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‘I’m the best in the world’

Posted: August 14, 2014 5:32 p.m.
Updated: August 15, 2014 6:00 a.m.

I watched Rory McIlroy win the PGA title Sunday, his third straight golf tournament victory and his second major title within three weeks.

The Northern Ireland native is so clearly the best player in the world that nobody else can even think about claiming that distinction.

Watching McIlroy’s clutch performance down the stretch of closing holes, I wondered, “How does it feel to be the best in the entire world?”

I don’t mean just in golf. In anything.

It has to be exhilarating to know you’re the best performer in the universe at whatever you choose to do, whether it’s playing golf, driving a race car, running a business, painting houses, writing computer software, repairing an automobile or composing music.

Golf has a world rating system based on tournament finishes and concrete accomplishments. There’s nothing subjective about it. McIlroy simply outperforms everybody else and is the unchallenged king of the game right now.

But in other areas, there’s no clear way to determine who’s the best in the world, though humans have always been fascinated with rating people.

How could you possibly rank technocrats like Microsoft’s Bill Gates or Apple’s Steve Jobs (R.I.P.) or Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg? It would be impossible to quantify the best.

Or musicians, for instance.

Imagine: it’s 1730 in Vienna, and three music lovers are having a beer and a good-natured argument.

“Whaddya mean Bach’s the best composer of our time? He might be the most famous, but he can’t hold a candle to Vivaldi,” one says.

“Aw, neither one of you is right,” the third man pipes in. “Henry Purcell’s the best Baroque composer of all. What’s more, the word Baroque hasn’t even been invented yet. How did Glenn work it into this column?”

Or how about scientists and doctors?

It would be impossible to pick the best heart surgeon or the top geneticist or the premier marine biologist.

Nobody could choose the very best, hands-down, nobody-comes-close artist, either.

Think back to France of the late 19th century. Do you think Claude Monet considered himself the best impressionist artist in the world? Might Edouard Manet have a say about that, or perhaps Renoir or Cezanne?

There’s no way to know, because so much of it is personal preference.

But take LeBron James, the NBA star. It’s pretty clear that he’s the best basketball player of his era. Michael Jordan might have been better in his day -- maybe so, maybe not -- but when James goes to bed at night, he can sleep with the satisfaction of knowing that right now, here in August of 2014, not a single person in the world is a better player than he is.

What a charge!

Ever wonder who the best economist in the world is?

Could it be Alan Greenspan, former Federal Reserve chairman, or Arthur Laffer, the guy Ronald Reagan relied on? You could never know, because they have different nuances in their theories. Nobody could conclusively prove one was better than the other.

It’s that way with carpenters, too, and house painters and truck drivers.

Weathermen? They get it wrong so often there might not even be a best one. Maybe choosing a worst one would be more appropriate, but they'd all tie for that dubious distinction.

So we’ll never be able to determine the top fisherman, chef or auto mechanic. But for the few instances in which there’s a clear-cut best in the world -- the Rory McIlroys and LeBron Jameses -- it must be quite the treat to wake up in the morning and say to yourself:

“I’m the best in the world. The very best.”


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