What Is The Greatest Response To Being Asked “Who Is The Greatest Footballer Of All Time?” Of All Time?
As you may noticed, Leo Messi scored more goals than usual on Wednesday, a feat that cause several national newspapers to embark on another round of BUT IS HE THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME dipstickery. This being the future, we’re all allowed to get involved, and so the FCF has decided to WITTILY UNDERMINE the whole premise by allowing you — yes, YOU — to vote on the following question: What Is The Greatest Response To Being Asked “Who Is The Greatest Footballer Of All Time?” Of All Time?
1. Where is X? (not serious)
Ah, the lolz. Some people go for a classic shit footballer, like Gus Caesar or Emile Heskey, others for beloved club-specific flops like Kleberson, or Bosko Balaban. Still others prefer to reach back into the dusty annals for simple chuckle-generating obscurity, lamenting the absence of Patrick Colleter or Xavier Gravelaine. Whither Peter Fear? Why no David Kerslake? How could you forget Torben Piechnik? Like The Fast Show, funny once.
2. Where is X? (serious)
There are two ways of carrying out surveys of this kind. The first, which offers a limited selection, inevitably lends itself open to carping from people who are desperate to let you know that they know who Matthias Sindelar is. But the second — vote for who you want, we’ll count up — is much more pernicious, as can be seen from the Guardian/Observer’s experiment in
flagrant hit-whoring crowd-sourcing the best XI of All Time. A midfield four of John Cruyff, Diego Maradona, Zinedine Zidane and Steven Gerrard serves as both an eloquent dismissal of not only open-ended football polls but also democracy in general. “X” isn’t there because the list has to end somewhere, given that you can’t be trusted.
3. I can’t believe you included X. Where is Y?
A more specific version of the above, this normally takes offence in the specific slighting of A Player That I Like, especially in comparison to A Player That I Don’t Like. Much of the reasoning above applies, of course, but it’s couched in more specific, comparative terms. The shunned Y is superior, obviously, because he scored more goals, or if he didn’t then he made more, or perhaps goals were harder to score, or he did so while drunk, or distracted, or dead, or he was a goalkeeper, or a war hero, or had nice hair. And the bloke you’ve chosen? He’s a twat.
4. Why are people voting for X and not Y?
This, of course, is not about the question, or the answer, but the person decrying the answer. “Why have you all voted wrong” is a not-particularly subtle way of saying “you is all stupidheads”. It usually breaks down into an objection based on age, nationality, snobbishness, or taste, the startled trumpetry of a man discovering that a dark and vicious world is too young, too Anglo-centric, too mainstream and too damned philistinic to understand that Guido Ara is the greatest player of all time. Insignificance is a lonely business.
5. This Question Makes No Sense.
A favourite, this. You can go two ways: either assert that there’s no way of comparing players across time, due to the increase in fitness, change in the laws, development of alternative tactical theories, introduction of bladed studs, and so on, or say that you simply can’t compare players of different positions. They feel on the surface like good points, until you realise that by extension that makes it impossible to say that Bobby Moore was better than Titus Bramble, or that Leo Messi is better than Djimi Traore. Comparisons across time and position are possible; this answer is simply a whimper of “I don’t know. Why don’t I know? I must know! No, I really don’t know. I’ll pretend that nobody can know! Genius.”
6. If You’ll Permit Me To Change The Question To One I Know The Answer To.
This usually manifests itself along the lines of “well, of the players I’ve been alive long enough to see …”, which I’ve always suspected really depresses old people. Occasionally the bromide “privileged enough” is added in, to give the whole thing an air of uneasy obsequiousness. Worse still are people who insist on saying “well, of all the players I’ve seen live“, which is usually just a prelude to an anecdote about how they once watched a fat Johan Cruyff point his way around a field in America, but it didn’t matter, because you could literally smell that he was a genius.
The obvious criticism is that it fails to answer the question — if we wanted to know who the best player you’ve ever seen was, we’d have asked — but it also implies a certain solipsism, cunningly disguised as modesty. By limiting the response to one’s own experience, one runs the risk of sounding a bit like one of those people that begin arguments by saying “I’ve only ever read one book, but I can tell you this country needs a good war.” It might do, of course, but unless you’ve read one very large, very comprehensive book, you don’t know at all, do you? No. This is just another whimper.
7. This Question Cannot Be Answered.
Favoured by the kind of people that like to include the full name of whichever Brazilian playmaker they’re writing about in a piece — “the genius of Humphrey Elizabeth Spanglebrot van Hoppahoppahop the Third, known to his adoring public as Keith” — this will usually centre around a painfully agonising discussion of the semantics of the word “greatest”. What does it really means, when you break it all down? What is “great”? What, for that matter, isn’t it? And why? And why not? And so on and on until the boiling seas claim us all.
For some reason, nobody ever picks on any of the other words in the question, like “of”. But when you think about it, what does “of” actually mean, eh? If you ask me, and I know you didn’t, “of” has been getting away with it for too long. Stealing a living while other words earn their keep. And don’t get me started on “is”.
8. I Don’t Know, Would You Like A Biscuit?
Criminally overlooked. And yes, I would. Thank you.
There is of course a ninth option, dusty from neglect, which is to simply look at the list, think about it for a bit, and then pick somebody. So let’s try it. Find a piece of paper, choose your favourite of the above, and write down a number from 1 to 8. Fold it in half, write “The FCF” on the front, and then eat it. The results of the poll will be along in due course.
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