Phantastic Phelps is becoming the king of Beijing
August 14, 2008
By JOE SANTORO
Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . .
OK, I admit it. I’m a Phelps Phan. Going into the Beijing Olympics I was all set to be thoroughly sick and tired and downright bored with the Michael Phelps Beijing Bling Show by now. You know, another race, another world record, another gold medal. Yawn, snore, snooze. No fantasy Olympic Swimming League? I’m not interested. But something happened on my way to watching those tantalizing reruns of Pussycat Dolls Present Girlicious instead of the Olympics. I have found myself watching every magical Phelps moment. This is not the New England Patriots getting fat on the Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and New York Jets in their quest for perfection last fall. This is the best athlete in the history of his sport performing miracles on a daily basis against the best competition in the world. And he’s doing it for the red, white & blue. Now that’s perfection.
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson, though, isn’t all that impressed with Phelps. Johnson said this week on ESPN that Phelps is winning all those races because he hasn’t faced any tough competition. Ocho Cinco added that he knows guys back in his old neighborhood who could actually beat Phelps. Johnson also said that he, too, could beat Phelps in a race. In a pool, no less. When he first entered the NFL, Johnson was somewhat amusing and entertaining. Now he just sounds like a guy starving for attention because he is trapped on a mediocre team. It’s time we stop listening. Johnson could be in a motorboat and Phelps could still beat him in a race while wearing a helmet, shoulder pads and cleats and carrying a football in each arm.
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Phelps has been incredible. No question. But it is still a bit easier to cheer for the athletes who won’t be making a million dollars off of their gold medals. Phelps, after all, is really no different than U.S. men’s basketball multi-millionaires Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and other members of the self-anointed Redeem Team. Phelps, according to Reuters news service, became a millionaire at the age of 18 because of all his endorsements and sponsors and made $5 million this year. He is expected to make more than $30 million this coming year after his gold rush party Beijing. OK, now that’s perfection.
Before this week Sweden was most famous for producing Greta Garbo’s perfect face, tasty meatballs and those amazing bikini teams (that’s a sport that needs to be added to the Olympics, by the way). Now the Swedes can add Greco-Roman wrestler Ara Abrahamian to their list of accomplishments. The most interesting moment so far in these Olympics took place this week when Abrahamian stepped off the podium in anger, tossed his bronze medal to the mat to be swept away by the janitor and announced he was quitting the sport. He was upset with the judges’ scoring in his loss to an Italian wrestler. It was that type of anger and emotion I would have loved to see out of the computer-programmed Patriots last February after they choked away the Super Bowl. We don’t, however, buy Abrahamian quitting the sport. The guy definitely has a career waiting for him in pro wrestling.
Former Nevada Wolf Pack point guard Ramon Sessions looks like he’s going to get every chance to win the Milwaukee Bucks’ starting point guard job this fall. The Bucks and coach Scott Skiles, a guy who knows a thing or two about playing the point in the NBA, showed tremendous faith in Sessions by dealing Mo Williams to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday. Sessions, who had 24 assists in a game against the Chicago Bulls last April, only has to beat out a couple of career backups in Tyronn Lue and Luke Ridnour to win the job.
Speaking of the Redeem Team, the Wolf Pack football team will open its season in just 15 days when it hosts Grambling State on Aug. 30. Yes, the college football season starts much too early. What’s wrong with starting football practice around Sept. 20, letting teams practice for three weeks before starting the season around Sept. 10? You know, when the temperature isn’t flirting with 100 degrees, everybody is back in school and not off somewhere on a beach on vacation?
Carson High graduate and former Wolf Pack pitcher Darrell Rasner has always been a class act. And nothing has changed since he’s become a New York Yankee. There was Rasner on Wednesday, facing the firing squad known as the New York media after losing to the Minnesota Twins, 4-2, and handling it all with grace and class once again. Rasner took full blame for making a mistake on a pitch that Delmon Young deposited over the fence and he also refused to speak negatively about his teammate Robinson Cano, who made a critical error. It would have been easy for Rasner, a guy who is pitching for his job each time he steps on a mound, to react with frustration and make excuses after another tough loss in which his teammates didn’t help him much. Rasner, though, has always been a stand-up guy and a true role model.
Are you surprised that Manny Ramirez has yet to cut his hair for manager Joe Torre? With the way Manny is hitting, it’s more surprising that Torre hasn’t started to grow his hair long. As long as the home runs and RBI keep coming, expect Manny to keep growing his hair down to his knees. We’re just wondering when the marketing department of the Los Angeles Dodgers is going to have a Manny Wig Day at Chavez Ravine.
Leave it to Barry Bonds to taint a perfect evening last Saturday. With former Giants outfielders, including Willie Mays, Kevin Mitchell and, yes, Darren Lewis, in attendance as part of the franchise’s celebration of its 50th year in San Francisco, Bonds made a point to trash talk the Dodgers and Torre and also tell the crowd that he is not retired. Uh, Barry, when you win as many World Series as Torre has then you can talk trash to future Hall of Fame managers. And, as far as not being retired, let’s look at the facts. You aren’t playing. You aren’t injured. You are old enough to be the Jonas Brothers’ grandfather. Not even Brett Favre would consider a comeback if he had your knees. And, oh yeah. No team wants you. That sounds like retirement to me.
The San Francisco 49ers need to give quarterback Alex Smith one more chance. When you pick a guy with the top pick in the draft, you can’t give up on him before his fourth year. So forget about Shaun Hill and J.T. O’Sullivan for now. Smith can play. Remember those 2,890 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2006? The only thing worse than picking a bust with the top pick is having that bust go off to a team that actually knows how to groom a quarterback and watching that bust become a Pro Bowler.
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