By Erik Jacobsen
I've been watching Michael Phelps dominate the Beijing Olympic games one night after another, and yet I'm still left with a sense that something is missing.
Is it impressive that this guy goes out and wins one day after another? Sure, we don't come across unbeatable athletes too often in sports.
However, some of my hesitation over Phelps was clarified after reading a pair of articles by writers at papers in the Chicago area.
First, Phillip Hersch's article in this morning's Chicago Tribune laid out that Phelps is being anointed an Olympic great too quickly. I completely agree with his point that Phelps will have to continue success at the next two Olympic games to show his true worth. Staying power is what makes athletes like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and those great Olympians that Hersch mentions in his piece so special.
Later, I read an article by Brad Spencer in the Wednesday Journal that made a great point that swimming just isn't something that many sports fans generally get overly excited about. He didn't say it directly, but Spencer hints that swimming is a sport we only pay attention to every four years when the Summer Olympics roll around. He goes on to say that the fact that Phelps is breaking every world record in the book doesn't seem that interesting considering the ways technology is changing the sport.
The way I see it, and I think Spencer would agree, is that a lot of the Phelps hype is just a way for NBC to drive its ratings. As Spencer points out, the other night when Jason Lezak's late push lifted the U.S. to its 4 x 100-meter relay victory, it was Phelps who got the most attention from the press, not the real hero Lezak.
I guess the moral of the story is that we need to chill out on Phelps mania. He's a great athlete who is accomplishing extraordinary tasks, but his extraordinary tasks are no greater than those accomplished by MVP's in every sports league year in and year out.