That old truism about everybody wanting his or her 15 minutes of fame has reached new heights. And It’s not just the occasional person who wants to be known for sitting on the flagpole the longest, or eating the most bugs on a reality-television show. Now, the desire to qualify, to put that extra shiny spin on things, is everywhere.
It seems that nothing and no one wants to be plain, ordinary, or average. The only problem is, if everything is special, eventually nothing is special.
This phenomenon has been hovering in the back of my brain for a while now (apparently, not special enough to warrant much notice). But then I caught a hockey announcer raving about a goal. I have no clue who the team was, but they had swept the puck into the net just 10 seconds into the game. The announcer was in paroxysms of excitement. In the annals of sports, it was the quickest goal ever. Well, maybe not ever: it was the quickest goal ever by that team. In the playoffs. On home ice.
If they manage the feat again, I can hear the play-by-play already: the quickest goal by that team. In the playoffs. On home ice. On a Tuesday.
The trend has spread faster than Triffids. The sheer number of categories in which one can be the ?best? boggles the senses. On a website devoted to the best in blogs, it seems that everyone walks away a winner: best blog about, best blog about stuff (and the difference is?), best celebrity blog, entertainment, gossip, health . . . The categories are dizzying, 36 in all. don’t rate as the best in any of them? Add a couple of qualifiers and you can take home the prize. Best political blog. In English. By a left-handed writer. Living in Alberta. Wearing Blackspots. You’re a shoo-in.
Another example is the awards handed out by a Canadian home builders? association. they’re enough to make me want to slip on some safety boots and start practising my acceptance speech. Nominees no longer have to be the best, period. Now, they can win for the best single-family detached home. Under 2,000 square feet. Or between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet. Or 3,000 and 4,000 square feet. Ad infinitum, with nearly 50 ways to be the ?best.?
It’s kind of like those community picnics where every kid gets a ribbon. Everyone’s happy, everyone’s the best. That’s great for building Billy’s and Susie’s self-esteem, but when it comes to recognizing and rewarding genuine talent and hard work, it can dilute the honour so much as to make it hollow.
Sure, It’s necessary to differentiate between types and levels of accomplishment. It makes perfect sense for Olympic pole vaulters to compete against a field of other pole vaulters. To choose the best by comparing their abilities to wrestlers or speed skaters is impossible; It’s a different set of skills, and there’s no logical way to evaluate them.
But when so many sets of conditions are introduced that everyone can be the ?best,? the term loses all meaning. By keeping the parameters simple, it keeps the standards high. And isn’t that what being the best is really all about?