As someone who traffics in both instant history and superlatives, I'm struggling with what to do with Michael Phelps, if/when he finishes off his 8-for-8 performance this weekend.
Greatest Olympian ever? More than arguably.
Greatest athlete ever? Hmm...yikes. I'd say so, but I'm particularly shallow.
What is the appropriate superlative for Phelps: Better at his sport than any other athlete has ever been in their particular sport? It's a mouthful, but probably more accurate than G.A.E.
It's just too much apples-to-oranges: Phelps vs. Thorpe. Phelps vs. Owens. Phelps vs. Jordan. Phelps vs. Woods.
That particular argument might not even hold up: OK, so Phelps had 8 gold medals -- Spitz had 7. Is it THAT much better? (Given the competitiveness of today's landscape, most likely yes.)
Anyway, this is what we'll be considering after tomorrow, when Phelps goes 8-for-8 in golds (and probably 8-for-8 in world records) -- and that doesn't even count that he'll compete in 2012.
Here are the upshots, as I noted in the column: Isn't it incredible that we're even having this discussion? And don't you kind of want to know you're watching the greatest ever?
There's tons more in the SN column today: More Olympics, MLB (Ziegler finally gives up a run!), NFL Preseason (Toronto Bills are unbeatable!), the Mike/Mad Dog divorce and more.
More later. Don't forget to sign up for the football Pick 'Em challenges. (See post below.)