Devon O’Neil: Is 43 too old for a Hall of Famer to peak?
August 11, 2008
With apologies to the Olympians, especially Jason Lezak, Michael Phelps and the United State’s sensational 4×100 freestyle relay squad, which we’ll get to in a few paragraphs, here in Colorado this weekend there was only one version of The Man.
He is a 43-year-old dad who lives in Gunnison and plays a healthy amount of rec hockey, his dirty blonde hair and wide white smile providing the California surfer’s looks to go with the mountain mutant’s lungs.
Behold, Dave Wiens: The Man.
How do you become The Man? You do exactly as Wiens did Saturday in Leadville. You beat the unbeatable.
You listen as Lance Armstrong tells you he has nothing more to give, and, knowing you still do, you pedal away from him like so many other world-class athletes never could.
Oh, and you do this exactly one year after you did the same thing to Floyd Landis, protecting your turf the only way you know how: fiercely yet humbly, sans hype, as if your opponents’ riding in the Tour de France did nothing more than qualify them to get beaten like everyone else.
In the handful of times I’ve interviewed Wiens over the years, one truth always emerged. If modesty were money, he’d be the richest guy in town.
Which is great for him but bad for this accomplishment, because it could use a little more hype.
What he’s done the last two years in Leadville has been something else – a pair of grass-roots feats that carried international relevance. Let’s not forget that. …
Meanwhile, in Beijing, the aforementioned Jason Lezak set my couch on fire late Sunday night.
When Lezak erased a five-foot gap over the last 50 meters of the race on freestyle world record holder Alain Bernard – the very Frenchman who predicted before the race that his relay team would smoke the Americans – I jumped off the couch and shouted at the television.
More than save Phelps’ bid for eight gold medals (and the corresponding $1 million bonus he’d get from Speedo), Lezak’s anchor leg – which helped the U.S. break the world record by a whopping four seconds – gave swim coaches the world over new ammunition: not even a world record holder can hold off gold-medal want. …
True exchange from my living room during Sunday’s women’s gymnastics team qualifying, when the Chinese squad took its turn on the uneven bars.
Me, after watching a brilliant routine get derailed by a fall: “I hope she still makes the finals.”
My friend: “The 10-year-old?”
Actually, I thought the girl looked more like 12, but the point remains. If the Chinese delegation somehow avoids sanction for entering little kids in a 16-and-over competition, the Olympics’ greatest coup will be theirs. …
Usually when Tiger Woods isn’t playing golf, the sport goes to cow dung. Lately, though, it’s been saved by a jolly Irishman from Dublin named Paddy.
Describing his putts as “lovely” and saving his best shots for when the tournament is on the line – just like Tigger himself – Padraig Harrington won his second straight major with an unlikely comeback in the PGA Championship on Sunday.
Now if he could just maintain this level of play with Tiger in the field, we’d have a rivalry. …
When talking about potential AL Cy Young candidates, it’s hard to find a pitcher who’s been better than Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Red Sox righty has put together a 13-2 record with a 2.90 ERA and has only given up 85 hits in 114 innings – limiting hitters to a .206 average.
But he’s only going to win the Cy Young if Cliff Lee stumbles. Despite pitching for last-place Cleveland, Lee is 16-2 with a .245 ERA and has only yielded 22 walks all season. …
In parting, it’s a miracle the Tampa Bay Rays (71-46) were able to break the franchise record for wins this past weekend, with still a month and a half to go in the season.
Not because they’ve done it with a bargain $43 million payroll, compared to division rivals Boston ($133 million, 4 _ games back) and New York ($209 million, 8 _ games out).
No, the miracle is that Tampa Bay wasn’t kicked out of baseball for being so terrible for so long. Their best year ever, I learned, in 10 years leading up to now, was a pathetic 70-92.
Thus, as Rays outfielder Carl Crawford told a Seattle reporter last week, describing the team’s season: “It’s like a party every day.”
Breckenridge resident Devon O’Neil’s $0.02 column runs Tuesdays. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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