselves suffering “the greatest” hangover of all-time Monday morning.
What’s wrong with simply basking in the glow of a very, very good game – maybe even a great game – and leaving its true greatness to be figured out at some point down the road? Why the rush to declare it and everything associated with it “the greatest” right away? Was there a cash prize awarded the person who most definitively and decisively convinced football fans that last Sunday’s championship game was “the greatest” ever?
This recent obsession with labeling anything that’s highly above average “the greatest” is not just a sports cliché, but rather a trend that is slowly eroding the very foundation of our society. Okay, that might be overstating it somewhat, but it is, at the very least, starting to get really annoying. Let’s look back at this past year.
Michael Phelps? Greatest Olympian ever.
Barack Obama? Greatest campaign ever.
The ShamWow? Greatest infomercial ever.
While I can’t argue with the greatness that is the ShamWow, I do wonder when all these pointless declarations might come to an end.
And yet as I sit at my keyboard and throw stones, I must admit I’m no better than the rest of the country. Just a few weeks ago, after my son did something both intelligent and adorable, I declared him “the greatest” kid ever. Now don’t get me wrong, he’s really, really great. But the greatest kid ever? Hardly.
Perhaps our real problem is a deep-rooted societal need to prove our worth by outdoing (or at least thinking we’ve outdone) those things that came before. So by constantly referring to things as “the greatest” or “the best ever,” we’re in essence convincing ourselves that the exact time we live in is vastly superior to the years, decades and centuries that have past. As if things like Tivo and the internet didn’t already accomplish this.
Well, I for one, will no longer take part in this national inferiority complex. In the future I pledge to refrain from using overblown hyperbole. All I’m asking is that the rest of America follow my lead and do the same. We’re better than this. We’re a nation that collectively put our checkered past behind us and found it in our hearts to elect an African-American President. We should have no problem shedding the overuse of an obnoxious adjective.
And when we do, well, I just think it’ll be “the greatest.”