Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Gold Medal Wiener

In my opinion, when measuring the most dominate Olympic athlete of all time, we must consider the wiener.

If you are dutifully keeping up with your Rio Olympics YouTube fail videos, you might immediately assume that I’m referring to Japanese pole vaulter Hiroki Ogita, and his unfortunate, yet anatomically impressive disqualification at the hands of his man parts.

I am not.

And you gymnastics fans might be thinking that I’m referring to a three-time Olympic medalist in the men’s trampoline event - high-flying Chinese silver medalist, Dong Dong. Again, you would be wrong.

South African rugby phenom Werner Kok? American synchronized diver Steele Johnson?

What’s the matter with you people? Get your minds out of the sewage-infested gutters of Rio. I’m obviously talking about hot dogs. Now get your minds into the sewage-infested pools of Rio and think swimming, people! Swimming and hot dogs. What do they have to do with each other, you ask? Well, a lot, as a matter of fact, when discussing total swimming dominance.

Michael Phelps has once again turned in one of the most amazing sports careers of all time. He left the sport of swimming the first time in 2012, at the end of the London Olympic Games, but decided on a comeback and added six more medals to his neck in Rio this year. He retires (we think) with twenty-eight Olympic medals, a staggering twenty-three of them gold.

Let’s put that into perspective with some handy bullet points:
- No other single Olympian in history even has double digits in gold. Not even Dong Dong.
- Phelps has two more total career Olympic medals than Egypt, and the country of Ireland is only beating him by one in the overall medal count. Don't even get me started on Kyrgyzstan. He beat them before he could legally buy beer.
- Brazil, this year’s host country, has the same amount of career gold medals as Michael Phelps now has at home, assuming Phelps gets out of the crime-infested host country with all of his medals.

At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Phelps made history by winning eight gold medals in eight straight events. He broke the long-standing record of fellow American swimmer Mark Spitz, who went seven golds for seven events in Munich in 1972. When Phelps broke Spitz’ medal record, the world crowned him as the new “Greatest Olympian,” and there was very little public debate about it. Now, as Phelps finishes up with his astonishing career medal count, crushing former Soviet female gymnast Larisa Last-name-ina for all-time individual medals won, and ending up with close to three times as many career medals as Spitz, he will be written into the history books as the greatest, bar none.

I am here today to dispute that. I am here today to tell you that Spitz was better, and my argument lies with the wiener.

My case for Spitz being a more dominant swimmer doesn’t even take into account that he won most of his 1972 Olympic races by body lengths, or that he set new world record times in all seven swims. I’m not even focusing on the fact that he swam without goggles, that he swam without a cap, or that he swam with an afro, all of his rather prodigious underarm hair, and a Tom Selleck mustache. My argument even ignores his 1970’s red, white, and blue Speedo, which is hard to ignore.

My argument has to do with eating. A lot of fuss is always made during the Olympic coverage about how much Michael Phelps and the other swimmers eat every day. While it is certainly a lot, in the world of competitive swimming, it’s pretty standard. World-class swimmers do two things - swim and eat. I was by no stretch of the imagination a world-class swimmer, or even a county- or city-class swimmer, but when I was swimming in high school, I would come home from practice and eat the entire right side of the fridge. That’s just par for the course, swimming-wise.

The amount of food that Spitz and Phelps put away during their swimming days is not where my argument lies. My case for Spitz’ athletic superiority comes from the amount of food he could put away during a race.

When I was in high school, our swim coach told us a story about Mark Spitz. Back when Spitz was in high school in Santa Clara, California, Coach Pete had seen him race at a nationals meet. Spitz already held national high school records in every stroke, and he was heavily favored in every one of his races, but when the swimmers took the blocks for one of his events, he was absent.

His name was called over the loudspeaker, and everyone at the pool and in the grandstands began looking around for him. When the race officials called his name again, telling him to report to his lane to start the race, he was seen jogging toward the starting blocks from the snack bar. He had three hot dogs in one hand, and he was eating another while he was running toward the pool.

He reached his starting block at one of the middle lanes of the pool, chewing the last of the hot dog he had been eating while he ran. He handed two of the three remaining dogs to the timer behind his block, asking the man to please save them for him. He then joined his opponents, stepping up onto his starting block, still holding a hot dog.

Now, let’s be clear for a minute. We’re talking about an Oscar Mayer wiener, in a bun, with the condiments of Spitz’ choice. In his hand. On the starting blocks. Of a nationals race. He had just Joey Chestnut’ed one of them while running. He was now standing over the end of his lane holding another.

As the crowd looked on in gastro-intestinal awe, Mark Spitz proceeded to stuff the entire hot dog into his mouth, reach down to touch the block at the “take your marks” command, and dive into the pool with seven other swimmers, starting his race while chewing and swallowing a whole hot dog on lap number one.

He beat the nearest finisher by almost two body lengths.

Michael Phelps is undoubtedly awesome, but all he ever did was swim. What about the wiener? It probably never even occurred to him to combine competitive eating with competitive swimming. Mark Spitz was a trailblazing, groundbreaking, lightning-fast, “I can eat a hot dog during this race and still whip your ass” kind of an athlete. Wait thirty minutes after eating before getting in the pool? No thanks. I’ll eat while I’m swimming.

Phelps says he did everything he set out to do, and the world seems to be in agreement on his status as the Greatest Olympian.

That may be true, but when measured against the wiener factor, Spitz still has my vote.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2016 Marc Schmatjen

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