As everyone this side of the universe knows; the 2008 Summer Olympic Games kicked off yesterday in Beijing, China. While the Olympics gets its fair share of coverage, commercialism and hype; does anyone actually care? Sure we are in the annual "worst stretch in sports" on the calendar but is that enough to make us care about the sports that aren't basketball?
With the exception of Michael Phelps quest for eight gold medals and perhaps Tyson Gay in the 100, the notoriety of being an "Olympic hero" has started to fade away. If Phelps can pull off the domination and if Gay can beat the Jamaican duo of Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell, they will be remembered in sports forever.
However what is else there? Or better question, whom else is there? When you think of those who are considered as heroes for the United States, what comes to mind? Off the top of my head the first few names include Bruce Jenner, Mark Spitz, Michael Eruzione (of the 1980 US Hockey team) and Michael Johnson as those who transcended the Olympic games.
Now though, that title is starting to mix with sports such as basketball.
Team USA includes NBA stars LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade amongst others. If this version of the "Dream Team" wins the Olympic Gold, will they be remembered as Olympic champs? For basketball and even tennis, there's almost an exhibition feel to the game. Sure, America will have its hands full if they want to win the gold but whether it be circus shots or talk about the upcoming 2008-2009 season; it doesn't feel like an Olympic atmosphere. More than likely, Kobe Bryant will be remembered as being one of the greatest ever and a potential medal will be a little sidebar in his biography.
We like to watch the Olympics but those special athletes fail to emerge. Sure Phelps and maybe even rival/friend Ryan Lochte with help from 41-year old wonder mom Dana Torres will easily headline swimming this year.
But can you really build a marketing campaign that includes distance runners like Oregon's Andrew Wheating (800m), Galen Rupp (10,000m) and others that include Nick Symmonds (800m) and Anthony Famigiletti (steeplechase)? While Bernard Lagat has some minor starpower in the sport as does Jeremy Wariner, if they win their respective events will anyone care? Michael Johnson's gold shoes and 400 speed will live in our minds for a while but does Wariner's sunglasses have that same luster?
Stay tuned and find out.