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  • 10:56 PM ET  08.15
By Dick Friedman

That sound you almost heard was the gurgling of an emptying Nielsen pool...

In contrast to previous races, Michael Phelps had to dig deep--and reaaally stretch--to nip Milorad Cavic in the 100-meter butterfly. He nearly gave coronaries to his mother, Debbie, and to an entire battery of network honchos who were about to see their Saturday night go down the drain.

Even after watching several replays, I must say I still have trouble believing Phelps won. I'll take the word of Rowdy Gaines when he says the touchpad never lies. But like Cavic's coach, I would have filed a protest.

So Phelps goes for a record eighth gold on Saturday night in the 400 medley relay. As fellow Beijing blogger Mark Bechtel mused the other night, how would you like to be one of Phelps' teammates, knowing that you could screw this whole thing up?

As we get ready for the possibility of history being made, let the debate commence: If Phelps wins, is he the greatest Olympian ever--greater than, among others, Jesse Owens? Carl Lewis? Paavo Nurmi? (Or even old-time Friedman fave Al Oerter, the U.S. discus thrower who won gold in four Olympics?)

Who'd get your vote? (And don't be limited to my brief list.)

P.S. In the chat between Phelps, Spitz and Bob Costas, a humble Spitz displayed a warm and winning generosity of spirit as he passed the torch. Very touching.

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