Topic: "Olympic Changes" (4)
So, asks Frodo, is this guy Phelps the greatest athlete in the world? Actually, says Frodo to himself, that is not terribly different from asking if George W. Bush is truly the worst of all Presidents. The distinction between the two questions is that we all know the answer to the latter. Mr. Phelps, ever since he decided to accept this assignment, has drawn the admiration, if not the adulation, of the host-Chinese, the American Basketball Team, and every mother who ever inflated water wings for a toddler. The achievement behind eight gold medals won by a single individual needs only to be compared to the fact that Phelps has won more medals than all but eight countries competing in this years' Olympiad. Still, Frodo thinks back to moments not forgotten when Carl Lewis, Michael Johnson, Edwin Moses, Althea Gibson or Wilma Rudolph won medals that did not involve either a Speedo or water temperatures.
There will always be reminders of great individual events, involving a Jesse Owens, or an Ice Hockey Team pulling off an improbable upset. Frodo remembers a nameless marathoner entering the stadium in Mexico City, stumbling, falling, but desperately trying to finish, and the whole world watching as the human body began to separate itself from the determination of the human mind. The will, if you will, is the story behind the story in moments such as these. That is why Frodo watches, and listens.
Many years ago, Frodo introduced a black man to a potential employer. The job was in America, the employer was Asian. When the employer decided not to hire the young man, he tried to explain his thinking to Frodo, and he said something like this: "Mr. Frodo, he is black, and I am yellow. It is difficult for me to say that it may seem strange to our customers that he would call as our representative. I know it is wrong. It is only business."
Frodo thought of that as he watched the crowds around Kobe Bryant, all wanting his autograph, his picture, to touch him. Every business in the world would love to have Kobe Bryant endorse their product. It would seem as if things have really changed on our small, blue planet, haven't they? So it would seem.
Frodo votes for Jim Thorpe. Look it up dear reader, he was indeed the "greatest athlete in the world," (1912 in Stockholm) but they took his medals away. Using the same rules today, Kobe Bryant would be stripped of his medal, too. Rules, like swimwear, change over time. Better it was, thinks Frodo, when the athletes did not cloak themselves at all.
Probably got a little chilly though.