The countdown to London begins!

August 18, 2008

Thank goodness Michael Phelps won his eight gold medals. It would have been a shame to waste all that good hype. This is from the normally un-gushy Christian Science Monitor, under the headline “The Phelps Olympics: An epic fit for ancient Greece”:

Almost without question, he is now “the greatest swimmer in history,” says David Wallechinsky, author of “The Complete Book of the Olympics.”

He is the winningest Gold Medalist in the history of the modern Olympics. Trying to jump from that defensible fact to other superlatives is something we ought to be careful attaching “almost without question” to.  At lest Wallechinsky doesn’t say Phelps is the best Olympic athlete ever, which I’ve heard a lot in the last two days. Later there is this:

Simply by the numbers, his eight gold medals is something that could only be accomplished in swimming or gymnastics, making the debate over whether he is the greatest Olympian problematic.

The reason is that no other sports offer an athlete – no matter how good he or she is – the opportunity at that many gold medals.

“A marathon winner is never going to win eight gold medals at one Olympics,” Mr. Wallechinsky says. “It’s apples and oranges.”

If it’s problematic even to compare Phelps’ swimming prowess with the prowess of other disciplines, how can we say he’s even the best athlete at this Olympics? All we can really say is that he is better than his peers — swimmers who currently compete in world events.

2 Responses to “The countdown to London begins!”

  1. Harl Delos Says:

    Ludlow’s Law strikes once again. “The larger the type size, the less likely that a typo or a grammatical error will be caught.”

    Unless, of course, the word “countown” exists. I’d be only slightly fazed if it did, and completely unphased.

    The Ludlow was a machine for casting headlines in hot lead, but the law still seems to work, even though Ludlows are few and far between, these days.

    The Dayton newspapers are published on Ludlow street. (Well, the Dayton Daily News is; the Journal-Herald died recently.) I don’t know if that’s a coincidence or not. Perhaps that’s where the Ludlow originated; I once tried to find out who invented the Ludlow, and where, but came up empty-handed.

  2. Leo Morris Says:

    Phixed it.

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