Modern day GOATs: This is the greatest ever era for watching sports

Tom Clarke Roar Rookie

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    Roger Federer’s historic eighth Wimbledon victory is a reminder that we are living at a truly incredible time for watching sports.

    Unfortunately, I wasn’t alive to watch Donald Bradman, Rod Laver, Reg Gasnier or Muhammad Ali. However, over the past two decades I have had the privilege to witness some of the all-time greatest athletes in history.

    Despite my youth, I have been able to watch a staggering number of GOATs do what they do best.

    Roger Federer won his first Grand Slam in 2003, and basically hasn’t stopped winning ever since. At 35 years old, the Fed Express now has 19 major tournament victories, more than anyone else in history.

    Roger Federer

    (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin, File)

    Significantly, Federer has been consistently challenged by quality opposition like Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray. It is fraught to assess the historical significance of someone’s career before it ends, but Federer already has a case as the greatest tennis player of all time. And he looks a long way from being finished.

    Arguably, the same period has also contained the greatest ever female tennis player, as Serena Williams has consistently destroyed her competition, winning 39 combined singles and doubles titles since 2002.

    The past decade has also given rise to two of the greatest Olympians in history – Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps. The 2008 Olympics saw Bolt explode into the sporting consciousness as the fastest man in history, while Phelps broke the record for most gold medals in a single Olympics as he swept all comers in the pool.

    Elsewhere in the sporting world, LeBron James is a top three all-time basketballer and a legitimate challenger to Michael Jordan’s GOAT status. Jordan’s career had ended by the time I began to watch the NBA, but watching James’ dominance has been breathtaking.

    In particular, his performance in the 2017 Finals where he averaged a triple-double was phenomenal to watch.

    Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, right, shoots against the Golden State Warriors

    (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

    In the NFL, Tom Brady (five x Super Bowl wins and two x MVPs) and Peyton Manning (two x Super Bowl wins and five x MVPs) are both top-five, all-time quarterbacks.

    Closer to home, five NRL players have played Immortal-level careers in the past fifteen years (Andrew Johns, Darren Lockyer, Johnathan Thurston, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater), while Gary Ablett Jr, Chris Judd and Lance Franklin could all be Legends in the AFL Hall of Fame one day.

    Adam Gilchrist revolutionised the role of the wicketkeeper, Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan are the two greatest wicket takers in Test cricket history, while Sachin Tendulkar became the best batsman since Bradman.

    Naturally, this article risks accusations of recency bias and those are not necessarily unfair. But I think sometimes we give so much respect to the past that we forget to appreciate the present. Not only have the athletic performances of the past decade been incredible, but increased television coverage and the global reach of the internet has allowed us to watch it all from the comfort of our homes.

    It easy for us to be blinded by nostalgia, assuming that legends from the past can never be bettered. And perhaps one day I’ll look back and tell my grandkids how much better things were back in my day. But for now, I’m just happy to appreciate what the sporting landscape has on offer right now, living among the GOATS.

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