Friday, August 15, 2008

Friday 08/15 A.M. Quickie:
Phelps, Nastia, Lochte, Ziegler, More

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.)

-- D.S.


D. Ling said...

DS... beware of Milorad Cavic in the 100 fly before you just give the gold medal to Phelps.

Compare their personal bests in the 100fly...

Cavic... 50.76
Phelps... 50.77

Phelps has shown the ability to dominate in his events but all those have been 200s and the 400 IM. 100 fly is a completely different event with a completely different preparation.

I'm not saying that Phelps is not going to win, but I am warning that it's not a lock and don't be surprised if Cavic pulls the "upset" because he stands a much better chance then Lochte did yesterday in the 200 IM.

Brett said...

What makes Phelps the greatest Olympian ever? It cannot be the eight gold medals because what other sport offers the opportunity for eight gold medals? Maybe track and field? Is there any other sport. Gymnastics, I guess, because all the individual apparatuses. But why can't Michael Jordan be the greatest Olympian ever? I mean he and the Dream Team only dominated competition. Why can't Jennie Finch and the U.S.A. softball team be the "greatest Olympians ever." I mean they have only killed their competition for what three years straight. Explain to me Dan why Phelps is the greatest Olympian ever? Then you can get to your argument of Phelps being the greatest athlete ever.

D. Ling said...

I'll make Dan's argument for him...

Just because there are a lot of medals in swimming does not take away from Phelps' ability. He's dominating over multiple strokes at different distances, facing guys who spend their athletic lives specializing to be the best in specific events. Phelps dominates in just about every possible skill in the sport of swimming. Plus he's now dominated in two straight Olympics and is a position at just 23 years old to do something similar to this in 4 years in London.

It would be like Jennie Finch not just being a great pitcher, but also a gold glove fielder at a number of positions and the best hitter on the team. Finch is great but she's too much of a specialist to be a contender in this debate.

Jordan was the best basketball player of a generation but what did he achieve individually in the Olympics? Did he lead the tournament in all time scoring, assist, rebounding, block shots,and steals? No. Jordan was a great basketball player but his significant accomplishments were from the NBA not the Olympics (other then claiming gold).

Anyone else you want to stack up Brett?

Brett said...

Well after I wrote that I picked up my Chicago Tribune and read this column by Philip Hersh. Pretty much what I mean to say but wrong athletes.,1,893659.story