Wednesday, August 13

Why, Yes, I Do Have To Ruin It For Everybody.

Pat Forde, ESPN, et. al. ad nauseam, "Michael Phelps, Greatest Olympian Ever".

C'MON. He's a swimmer. How many Golds would Carl Lewis have if, in addition to running the 100 and the 200 the normal way, he could pick up another running backwards, and a third by goose stepping, and another long jump medal for flapping his arms like a cartoon duck during his approach? For that matter, how many would Paavo Nurmi have won (in distance running!) if he hadn't been robbed of his ability to compete in more than two (for [bogus] excessive travel expenses! Phelps will get a $1 M bonus from Speedo if he takes eight Golds). In 1924 the Flying Finn won the 1500 and the 5000, setting world records in each, with 30 minutes in between races. The other day the teevee drones were protesting the brutality of the schedule which had Phelps swimming three laps in a single 24-hour period.

And look, this is not to say Phelps isn't one of the greats; it's just that someone who earns a living writing about Sport ought to show a little more respect for his field than the guy who earns a living writing about Malto, The Maltilicious Breakfast Ballast. I exempt the teevee yammerers, who are, in fact, precisely the guy who writes about Malto.

Al Oerter won four Golds in discus. Alexander Karelin won three Greco-Roman wrestling Golds, lost the fourth by a point (to Rulon Gardner, the Nancy Zerg of athletics), which was the only point he'd given up in a decade. Find whatever story you wish the Most Compelling, if you absolutely have to, but don't act like all questions have been banished. Swimmers, and gymnasts, and people who specialize in great bursts of speed over short distances have, not just an advantage, but a lock on total medal haul, not to mention that they get to tack on team medals and relays.   Act like you understand this, assuming it doesn't take all the fun out of sniffing the lead dog's butt.

And yes, I am a former middle-distance runner married to a competitive swimmer, and yes, she did get tired of hearing this around 1978 sometime.  Lucky guess. 


Doug said...

I've been grumpy that Lafayette native, Ray "The Human Frog" Ewry hasn't gotten his due in the talk of Olympic medal winners.

Part of the problem is that his events aren't in the Olympics anymore - standing high jump, standing triple jump, etc. (in other words, no running before your jumps). Another problem is that 2 of his medals came in a 1906 Olympic event in Athens that was only a quasi-Olympics.

But, he never lost. And he started out with polio. I like the ESPN columnist's turn of phrase: "He jumped simply because he could. He jumped not for glory or gold, but to keep the wheelchair away."

That's Movie of the Week material right there.

heydave said...

Wow, didn't know that about Mr. Ewry - kinda makes so many others look like prima donnas...

But I was going to say that the allure/lure/challenge of fencing is underrated. I used to have a lunge that (I'm told) was pretty awesome; too bad I couldn't fucking see quickly enough who/what was attacking me in the meanwhile.

Anonymous said...

Two words: Duke Kahanamoku.

Even limiting greatest Olympian to swimmers, the guy who rescued 8 men off the coast of Newport, medaled repeatedly between 1912 and 1920, should probably be considered the greatest Olympian before Phelps. He even showed up at the '32 games to play water polo at the age of 42.

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John deVille said...

Oerter remains my pick. Four golds in four different Olympics (1956 - 1968)-- mindboggling.

And then I see on wikipedia that he finished 4th and thus just missing qualifying for the 1980 US team at age 43. And I learn that in between 1956 and 1960, he was almost killed in a car accident.

Dude rules, as does Lewis.

And it's not that Phelps doesn't rule as well, it's like you said, the hairdoos don't know no history and their empty commentary actually diminishes Phelps' substantial achievements.