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The best athlete ever?

August 18, 2008

by Stephen Wiblemo

The Olympics have started, and by the time you read this Michael Phelps will probably have won all eight medals he was going for and shattered every record in his path.

I admit, I haven’t watched much of the 2008 Olympics – there is just to much action going on in the American League Central Division race – but I have tried to keep up with it and I’ve seen Phelps in a few races.

He is amazing.

The “V” shape of his upper body cuts through the water as he builds speed for the final turn, and blows the competition out of the water – pun intended.

His nickname is the Baltimore Bullet (Baltimore is his home state).

The kid is designed for swimming, and he is truly putting on a phenomenal display of athleticism.

But does that make him the best athlete ever?

I think not.

While I’ve been keeping up with the Olympics, mostly by reading articles on the Internet, I’ve heard the honor of “Best Athlete Ever” bestowed on him several times by reporters, columnists, and 15-year-old girls with a crush.

I don’t understand how anybody could ever be considered the best athlete ever. There just isn’t any way to measure and determine that.

You can’t compare Phelps’ athleticism in the pool to, say, Adrian Peterson’s athleticism on a football field.

I’ve never seen Peterson swim, but I’m sure he would look like a beginner if he was in the same pool as Phelps.

But how well would Phelps do trying to avoid a 300 pound lineman, or making a 45 degree cut, on a dime, at full speed to lose a defensive back?

You just can’t compare the sports, so there is no reason you should compare the athletes.

I don’t even agree with calling Phelps the best Olympian ever.

In the 2008 Olympics, Phelps will compete in eight different events and have eight opportunities to win golds.

Now look at Michael Jordan and the Dream Team from 1992.

They were amazing, but only had one opportunity to win a gold medal. Jordan might have won as many medals as Phelps if things like dunking, three-point shooting, and sticking your tongue out were Olympic events.

There are just to many things to consider before giving someone the title of “Greatest Olympian Ever.”

However, with the way things are, Phelps is the most decorated Olympian ever, and there is no denying that.

And, after this weekend, if he wins those two gold medals, as he is favored to do, I have no problem with calling him the “Greatest Swimmer Ever.”

Diet of champions

Here is another interesting tidbit about Phelps that I read in an article.

In order to keep up his strict training routine, he consumes about 12,000 calories a day.

By comparison, the average man of his age needs to ingest about 2,000 calories a day.

In the Phelps diet, he eats three meals a day – breakfast, lunch and dinner – and consumes about 4,000 calories at each sitting.

Here is what an average daily menu for Phelps looks like according to the New York Post. DC girls and boys swim teams, do not eat this at home:

Breakfast: three fried-egg sandwiches with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise; two cups of coffee; a five-egg omelet; a bowl of grits; three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar; and three chocolate-chip pancakes.

Lunch: A pound of enriched pasta; two large ham and cheese sandwiches with mayonnaise on white bread; and about 1,000 calories worth of energy drinks.

Dinner: Another pound of pasta; an entire pizza; and another 1,000 calories of energy drinks.

Baseball leaves in 2012

I was interested in another Olympic discussion that was sparked by an online column by Star Tribune reporter Jim Souhan.

Souhan is reporting from Beijing, and after taking in the United Sates baseball team’s first game this year, he didn’t have many good things to say.

He basically described it as a competition not worthy of global attention, between players not good enough to play in the MLB.

Knowing that baseball would not be on the Olympic program in 2012, he concluded that he was glad to see it go.

This seemed like a harsh assessment at first, but eventually I came to agree with him.

The players making up the USA team are as obscure as they come. The only name I recognized was former Twin Terry Tiffee. I stress the word former.

There are a couple other reasons why having baseball out of the Olympics won’t break my heart.

Remember the World Baseball Classic?

If you don’t, this was an international tournament created by MLB and first held March 2006, before the start of the MLB regular season.

Players in the MLB, as well as amateurs, play on teams representing their home countries. It is basically what the Olympics should be (the best of every country competing) but because it isn’t held in the middle of the MLB season, the best players can actually compete in it.

Some people think that the MLB should take a two-week break in the middle of the season, like hockey does for the winter Olympics.

That is ridiculous.

The Olympics are traditionally held at the end of summer, around August or September.

This also happens to be the time when professional baseball teams are making a run for the playoffs.

Why, then, would a player want to take two weeks off and risk injury or fatigue.

As long as we have the WBC, and the summer Olympics are held during the peek of the baseball season, I won’t shed a tear when the International Olympic Committee kicks baseball off its list.

For sports like swimming and gymnastics, winning a gold medal at the Olympics is the highest recognition you can receive.

The same cannot be said of baseball.