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Bill Fitzgerald

Secret identities of Olympic superheroes

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One of the above individuals is among the favorites to win a gold medal in the Beijing Olympics. If you're not 100% sure of the answer, you'd better start cramming. With the Opening Ceremonies only two weeks away, I know I'm ready. My Bela Karolyi mustache is coming in nicely, I've got my Dan and Dave reversible hoodie cleaned and pressed, I downloaded the Olympic Fanfare ringtone, and my Richard Jewell-autographed Atlanta 1996 knapsack is chock full of HGH and clean urine samples.

Now that the good taste bar has been set lower than the Chinese government's tolerance for peaceful protest, what do you say we get to know our Olympians? There are more than 550 athletes representing the United States in the Games of the XXIX Olympiad in Beijing next month, so you'll need to learn about 40 per day to have them down by the time the torch is delivered to the Beijing National Stadium, which has been nicknamed the Bird's Nest. Seems to me you wouldn't want to get a torch anywhere near a bird's nest, but since the Chinese invented fireworks, I guess they know what they're doing (no pressure for an impressive pyrotechnics display, fellas).

Okay, let's assume you don't know Reese Hoffa from Reese Witherspoon. Hoffa is the reigning world champion in the shot put and likes to celebrate his wins by taking a victory lap holding an American flag in one hand and a turkey leg in the other. Sort of a track and field Henry VIII. Now that you've got that image implanted in your brain, let's move on. Only 39 more to go today.

So, true story, the guy who cuts my neighbor's grass used to own the Baltimore restaurant where Michael Phelps would wolf down thousands of calories in his post-workout breakfast. Sorry, that was the obligatory Michael Phelps mention for this entry. Fourth Place Medal corporate policy, you know. Now back to our column.

Wow, so many choices. How can I figure out which Olympic athlete to learn more about? Oh, don't worry, it's easy ... just pick one from Column A , two from Column B, and one from either Column C or D. Okay, okay, no more Chinese food jokes. Well, maybe one more. Did you hear that the Chinese government has forbidden restaurants from putting dog on the menu? Wait a second, I'm going to go all the way to Beijing and I won't able to get any General Tso's Chihuahua or Kung Pao Poodle? Hey, just as long as nobody goes pee-pee in my Coke, I guess I can't complain.

Tell you what. Forget about trying to get ready for the Olympics. Here's a test. Can you name more than five gold medalists from the Winter Games in Torino two years ago? I didn't think so. That doesn't make them any less enjoyable. Here's what we are going to see: feats of incredible athleticism, tears of joy and anguish, and stunning and saccharine displays of pageantry. So enjoy them all. And if you forget who the athletes are, don't worry. They'll be back in four years. And if they're not, well, there's always reality TV.

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