Last night, I think it was last night, or the day before, or whatever NBC’s tape delay wanted to show me, Michael Phelps won his 19th medal and everybody started to call him the “most decorated Olympian” of all time.
That needs to stop. Since last year, I have loathed all this praise of Phelps being the greatest Olympic athlete ever. He only won those medals because of chance.
Calling someone the most decorated because he has won so many medals takes away the actual reality of the situation. I am not taking away any talent he has in the swimming world, but it’s because swimming has so many different races, Phelps has so many different opportunities to win medals.
For example, Kobe Bryant has an opportunity to win one medal this year. Last year he helped lead his team to a victory and nobody labeled him the same category as Phelps. Why?
It’s only because basketball has only one medal opportunity. In fact, I think basketball deserves more praise than swimming because it’s one medal and a lot of obstacles just to get to that one medal.
(Plus, let’s be honest. Who actually cares about swimming outside of the Olympics?)
If basketball had numerous medal events, it’d be a different story. If there were medals awarded for a free throw competition, a three-point competition, a knockout competition, a horse competition, a half-court shot competition, a passing competition, a dribbling competition, a one-on-one competition, a dunk contest among many others, I’d bet a guy like Kobe Bryant or LeBron James would win multiple medals and we’d call them the most decorated Olympians of our time.
Heck, if Usain Bolt can run races of 100, 150, 200, 300, 400, 5o0, 750, 1ooo meters all in one Olympics, plus relays, and all be eligible to win gold in them, you don’t think he’d win them all and be considered the most decorated?
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Because Phelps is so good at what he does and his sport so happens to offer multiple medal events, he gets this praise. He’s a great talent but all these praises are there only because, by chance, he participates in a sport that allow him these opportunities to win so many medals.
Maybe if I was a fan of swimming I’d see it differently. But I’m not. I am not going to pretend to be an American that claims to love swimming and only watch it once every four years — like Americans who love soccer once every four years.
But I really think calling Phelps the most decorated Olympian is really unfair because of the lack of opportunities for athletes in other sports. And calling him the greatest Olympian of all time? That kind of thinking just discredits the challenges other athletes face with less opportunities to win medals.
** Side note: “Fab Five”? Since when did that name come up in relation to these guys? None of them played basketball at Michigan.
Last night also was something big. I didn’t watch any of it because I don’t care and tape delayed feeds brings me no joy. But it looks like Team USA won gold for gymnastics. Good for them, but I need to stop hearing people call gymnastics a sport.
In fact, add synchronized swimming and all the other sports, summer and winter, that involve a judge. Judges don’t make anything a sport. When only a handful of people, not the athlete, determine winners and losers, it takes away competition.
The goal of that “sport” is to not beat the opposition, but rather impress the judges. It’s a glorified beauty pageant. Sport is about competition against the opposing athletes, not trying to impress judges.
Congratulations to the gymnastics team for winning. I appreciate the talent it takes to compete. But it’s really hard for me to care about something that isn’t a sport.