How great is great?

Posted by Nigel Wilson on 18 December 2014 | Comments

The adjective ‘great’ is generally positively applied to a person, place or thing as an expression of admiration, respect, particular liking or enjoyment

However, when it’s applied to a person, it can often be over-stated. An example underlining this came from a recent article written by Stuart Barnes (former rugby player) about the New Zealand rugby captain Richie McCaw

Barnes described McCaw as “arguably the greatest (rugby) player of them all”. He said he reminds him of the National Hunt jockey Tony McCoy - the ability to repeat what he’s been doing for years, game after game - or in McCoy’s case, ride after ride.

And that surely is the essence of the word great - its consistency

Many would argue that Rooney is a great footballer. He’s certainly good, talented. But given his inconsistency, can he genuinely be described as great?

Boycott wasn’t the most popular cricketer, but he proved his consistency many times through his run-scoring. Schumacher was a great racing driver - he won the Formula One championship seven times. Not just once, or twice. Seven times!

The Waterside Restaurant at Bray, run by the Roux family, is a great restaurant, clearly because it’s held 3 Michelin stars for 25 years. The Chiltern Firehouse, which is feted by celebrities on the London scene, might be currently more popular. And it might be good; it might be very good. But is it great? Too soon to tell. Will it last the course or fade away in a few years time?

When someone is described as a great salesman, how great are they? Did they just smash their target last year? Or did they achieve fantastic sales year-after-year-after-year?

Consistency and longevity are surely the true hallmarks of greatness.