What is élite? It's a term thrown around often, particularly in the sports world, to describe those athletes, and teams, supposed to be the best of the best. Just by being professional athletes, those that compete in the sporting world are the "élite". They are a group of people who are far above average, in terms of athletic ability, power, influence, and wealth. Separating from that group doesn't make someone more "élite" than someone else in that group. Someone doesn't become the best of the best, by defeating the worst, or the average, and make no mistake about it, the worst player in the NFL, is still better at football than you, your best friend, your cousin's college roommate, and your father. This isn't a point of debate, not an opinion which can be disputed, it is an out-and-out fact, and the only instance in which this is not a fact, is if any one of those people is currently, or was, an NFL player. The evidence of this lies in that, they are in the NFL, and the people you know, are not. Which brings me back to the point of someone being more "élite" than another élite player. Logic defies this idea, at least from where I am seeing it, and I would love it if someone could explain to me where I may be missing the point, or just flat-out ignorant.
What is the criteria for being "élite"? I have seen, and heard, players who have had one stellar season suddenly being lumped into the class of "élite", and many of those players never reach that level again, does this mean they lose their "élite" status even though they have shown that rare ability? Seems like a contradiction because he didn't get to that level by accident. You can call it luck if you so choose, but merely passing it off as luck ignores everything else it took to get to that level, and the numbers, or actual play, you looked at which convinced you that he is "élite". This particular player must have clearly showcased some ability to play even better than those around him, that ability doesn't just disappear, whether it is seen again or not. So does this make "élite" an innate thing that someone just is, even if it is only seen rarely? What about those players that flash brilliance, but are still called less than stellar players, do they not have obvious "élite" qualities? A player that is consistently one of the top three players at his position, isn't necessarily one of the best players in the league, particularly if that is a weak position. You then will have to actually separate a players "eliteness", into positional categories, which could get downright confusing.
The new craze seems to be trying to force players into a category of "élite". Will Joe Flacco take the next step into the tier of the "élite", Eli Manning claims to be "élite", Russell Wilson is now a "Super Bowl winning quarterback", so he must be "élite". Of the three players mentioned, whom I am using purely as examples, Wilson is most likely the best, but none of the three have done it alone, and none of the three hold a legitimate argument for being the best at the position. Some may say, "Being in the top 5 at your position for multiple years makes you élite", but what if the top 5 players at that position really aren't that damn good? Furthermore, what if everyone in the top 10 is absurd, do all 10 of them get the "élite" label? What is wrong with calling a player "one of the best"? If you're not the best player at your position, then you are one of the best... Is this really so difficult? Do those three extra words really require so much energy and different thought process, that we have to shave it down to an almost undefinable "élite" characteristic, just so we only speak one word? The phrase "one of the best" also allows for wiggle room and change. A player can be one of the best players in a given year, and should he regress a year later, it's simple to not describe his year as one of the best.
When a player is "élite", everyone has this expectation that every year has to be damn near flawless and any regression is a sign of no longer being a great player. The assumption always puts a player in a corner, and makes it far too simple for a player to be completely blasted for not having a "standard" year. Consistency is key to any player's future, but why must there always be categories? Not everything has to be categorized, not everything has to fit in a box. Sometimes the best players are the ones nobody pays attention to, who do little things that go unnoticed, and sometimes "élite" players, actually have their best seasons when it is unheralded and looked at as a regression. It is my, humble, opinion, that we need to do away with the "élite" moniker, and begin looking at things from a more practical level. Instead of using "élite" to explain a player's performance, we should be discussing his actual performance, discuss what makes him so good, and acknowledging that even if his numbers are not other worldly, they can still be one of the best at their position.
I used quotations more often than I would have liked to, but I feel they were necessary often. Many people will disagree with this opinion and outlook, but hopefully this can get the conversation started. What is your opinion on calling a player élite? Do you think it is fair, or unfair?