Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Best of Follies and the Folly of “Best”


What’s the “best anything” in America? Or in your own state?

Of late, FaceBook, that supreme time-waster, has been laced with these “best of” posts to click on. These are only slightly less annoying than those “What Kind of Dog-Cat-Color-Song-Beverage-Season- Hairball Are You?” studies.

Of course, the idea is not to determine the “best,” but to drive traffic to a given site for whatever reasons that site needs to increase its traffic.

But “best contests” are now rife on online news sites, too. Best Beers, Best Bars, Best Irish Pubs, Best Dive Bars, Best Bagels and Best Pork Roll Sandwiches (only Jerseyans get to vote)-- even Best BYOB joints have been part of these contests.

How anyone rates a BYOB as “best” is a mystery, since which bottle accompanies your meal often affects the quality of the experience, and everyone brings his own bottled joy to a simple restaurant. But it’s about traffic, not common sense. But I digress.

It appears to be an empty exercise beyond wasting time, as the qualities of a “best anything” are totally subjective and not quantifiable. Oldest brewery in the world? There’s an answer. Oldest pubs in the world? That’s a quantifiable list. Most beer taps? Fact. Maybe.

But Best Bar? Depends. Best Beer? Depends.
Best Adult Diaper?

Of course, the establishments or products that “make the cut” may take understandable pride in having done so, and may even use the publicity to advantage. Nothing wrong with that.

I can’t speak for you, but I’m not making a 90- minute special trip to some obscure bar at either end of the state just because it “won” some online poll or made some magazine’s top 25. If I’m in the area, that’s different. Maybe I’ll drop in. If I can remember the name of the joint.

The Rule of Subjectivity dictates that “Best of” anything means very little, beyond ephemeral bragging rights.

Not so with “Favorite.” Favorite is expected to be subjective, and what’s more, can change depending on a variety of factors. Good luck, for example, getting someone who is a craft beer enthusiast to name his favorite beer. That designation changes with the season, the food, the company, the atmosphere and other factors. An honest answer is the same as the response to Best Adult Diapers.

Same with a favorite bar, restaurant, pub, Irish pub, BYOB or massage parlor. Personally speaking, I have many favorites, and so do most people. Compiling a list of people’s favorites would seem to be a daunting and pointless task, as it’s just someone’s subjective opinion.

But essentially, that’s exactly what a “Best of” list is. Some folks get together and put together a subjective list and pass it off as The Best, when it’s nothing more than a shared opinion. And if those folks are benefitting (getting ads or other special considerations from a place or product on the list), the subjectivity takes an even darker turn.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. When an average Joe sees one of his beers or bars on a “Best of” list, it’s natural that he would commend himself for his excellent taste. But the reality is that his taste happens to agree with the person who wrote the piece. That’s all.

Bottom line? If those “Best of” contests or articles make you feel better about your own personal choices, have at it. You might even want to make plans to visit or buy those Bests. Your wallet, your call. But don’t think for one minute that the “Best” is anything other than an opinion. And you know what opinions are like.

I’m wondering when FaceBook will have a “What is the Best Time Waster in the US. Contest?

I have a nominee.

The PubScout

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