Wednesday, August 27, 2008

No Mo Olympics: Phelps vs. Bolt

"Our long national nightmare of giving a f**k about other countries is over!" – Pete Hart

The Olympics are over. No more wacky time-warp, where you feel like you’re watching the future. No more obscure sports that only the Chinese are good at. And while half of America hasn't watched their tivo'd closing ceremonies yet, only results, stats, medals, and a lasting debate are left.

The two stars of the Beijing Olympics were American swimmer Michael Phelps and Jamaican bobsledder-turned-running-sensation Usain “I Say You Insane” Bolt. No other competitors stole the spotlight in the way these gold-medal recipients did; and steal it they did, and with amazing getaway speeds.

But who was more impressive? The record-breaking swimmer who won by the largest and smallest of margins? Or the record-breaking runner who stomped everyone to oblivion before his prime? Many seem to offer exact answers, but the debate still rages.

Records: Each Olympian broke world and Olympic records while earning their gold medals. But which was more impressive? Phelps broke a record set by Mark “Sctache” Spitz set in 1972 of 7 gold medals. The fact that it took 36 years to beat a guy with such an un-aerodynamic (albeit awesome) facial ornament is worthy of applause. Bolt broke three world records, but the earliest of which dates back to the Hotlanta games of ’96, not to mention Phelps broke a few world records of his own.

Opportunities: Naysayers of the Phelps Phenomenon hang their hat on this argument: Phelps had more opportunities to win than Bolt did. I happen to find this argument a little weak, since if they wanted to, they could make Bolt run in different ways (but that would be too funny for the decorum of the Olympics to see someone running backwards, or competing in an Olympic Dizzy Bat Race).

However, Boltians do have a point. Phelps won eight golds in part because he had eight races to run, whereas Bolt only had three. I might contend that Phelps had five more races to lose than Bolt did, but the haters will have their way with this one, because I think Bolt could definitely have won more medals had he the opportunity to do so.

Clutch/Key Performances: This is a tough one. Which was more lasting- Bolt pounding his chest as he whips the rest of the field like red-headed step children in K-Mart, or Phelps winning his one, two, three, four, FiF gold by the smallest margin in swimming, one one-hundredth? I have to go with Phelps. While Bolt letting everyone know where the party will be in the next decade for track and field was certainly baller, had Phelps not won that race, no one cares about him, swimming, or possibly even the Olympics.

Domination: This wasn’t a question until Insane Usain showed up. Everyone in the world expected Phelps to win and most hadn’t really ever heard of Bolt. Bolt quickly shut them up, set some world records, probably got laid, and stole plenty of footage from Phelps’ Olympic glory reel. While Phelps did beat everyone, he didn’t crush everyone. Bolt never raced against people, he only raced against the records themselves. And he did so with an emphatic “Up Yours, Planet Earth.” Bolt wins this one hands down.

Hardware: Give the man his due; Phelps won eight gold medals. That record is due to stand for a long time. It’s something America will cherish for years, and it made the first week of the Olympics bearable. He may look like a goon and eat more than the GDP of Burkina Faso at breakfast, but Phelps got his.

Street Cred: Usain Bolt would straight up murder Michael Phelps. Period.

Legacy: Whom will we remember the most from these Olympics? This is a difficult question to answer, and I must confess that the answer is subject to change. For right now, the Legacy goes to Phelps. He set the record. He rocked Beijing. He played for keeps. However, if the 2008 Games turn out to simply be the coming out party for Bolt’s to-be-illustrious career (as many speculate it is, being that the prime age for a sprinter is around 27, and Bolt is 22) he will steal this title in the future. I wish I had a flux capacitor, pink hoverboard, and Parkinson’s disease (Zing! Too soon Michael J. Fox fans?) to find out the answer, but I don’t so I can only go on what I have for the time being.
ADVANTAGE: Phelps (for now)

Real Life: A lightning bolt would destroy a dolphin, whale, or any other aquatic mammal like Phelps, or at least make it retarded and unable to swim, let alone compete.

Competition: This is the final battle. Which competition is greater, swimming or running? Running is a universal sport that anyone who lives on dry land can compete in, and it is used in so many other sports, it is essential to the athletic spirit. But there may not be another sport in the world that exercises and demands more from the entire body than swimming. Not to mention there is a much higher fatality rate involved (how many runners do you know have a chance of dying if they stop?). This one is too tough to call. Essence of sports vs. survival? Both sound about right to me.

The Olympics were spread out over two weeks. One belongs single-handedly to Phelps, while the other belongs to Bolt, and Bolt alone. Ultimately, I have to push. I think time will prove me right on this one; I think this debate will go on for at the very least four years, but it will probably rage on until after these two Olympians are long gone, replaced by other athletes who stagger the mind and invoke the time-honored phrase “Did you see that crap last night?” around the offices of the world.

See you in London, folks. That’s a wrap on the Olympics here at The Ghost of Roy Hobbs.

(Except for this: I can’t wait for the Chinese to get theirs. Bob Costas was saying -rather convincingly- that these Beijing Games may be one of the most important events in the entirety of China’s recorded history, since China is trying to establish 21st century dominance, resembling its earlier dominance during the first five millennia or so. But the pre-teen gymnasts, the smog and the collective “Suck It” China has given to human rights enthusiasts? Those may have proven to do quite the opposite for the People’s Republic of China. State-sponsored-God-like-figure save their souls.)


  1. First of all, his nickname is Usain "Nut and" Bolt. Phelps is so much of a goon that it's hard to root for him. Bolt Jamaica me crazy, mon.

  2. Bolt- 3 races, 3 World Records.

    Although they're both going to be set for life financially because of their performances'.

    The real winner- Capitalism.

  3. Enjoyed the article. I found it through the blog feed on this site:

    The debate seems to be a push there, too, though I side with Bolt.

  4. Holy guacamole! We were referenced by Squidoo! Quick, tell wikipedia! Oh, and all hail our Chinese overlords.