Geniuses of Our Time
Only now, really, can hockey fans look back upon the era of the NHL that featured both Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux to understand how special that time was, how rare it was to have two such athletes competing in the league at the same time.
In a similar sense, we should cherish the opportunity we currently have to watch the two athletes who may one day be regarded as not only the greatest in their sports, but may spawn a terrific argument over the identity of the greatest individual athlete ever.
Historians will cite Jim Thorpe. Canadians might argue Lionel (The Big Train) Conacher deserves a mention. Those will to look the other way on certain ethical matters will throw in the names of Carl Lewis and Lance Armstrong.
But right now, it's hard not to look in utter awe at golf's Tiger Woods and Roger Federer of professional tennis.
Woods gets the headlines today because of his victory at Medina on Sunday - and let's face it, if Mike Weir wasn't Canadian he wouldn't merit a mention in this conversation - which gave him 12 victories in major golf tournaments.
He's six short of Jack Nicklaus all-time, and needs seven to move into first by himself. On ESPN.com this morning, writer Gene Wojciechowski delivers a solid argument as to why Tiger should be considered the greatest individual athlete ever.
But hang on here.
Federer, at 25, has won eight of tennis' Grand Slam events. Like Woods, he needs six to tie Pete Sampras for No. 1 all-time, seven to make history.
Both Woods and Federer are edging into their prime. The difference in that which they are able to accomplish may ultimately lie in the nature of their sports.
Federer may be a spent force by the time he is 30. By 35, he'll probably be retired.
Woods, by contrast, can continue to play professionally until his 50s, which means he'll get a lot more opportunities to win major tournaments.
Both men are competing in their respective sports at a time when the competition has never been greater. Even still, Woods is 12-0 when holding the lead on the final day of a major - could part of the reason be that he's so obviously in better shape than everybody else? - while Federer has won eight of the past 13 Grand Slam events played.
Woods will get more acclaim because of the popularity of his sport. To me, Federer gets the nod because tennis is far, far more physically demanding.
Okay, plus I love tennis, and regard golf generally as dull, dull, dull. There's my bias, right out there on the table.
Morever, while Tiger's opponents roll over most weeks, Federer has the good fortune to have a host of tough rivals who allow him to highlight his excellence even more.
So Woods or Federer?