His name is succinct, so basic, efficient and true, but not flashy. Michael Phelps. His body so flawless, so delicately attuned to a world of water none of us will ever know. His perfection, his eight golds in eight day jamboree, is the -- pardon the pun -- the gold standard that we'll measure every sporting feat up to for a long time.
Because I am just a highly functioning aquaphobic, I'll leave the flowing, rippling cascade of poetic tribute to the experts. But I will say that Michael Phelps and his precious medals moved me in a way that hasn't happened in a while.
Perhaps it's the unassuming manner in which he did it. Or the way that I talked myself into believing this was the race he'd lose before each event, only to realize 12 seconds before he jumped in that he might as well be on the medal stand. Maybe it just felt good to root for someone, with none of the baggage of pesky team allegiances or multi-million dollar salaries.
Nah, it was the surprising sense of American camaraderie that Phelps ignited. These past eight days, I've seen him compete in many different settings. Outside of NBC5 on the Magnificent Mile. In my apartment with my roommates. In a bustling newsroom with veteran journalists. Every one of those places turned into his biggest cheering section the moment his 6-4 frame hit the water. And every time it was unplanned, unscripted and wonderful.
A stranger gave me a high-five after the 200m butterfly. A friend I hadn't spoke to in over a year called me right before the 200m medley. "You gonna watch Phelps?" she asked. What kind of American, let alone internet sports guru (I don't even know what my job is called) would I be if I wasn't, I responded.
Tonight the golden boy crossed all the T's and dotted the I's by taking over with his team in third place and bringing them into first. You knew he'd do it. And it was still exciting.
So often, and we're guilty of these even here at Sports Pros(e), we get caught up with dehumanizing athletes and being overly-cynical. But how lucky we are to have reminders of why we care in the first place on display from time to time. Phelps' nine days were good for the sports soul, the psyche and for the country.
We're not too sardonic to ignore that.