Hard to call LeBron James and Messi true Goats but Super Bowl makes Prince No.1

There are many things that upset me when it comes to modern-day sport.

The serious ones I have written about many times, none more so than the greed, reckless governance and duplicity that continues to bring death by a thousand cuts to my love of football. A painful, brick-by-brick dismantling of the legitimacy of a sport that still dares to call itself ‘The Beautiful Game’.

However, I’m almost done talking about that. There’s nothing you don’t already know, and you either agree or choose to ignore, so let’s just leave it at that.

Instead, I would like to muse on a fairly insignificant contemporary bugbear that involves four legs, horns and, on occasion, a very cool beard. I’m talking about the humble goat, an underrated, nimble and intelligent animal that has been hijacked as an acronym to describe the Greatest Of All Time.

Social media is mainly to blame, with that feckless hashtag and emoji slammed down in a tweet as if it ends the argument once and for all. Yet, truthfully, undisputed Goats in any sport are few and far between, because where there’s legitimate debate, the only people who would dare employ the Goat are mere sheep.

Clearly, football is a non-starter. There’s just Pele, Messi, Maradona, Best and on we go. So, cool it with the horns.

Tennis is also a no-go area. For women, it’s likely Steffi Graff or Serena Williams, and for men it’s a familiar, well-worn toss-up, but where there is genuine dispute, there is no nanny, nor billy.

Don’t get me started on boxing, as fair-weather fans tend to reach for Muhammad Ali without a second’s thought. Maybe, because he was more than just a boxer, but many experts will choose ‘Sugar’ Ray Robinson, so the buck stops right there.

Is cricket a done deal? Most commonly I hear Sir Don Bradman’s name but there are some that put Sachin Tendulkar at No.1 in the goating order. Honestly, I don’t know but Eleanor Oldroyd does and she said ‘there will always be debate’, and where there is discourse there is no livestock.

I could obviously carry on forever listing sports in which the Goat tag is up for parlay. What is much more difficult however is pinpointing those sporting legends who, without contradiction, deserve such a furry accolade.

With the Olympic Games, picking an overall greatest is nonsensical, but Michael Phelps in swimming, Usain Bolt in sprinting and Jackie Joyner-Kersee in long jump and heptathlon have me tentatively reaching for that emoji.

In American sports, Babe Ruth is a great place to start. The Sultan of Swat dominated an era like nobody ever has, and when he did he changed the game of baseball forever. Case closed, surely?

Similarly, ice hockey is safe goating ground, as those who suggest anyone other than Wayne Gretzky are immediately frozen below centre ice as a warning to any who dare make the same mistake. Basketball, well, Michael Jordan remains the popular choice but LeBron James just broke the all-time NBA scoring record and is still active. Discussions are now taking place vis-a-vis the Goat.

And rather aptly, that brings us to the NFL, with Super Bowl LVII taking place this weekend.

Quarterback Tom Brady has just retired for the final time and when New York Giants legend Lawrence Taylor picked Joe Montana instead, it caused a stampede of coverage.

With seven rings and just about every record that counts, surely Brady is as safe a Goat in his position as you’ll find in any team sport. However, he is not the only Goat in the NFL. There is another that is there to stay, and his name is Prince and he is funky.

When the late, great one played the half-time show at the Miami Super Bowl in 2007, the heavens opened during Purple Rain and, in one downpour, the book was closed.

Ever since, the competition has been for second place and it’s Rihanna’s turn in Arizona on Sunday. I’m excited but she can pull out all the umbrellas she wants, pon as many replays as possible and find love in several places – alas, she is still competing for the runners-up spot.

As for true sporting Goats, there are several others I haven’t mentioned. There’s Jahangir Khan in squash and Phil Taylor in darts to name but two. However, I do have a word count.

I will put this out on social media today to continue the debate, but what is for sure is the true sporting Goat makes the giant panda look positively commonplace.


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