Wednesday, August 13, 2008

David thinks Michael Phelps is disproportionately Olympified

Since the Olympic Games began about a week ago, I, like nearly every other world citizen with a television, radio, or internet connection, have been following the aquatic pursuits of Michael Phelps. Phelps, in case you didn’t know, is on the precipice of heretofore unrealized Olympic greatness. Having already won more career gold medals than any other competitor in history, he is only three events away from breaking Mark Spitz’s mark of seven golds in a single Games. Along the way he has dominated nearly every event, setting world records in each and running away with all but one – a relay in which he was only one-fourth of the team. If Michael Jordan married a dolphin and the pair had a child with a slight underbite, that dolpho-Jordan would be Michael Phelps.

Yet despite MP's greatness, his medal count affords him acclaim disproportionate to his actual accomplishments. Sure, he wins a crap-load of gold medals, but is it really that impressive that he does a bunch of arbitrary variations of the same thing? Breaststroke, backstroke, butterfly, dog paddle, splashy-splashy…isn’t that just ‘swimming?’ What reason is there for him to earn a different gold for each one? Each stroke may utilize a unique skill set, but that doesn’t mean it deserves its own event. They wouldn’t give Tyson Gay another gold for running 100m with one arm tied behind his back, a third if he skipped every other step, or a fourth if he ran with a pirate patch over his right eye, so why do swimmers get a veritable medal buffet for doing more or less the same thing?

When the Olympics started in 776 BC, there were probably only a few events – wrasslin’ in oil, pissing off Zeus, epic poetry, etc. As the Games progressed, they probably added additional distances and disciplines in descending order of significance just to flesh out the schedule. But at what point did they start piling on really slight permutations of the same events?















But can he piss off Zeus?

I always thought the beauty of the games was the opportunity to see the superlative competitors in action. Who’s the fastest? Who jumps the highest? Can someone unseat Homer at writing poems that never end? These are challenges with practical applications in real life. If you’re running away from a bear, you better sprint like the wind. If you’re swimming away from a shark, you need to make it rain freestyle. Any other stroke would end in tears.

















Time for backstroke?

Sure, Michael Phelps is awesome. If he was a physician, he’d make Paul Farmer look like Dr. Nick. And yes, swimming isn’t the only offender – several other sports have way too many medals for what are essentially meaningless variations of the same basic challenge. Yet swimming is the biggest offender, making Phelps the most obvious medal baron. He may be the greatest swimmer ever – or at least the best without a kick-ass mustache – but until he oil wrassles like a champ, I will remain only moderately impressed.

6 comments:

Ericka said...

lol although i do agree that swimming seems to get a disproportionate amount of medals, i also think that most of the time, different people have dominated at different strokes? (the fact that michael phelps dominates at all is what makes him so special). plus, alot of gymnastic events have no real practical use (you wouldn't do somersaults to run away from a tiger...or do synchronized diving. ever.) Therefore....most events, like the different swim strokes, are to test differnt types of skill. =P that is all.

Ericka said...

aaaanddddd. i just realized i made a spelling error. my mistake.

D said...

The blog has been up since Feb., and you've only just commented now? For shame, E-Dawg.

I agree about the synchronized events - "synchronized" is just code for "has to be done in unison to mask the sad truth that performances of the same thing alone have zero merit and are a complete waste of everyone's time" - but I would, and will continue to, somersault from tigers without a second thought.

Julia said...

Sadly, David, I agree with the illustrious Ericka. This has been neither the best-deserved nor your best rant. I expect better things to come, sir. :p

David said...

julia and ericka, i don't know you at all whatsoever, but i can only assume you're criticizing david's post based solely on the fact that you have the hots for michael phelps. imagine people who run/swim/bike a triathlon (32 miles) and get 1 medal. david, keep up the good work.

D said...

Time's take:

http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1834117,00.html