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SI Daily Cover: How We Got From 'The Goat' to 'The GOAT'

He used to be the fall guy. Buckner. Bartman. Bostick. Now he (or she) is the greatest. How did this barnyard pejorative turn into a boast? What does the shift say about us? And, uh, where does LL Cool J figure in all of this?

GREEN BAY, Wis. – Brandon Bostick was the goat for the Green Bay Packers in their epic 2014 NFC Championship Game meltdown against the Seattle Seahawks.

Had the Packers won that game, and had Aaron Rodgers beaten Tom Brady in the Super Bowl two weeks later, Rodgers might have had a leg to stand on in the GOAT debate as the greatest of all-time among quarterbacks.

Goats and GOATs. How did this barnyard pejorative turn into a boast?

As Michael Rosenberg wrote in Tuesday’s Daily Cover:



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Like some of Jordan’s best dunks, the word goat has done the rarely seen etymological 180: It now means almost the exact opposite of what it used to mean. If you weren’t paying attention, you might have missed the change. A few years ago, former NBA player Craig Ehlo was watching a Finals game when his son Austin declared “LeBron is the GOAT.” Ehlo was confused; he had never heard the acronym for greatest of all time before. Ehlo was the Cavalier guarding Jordan when MJ hit The Shot, in 1989, and at the time Ehlo seemed like the goat on that play—but as it turns out, Jordan was. If that seems weird, consider Mariano Rivera’s journey: He went from goat (in the ‘97 and 2001 postseasons) to the GOAT of relief pitching.

Actually, GOAT is not new. Muhammad Ali, the self-proclaimed Greatest of All-Time, named his company GOAT. However, it was LL Cool J’s 2000 album “ G.O.A.T.” that made those four letters something more than a barnyard animal and term of athletic derision.

“Does what Steve Jobs created make Leonardo da Vinci any less astounding as an individual?” LL asks. “You gotta look at context and time. How far did they move whatever they’re doing forward? Artists learn from artists. We don’t know how many times Usain Bolt looked at Maurice Greene and identified things he could do better. He got his hands on better cleats, surfaces changed. … You understand what I’m saying? It’s all relative. It’s never about any one person being the greatest, greatest, greatest of all time. People accomplish different things.”