Friday, August 15, 2008

Seriously, I'm done with Michael Phelps

If I had the power at my fingertips, I'd send in the hot hail.

Yes, he's a great athlete. Yes, he may be the best swimmer in history. If I was on a doomed oceanliner, I'd be Rose to his Jack if he'd freestyle us out of there. (I'd even let him sketch me nude, if he wanted to.)

But he is not, as some dick claimed on The Today Show on Wednesday, The Greatest Athlete in the History of Everything. A) That's a claim impossible to defend, as comparing him to Michael Jordan, Pete Sampras, Tiger Woods, or Muhammad Ali is like deciding who'd win in a fight, Moby Dick or King Kong. B) Despite what I just said, it's still just plain wrong, as there ain't nobody hitting him while he's swimming.

Beyond that, he's not even the greatest Olympian. To me, those who are chosen to represent their countries in the Olympic Games should not only be the best athletes and competitors within the borders of the nations they call home, but they should be the best people—shining examples of what it means to be an American, or a Lithuanian, or a Nigerian.

It's a lot to ask of someone who has spent the better part of his or her life apart from the populace of the country they represent, holed up in gymnasiums, or swimming complexes, or weight rooms training for those brief minutes where they either win or go home. But that is what it means to be an Olympian. And that is why we're so betrayed when they let us down, like Marion Jones or Ben Johnson or most of Germany's female athletes in the '80s.

So, for my money, these two guys will stand forever on the Olympic podiums, speaking volumes without saying a single word:


Anonymous said...

Without taking anything away from anyone else, ya gotta admit swimming is hardcore when you realize more people have climbed Mount Everest than have swum the English Channel.

Mary Sue said...

Don't forget that third guy on the podium is the one who gave the other two his gloves. That's why they have opposite arms saluting.

Rachel Young said...

The silver medal winner is Peyter Norman, an Australian who is also pretty awesome. He's wearing an OPHR badge in that picture and when the press asked him how he felt about the salute he spoke out against the White Australia Policy that was in effect at the time.

There is a movie about his due for release soon -