One of the many interesting things about the sports society is how well it can merge the generations. I think back to a discussion that my grandfather, my dad, and myself had a few years back before my grandfather's death.
It wasn't a "Who Is The Best....?" conversation, rather a collective look at the Philadelphia Phillies history from the '40s and '50s to present day.
We mentioned the likes of Richie Ashburn, Robin Roberts, Jim Bunning, Steve Carlton, Mike Schmidt, Dutch Daulton, Scott Rolen, and Chase Utley.
The conversation was brief and it was filled with laughs over John Kruk, ecstasy with the 1980's winning squad, and despair over the likes of Andy Ashby, J.D. Drew, and many memorable players who have been booed since they returned to Philly.
For people who are close to my age, we weren't around during some of the most major sporting moments of the past 50 years.
We didn't witness "The Miracle on Ice," "The Thrilla in Manila," or "The Drive." Many of us were too young to remember Jimmy Valvano's speech (though I am truly happy that ESPN continues to show it; it's an awesome thing to watch) or we barely remember Tyson v. Holyfield II.
I start to wonder to myself, what moment describes my life thus far? What is that legendary game or personality? Sure, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open were memorable this year and the careers of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Tiger Woods, Albert Pujols, and Roger Federer will always be cherished but something's missing from them.
Tiger is an icon, yes, but I will wait another two or three seasons when the history will be close to being made. Federer is a great person off the court, is still in the midst of a nice (record-breaking) career but lacks that commercial appeal. Most of us won't get off Facebook for him.
Same with Pujols, most sports fans may not appreciate his numbers. Manning and Brady are special but every generation has those great QBs, and they are just two more. Too many things have occurred for them to be the "main moments" of my 17-year life.
What about Lance Armstrong? Sure I clicked on the Tour de France a few times, but mostly I waited for SportsCenter to tell me how he was doing.
Selfish, yes, but the early hours of the Tour ruined my shot of witnessing annual history. Maybe this year will be different.
But I don't want this to be about me as I could look at the 2008 Phillies or 2005-2007 Colts (both seasons were rewarding, though one ended prematurely) and choose them. No other moments have made me happier as a sports fan. Or even a person in general. I am talking about the generational moment. Then it hit me.
Yes, the most talked-about athlete for the last half of 2008. We nearly got sick of him before the sports world turned its focus on the traditional sports leagues. He was Beckham only with the bling. Yes, the one and only Michael Phelps. The recipe for success was there.
He was well-known enough before the 2008 Beijing Olympics to have earned publicity before the Games. There was a clear goal in mind that would shatter records (both Spitz's record and the pursuit of the Overall Gold Medal record) that were storied.
He may not be Mr. Charisma, but he has enough appeal to earn all the attention in the country. He was on when even Los Angeles could see him live at a comfortable hour. There was even the patriotic feel that helped others root for him like he was a friend.
The 4x100m relay made Alain Bernard a villain and Jason Lezak a hero forever. Even Garrett Weber-Gale and Cullen Jones, the former looking like a stronger clone of Billy Joel, entered the pantheon of elite athletes.
Phelps' appeal was so broad that it made his teammates superstars and in Lezak's case; legends. Do we care about swimming? Not right now, but it now has a face. A moment. A team.
Now it's you, the reader's, turn. Again, using the whole generation (not your own opinion) as the measuring stick; what's your opinion on that special moment? Has one happened recently? A special, mouth agape, country-watching one?