Friday, August 17, 2012

Dazz's 2012 Olympic Power Rankings--Part II

10. Dong Dong
   Aside from being a totally appropriate start to Part II of our Power Rankings, Dong Dong definitely earns his spot in the front half of these rankings. Aside from having the greatest . . . I mean, aside from the obvious, he won the gold for men’s trampoline. Have you seen men’s trampoline? They go fifty feet in the air on that thing! It is totally legit, it—you know what? I do not need to justify this pick anymore. Dong Dong is top tier.

9. Team handball
   The scoring is crazy fast, it is equally exciting to watch both men and women, you do not need to understand it to think it is awesome. All of this comes together to make a sport that is absolutely built for the short attention spans of today’s home viewers. It is an absolute blast to watch—the men score at will, and the slightly slower play of the ladies makes it tactical and strategic with almost as much scoring. Bill Simmons, a sports writer and editor-in-chief of (he is excellent, and probably my biggest writing influence—sorry, felt obligated to share), has wondered openly why this is not more popular in America. I totally agree. Plus, all the women folks involved are tremendously athletic. There are jumping shots, bouncing shots, long-range shots. The sport is YouTube gold.

8. Lebron James’ Reputation
   Sticking Lebron’s rep at this spot means that while it still is not top-notch, it is improving. From London you heard nothing of Lebron being a fantastic teammate and an overall enjoyable guy to be around. He seemed more mature, more relaxed, and less intense. It was nice. People like fantastic teammates, people like enjoyable guys, and people especially like it when guys are not intense. It seems like a new Lebron—and I know that this can be a whole different article—but it is nice to see this new version, at least. His rep is on the rise.

7. London
   As in the city. London was absolutely rocking for these Games. The Brits showed up to play both in the competition and out (from what I understand they absolutely flocked to handball and beach volleyball—coincidentally two of the most revealing sports at the Olympics). They were an excellent, enthusiastic host city, and while the ceremonies were a little lackluster, they brought the excitement for sure. Not to mention they absolutely overachieved in the medal count—they were third in gold count.
   On the other hand, they carried a reputation of being slightly perverted, slightly drunk, and slightly polarized toward certain sports over others (did you see the empty seats ay gymnastics?). They were adequate hosts to be sure, however, so they earn a top-tier spot.

6. Paul McCartney
   He was the best part of the opening ceremonies, and especially after all that cornball crap with the texting couple, we sure needed him. He was replete with all of his na-na-nas and jude-juday-judays that we could ever ask for. He put on an absolute performance. He was vintage Paul. It was the highlight of the opening ceremonies (I did not bother with the closing—it is always music, I was not interested), and even as I was sitting on the couch in a rage about the stupid torch-lighting (Kids?! Really?! People wait four years to see who lights the torch! I am still mad about it!), Paul made me feel better. London was here, and it was loud and proud. Paul brought the whole thing home, and he brought it home for the whole world. It was awesome. He still has it, and I am sticking to that opinion no matter what you say (And really, what could you possibly say? He’s Paul McCartney, for the love of Christ.)

5. Gabby Douglas
   Top 5 material. Here is why, plain and simple.
   1) She is yoked.
   2) She commanded the gym whenever she performed.
   3) She is an immensely successful African-American athlete in a dominantly white sport.
   4) She has the most genuineness of the Fab Five.
   5) She carried the Americans to gold almost singlehandedly.
   6) She is yoked.
   These numbered things are way easier than writing paragraphs, I tell you. It is almost midnight here, I am more than a little done with this blog. Not for real . . . I will probably feel better in the morning. Can you tell I am dgaf-ing this right now?

4. Usain Bolt. The athlete.
   He takes a high spot because the man is a presence. I throw that word around a lot on this blog, but I do not think it applies to anyone on this list more than it does Bolt. Everywhere he competes, all eyes are on him. He may be cocky and he may be brash, but at the end of the day he backs up the talk by being the fastest man who ever lived.
   Some of these events at the Olympics see venues that do not fill up to capacity (like gymnastics and swimming), but the track was absolutely jammed. People showed up hours and hours before his races just to see him run 100 meters. Hundreds of minutes of waiting for ten seconds of entertainment. That indicates someone who commands a space. That indicates someone who is one of the greatest athletes of our time. That indicates someone who competes in an event valued by everyone in the world—and as a result, the whole world sits on the edge of their seats when Bolt steps into the starting blocks.
   A great personality can make an athlete very easy to root for, but in Bolt’s case, he does not need a great personality for people to back him. He does something that is recognizable by every country in the world, and he does it better than anyone else who has ever lived. Credit where credit is due.

3. Bob Costas
   We seem long overdue for a lame movie reference, so here we go. Remember that scene in Return of the King when Aragorn (stationed at Rohan) runs out of his house and sees the burning column and runs over to the throne room hollering, “The beacon is lit! The beacon is lit!”? That is what I pictured in my head every time we saw Bob Costas come onto the television. I shall explain.
   As the land of Middle Earth was in dark times, so was NBC’s coverage of the Olympics (although dark may be an understatement, more like times of hopeless, free-falling despair). During these dark times, an army against the forces of Mordor forms at Minas Tirith, and in order to spread news of the coming battle, a beacon must be lit to begin a chain of hope across the land (of course, it comes only after Denethor is convinced rather forcefully by Gandalf, but we can talk about that total tool later). The beacon symbolizes hope in the valley of darkness, just as Bob Costas is the beacon of hope in the valley of darkness that is NBC.
   It works, admit it.
   As this beacon, Bob offered intelligent reporting in a sea of clichéd questions, predictable interviews, and Andrea Kremers. He asked smart questions. He offered clear, classy transitions from sport to sport. He provided outstanding fun facts. Bob Costas saved these Olympics; he saved these Olympics for all of us. The day was won. The ring was destroyed.
   Thanks Bob.

2. Michael Phelps
   I understand that Phelps or Bolt was a huge debate in these Games. Those who side with Phelps typically site the medals and the three-peat and the oh-yeah-I-only-have-more-Olympic-medals-than-anyone-ever. Those who side with Bolt site the universal appeal of his sport, and the two repeats in both the 100 and 200 meter dash. Both of these athletes are incredibly talented, incredibly dedicated, and incredibly memorable. They will both go down in history as two of the greatest athletes in the history of professional sports.
   So the Dazz team chose Phelps. Why? It is difficult to compare track accomplishments to swimming accomplishments. Longevity is measured differently in each sport, there have been more technological advancements in swimming than track, and there are more medal opportunities in swimming as well. So the solution we drew up is to discard athletic feats. Both of these guys are outstanding in what they do, that is clear, but we cannot compare them athletically.
   Phelps wins because we have seen him grow over his career. When we first saw him he was a scared skinny freakish 15 year-old. Now, he is a man who wants to golf the world and make a definitive mark on the sport he has changed forever. We saw him evolve from a prodigy (Sydney) to a force (Athens) to a titan (Beijing) to a mature, reflective man (London). Bolt came onto the scene just before the Beijing Games. He was bold and cocky and confident to the point where you hoped the guy would win just so he did not embarrass himself. Then he absolutely crushed everyone, shattered the world record, and declared it all part of his routine. He came to London the same way. There was no maturity, there was no evolution, there was no change. The biggest difference between the London Bolt and the Beijing Bolt was the quantity of Puma gear that he wore. Phelps realigned his way of thinking and looked to make an impact that was more than “I’m the best, end of story”.
   These Olympics, we saw Phelps change, and that is why he wins the battle over Bolt.
   It also just occurred to me I wrote an entire article on this not even two weeks ago.

1. Oscar Pistorius
   He may not have medaled, but Oscar Pistorius takes the top spot for arguably being the most important person at these entire Olympics. He was more important than Bolt, and more important than Phelps. Inside or outside of competition, Pistorius, who has no legs, carried the most significance by being the first man with prosthetic limbs to compete in the Olympic Games.
   Athletes with prosthetics have long been striving for equality in terms of the opportunities that they have in the world of sports. For years now, the thing holding them back is this so-called “advantage” that they are assumed to have over athletes without disabilities. Through extensive tests and studies, Pistorius was able to show that he in fact did not have an advantage, and that he was able to fairly compete against other “regular” Olympians.
   Doubters exist, as they always do, and some will still say that Pistorius’ prosthetic legs give him an edge over athletes without the mobility aids. What these folks do not understand is that the Olympics take themselves extremely seriously. Pistorius did not sneak his way into the Games. The guys and gals at London but him through test after test after test looking for any possible way his legs would give him an unfair boost. It was like the Catholic church trying to disprove a miracle. If he made it to the Games, that means he has no advantage. If he made it to the Games, that means he passed the test. If he made it to the Games, that means he is on an even field with the rest of the athletes.
   Pistorius, with luck, will be the first of many prosthetic-using athletes in professional competition. He takes the top spot in Dazz’s Power Rankings because while the other folks in this top tier may be looking to make a difference, he already has. He has left his mark on his sport. He has changed the rules. He is what the Olympics are all about. He is what sports are all about. The saga of Pistorius is set to inspire, teach, and shape the world of track and field for years and years to come. It does not get much better than that. Number one, very well deserved.    

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