Friday, August 10, 2012

Greatest Olympic athlete?

The Summer Olympics are now on. I generally split the screen and watch the Braves or the Reds play and swap over the Olympics if there is something on of interest (thus far women's gymnastics and track and field). Otherwise I stick with baseball. Several questions come to mind. First, When they do the medal count, do they count just one event or all the medals earned in that event (1 gold for women's soccer or 10 golds for the team)? Second, some have touted Michael Phelps as the greatest Olympic athlete of all time. There is no doubt that he has displaced Mark Spitz as the greatest swimmer but greatest athlete of all time? Swimming and gymnastics are sports with multiple opportunities to win medals with team and individual sports. If you just look at Phelps' individual gold medals he has the same as Carl Lewis (sprints and long jump). Lewis medaled in the 100, 200, 4x100 relay and the long jump in two separate Olympics. The great Jesse Owens did the same with golds in the same four events in the Berlin Olympics. By going back to back, Lewis displaced Owens as the greatest track athlete but his eight golds keep him in the argument for greatest Olympic athlete of all time. I know that some will argue Usain Bolt. But Bolt may be the greatest runner - he does only track and not field events. Speaking of Jesse Owens - whose name is actually James Cleveland (J.C.) Owens. Much is made of the fact that Adolf Hitler refused to shake his hand. But I thought that Hitler only shook the hand of German winners - so he would not have shaken Owens' hand even if he were white. You can understand the snub - if there was one but can you explain why FDR snubbed him? There was no commendation, no visit to the White House, no acknowledgement at all. Truman ignored him as well and it was left up to a Republican, Dwight Eisenhower, to finally honor him. This is just another long line in the irony of American politics where the democrats are the racists and the republicans (Lincoln, Eisenhower, Reagan (MLK birthday), civil rights votes) are not and yet the republicans are branded as racists. Go figure.

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