Long-time readers of this blog will know that I despise numerical rankings of qualitative goods. They are nothing more than exercises in vanity and hubris, designed to attract attention (and sell copy) much like car-wrecks. We are now in the midst of awards season, during which various "experts" will inform the Hoi polloi which are the "best" film, actors (male and female), hip-hop album, etc., of the past year. Other "experts" will dispute the results.
One ranking I did not expect to see this year, and which is even more distressing and depressing than the usual fare, appears in this morning's New York Times (here), where the Times' chief music critic, and lone voter, Anthony Tommasini humbly reveals to his readers his ranking of the 10 greatest composers of music (excluding those still living). He notes that there are many close calls, issues apologies to some composers and their fans, and even wishes he could have chosen a top 20 instead of a top 10 (he cannot, in good conscience, expand the list because he had previously promised his adoring readers a ranking of just ten).
Tommasini's ranking confirms my long-held suspicion that arts critics are really no different in kind from sports writers. Their techniques and sensibilities are similar; only the players are different.