Thursday, August 14, 2008

Thursday 08/14 A.M. Quickie:
Phelps, Lochte, Toronto, LeBron, More

I think I am more into these Olympic swimming events than I was into the past, oh, decade of individual NFL or MLB or NBA seasons.

First of all, the broadcast last night was so Phelps-heavy -- despite the fact that he wasn't swimming in a final -- that I actually felt "Phelps fatigue" (Hmm: "Phelps Phatigue?"), perhaps even a backlash. That's the lead of today's SN column.

I love Phelps, but NBC is a little out-of-control. Everything was framed in terms of Phelps. Chris Collinsworth actually asked Jason Lezak if he primarily felt good about the 4x100 anchor leg because it helped Phelps earn another gold.

Cripes: As dominant as Phelps has been, Lezak's performance was more dramatic than any of Phelps'. To his credit, Lezak shut that down, politely-ish. I wouldn't have blamed him if he had said:

"Oh, go eff yourself, Collinsworth. Why are you even here? Football isn't an Olympic sport. Why don't you keep creepily snuggling up to Michael Phelps' mom -- 'a real man wouldn't shoplift the pootie from a single mom' -- and leave the swimming analysis to someone else."

Um, too harsh?


Yes, Phelps is THE story of the Olympics. He is shattering records and doing what no Olympian has ever done. We get it: He's the greatest Olympian of all time (and he's not even finished -- slated to compete in London in 2012). He might even be the greatest athlete of all time.

The worst is the way that Bob Costas and others continue to pimp the theory that Phelps cared more about his medal count than his team's win in the 4x100 freestyle relay.

On the contrary, what made it even more dramatic was precisely because Phelps didn't seem to care AT ALL about his own medal total -- he cared entirely about the team. Compare his reaction to the relay result to any of his individual events.

To present the signature image of the games Phelps' arms-out primal scream/muscular pose as a proxy for his individual success is to hijack the incredibly sincere, team-oriented (and country-oriented) moment that really defined these Games.

I'm rooting for Phelps. I want to see him win 8 golds, breaking WRs every time along the way. I want nothing more than to argue he's the greatest athlete of all time. I understand that it's easy for NBC to put a single face on the Games this year. But Phelps is not bigger than the Games.



Meanwhile, Ryan Lochte has the most monstrous challenge that any athlete has to face in the Games: Facing down Aaron Peirsol (arguably the greatest men's backstroke swimmer ever) in the 200 back, then 30 minutes later, facing down Phelps (the greatest all-around swimmer ever) in the 200 IM.

Lochte actually has a good shot at beating Phelps -- perhaps even beating Peirsol. But if he swims in the first race, there is no way that he beats Phelps in the second.

Phelps losing to Lochte would be the most startling moment of these Games. I'm not even sure that people won't be rooting against Lochte, who has the bad timing to be peaking in his career at the same moment as the greatest swimmer ever. Without Phelps, Lochte could be unreal.

Yes, I am suggesting that if Lochte wants to truly embody the Olympic spirit, he'll drop out of the 200 back and concentrate on upending Phelps in the 200 IM. (If Lochte swims in the 200 back yet beats Phelps in the 200 IM anyway, I take this all back and Lochte will rise to near-Phelpsian levels of awe.)

Again: Yes, I am really into the swimming events.

What: Like you want me to comment on Favre's arm fatigue instead? Phelps fatigue is so much more interesting, wouldn't you say?

I want to know if any Bills fans out there are very very very nervous about tonight's game in Toronto, and it has nothing to do with the Steelers. Don't think that they won't move the team.

Is Mo Williams really the missing piece for the Cavs? Shoals makes an interesting point: He could be the missing piece that keeps LeBron in Cleveland -- but that meme was bound to pop up after these past 6 weeks of "LeBron is as good as gone." Not sure about that, but I'm sure it gives some comfort to Cavs fans.

Finally, I just have to say that it no longer looks crazy that one game into the NL careers of both CC Sabathia and Manny Ramirez, I was touting them as potential Cy and MVP candidates in their leagues. If both keep playing like they did last night -- and their teams both make the playoffs -- I think it's a no-brainer. The only thing keeping it from happening is the delicate sensibilities of the NL beat writers who vote on the awards.

More later. Full SN column here. No, it is not the same as what I have just written.

UPDATE: Yes, I intentionally left out any reference to that weightlifter injury, which is -- correctly and in a way that I totally approve of -- being labeled the Worst. Sports Injury. Ever.

UPDATE: Much like Coach K during the Olympics, I totally and needlessly neglected Michael Redd in the SN column when talking about the Bucks' core group after the trade: Redd, Bogut, Jefferson -- with Joe Alexander a potential star and, frankly, Ramon Sessions as one of the NBA's most under-the-radar potential break-out stars.

-- D.S.

2 comments:

D. Ling said...

Shanoff, as a former swimmer, I'm proud you actually get it.

Phelps is used to his own success, he's prepared for it and last year at the Worlds he won 8 gold, so he knows how to get the job done. The relay was just something he was on the ride for and Lezak came out the star, which was something new and special and thus the reaction of Phelps.

There is no way that Lochte scratches the 200bk tonight. He's the co-World Record holder and improving at a faster rate then Piersol. Look for Lochte to beat Piersol tonight and come up just short against Phelps in the 200IM, but it will most definitely be exciting.

Matt said...

Dan,

Any mention of a Buck's trio should include Michael Redd...you know one of the guys currently representing our country in the Olympics....I guess he is pretty good, maybe even as good as Bogut, Williams, or Jefferson....