I greatly enjoy reading about the British admiration of Sir Steve Redgrave. Here in America, rowers aren't exactly well known (unless, of course, they sue Mark Zuckerberg). Redgrave's fame stems from his five Olympic gold medals (along with a bronze in '88), and the Telegraph reported that 58% of British Olympians voted him the Greatest Olympian ever.
So does that mean he should be the flame lighter? Is this simply an interesting finding or is this the most valid opinion group?
A similar debate ensued when Scottie Pippen tweeted "I may go as far as to say LeBron James may be the greatest player to ever play the game". The quote created controversy because, as SI's Joe Posnanski points out, Pippen is, in some ways, in a better position than any of us to make such a claim because he probably knows Jordan's game better than practically anyone save perhaps Phil Jackson. Of course, the debate was muted when Pippen backtracked, saying that Jordan was the greatest ever but that James had the potential to overtake him.
Of course, it doesn't take an six-time NBA champion to see that James has potential. Nor did it take such a star to see James overwhelmed in this years finals.
But that's exactly the point: you don't have to be a great athlete to know sports. You just have to be observant and persistent. Otherwise, you'd expect to see the best athletes become the best coaches. Clearly not the case.
And sports are hardly the only area with this debate: do you need to be personally involved to understand how something works?
Generally I'm more inclined to believe the logical explanation backed by evidence than a claim supported only by the gravity of its speaker, though in some cases I find the speaker's own experiences and accomplishments to be evidence enough. "Trust me, I know", when coming from a World Champion, rings more true to mean than does an eloquently made suggestion coming from someone with no experience in competition.
And an honor such as the flame lighter really should be the decision of those who have earned the right to make it. This isn't the government; the British aren't about to be subjected to the rule of the man or woman selected. For something both so ceremonial and so prestigious, the decision should be left to the most distinguished in the field. So if British Olympians think Redgrave is the greatest among them, then so be it.