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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Anyone else have Phelps phever?

When it comes to the Olympics, I don't have a warm and fuzzy memory log.

Charles Barkley elbowing some dude from Angola. Greg Louganis cracking his head open on a diving board. Ben Johnson being stripped of his gold medal for steroids.

And people call me a pessimist ...

But I have to say, starting with the opening ceremonies -- which in HD were absolutely A-MA-ZING -- I've been more interested in the Beijing games than in years past. And yes, while my love for competitive table tennis knows no bounds, it's all because of America's golden boy, Michael Phelps.

Yep. I'm not ashamed to say that I'm caught up in Phelps' run for a record-breaking eight gold medals.

Even though I consider myself a big-time sports fan, the rah-rah, too-good-to-be-true stuff usually isn't for me. But when that shiny "Michael Phelps in 49 minutes" graphic appears on NBC's screen during men's gymnastics, I find myself even more enchanted by the impending results than discussion about Bob Costas' purported toupee.

It isn't patriotism talking. It's dominance, pure and simple.

To watch the 23-year-old last night was to witness a physical specimen who can flat out perform under the brightest lights. It seemed like he was a full body length ahead of the pack within seconds of diving into the pool, and seeing someone that good absolutely obliterate other impeccable athletes on a major stage like the Olympics ... well, it's gripping television, even for the most pessimistic of us. Heck, it's gotten so ridiculous, even Phelps' mother seemed to be yawning her way through the tear-stained, made-for-TV victory celebration in the stands.

It's also easy to root for Phelps. Though he looks a bit like Gheorghe Muresan and Eli Manning's love child, he also doesn't seem to be getting a big head about being called the "Tiger Woods of swimming." Even with three gold medals and three world records, dude is all business.

Wheaties is getting box covers ready. YMCA memberships are through the roof. Scorsese is calling about the lead in "Aquaman: The Movie." OK, maybe not that last one.

So yeah, I'm usually bummed about Olympic overkill. Now, I'm actually checking the TV schedule to see when Phelps swims next. That's right, folks. I'm genuinely excited about swimming.

So ... anyone else captivated by the prime time coverage of Phelps? Does the "Redeem Team" nonsense with the U.S. men's basketball team make you want to root for Lithuania? Anyone else thankful for all this women's beach volleyball coverage?

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,

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Admittedly, I enjoy watching swimming for a multitude of reasons, none of which are the rippled muscles and speedos on prominent display.

But only today I was lamenting the fact that coverage is so sporadic and not very well advertised. If I hadn't been watching ESPN at the gym, I wouldn't have known that Phelps was swimming in the 200 m freestyle last night. And, really, what is with all this coverage of water polo? Who cares? Tennis is poised to have a rematch of the marathon Wimbledon final replay on the Olympic stage between two of the greatest players since Bjorn Borg and Johnny Mac, but I haven't seen a single ace being served up on NBC or its multiple stepchildren.

The Phelps coverage is a bit overkill, though, as much as I'm rooting for the guy. Based on the stories, you'd think he won that relay race all by himself (when it was his 32-year-old teammate Jason Lezak who was responsible for inching over the obnoxious Frenchman in that final lap).


By Blogger Press-Gazette blogger, At August 12, 2008 at 3:37 PM  

He's no Apollo Anton Ono. I'll wait for Phelps to show up on dancing with the Stars.

If I wasn't checking out ESPN all the time or listening to Sportstalk radio and getting the results blasted in my face, I'd probably be more interested in the Olympics this year. The opening ceremonies were spectacular though.

By Blogger Antony, At August 12, 2008 at 5:19 PM  

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