Bryan Clay just dropped by my office. You probably haven't heard of him because, for some reason, the best athlete in the world doesn't get to be really famous anymore.* Clay is the winner of the most recent Olympic decathlon—ten events over two days, both of which last about 14 hours, all of which are spent in "the zone," that period of intense focus that successful athletes find themselves in during competition. That makes marathoners or race car drivers look like they're loafing.
Anyway, Clay came by my office, along with ESPN The Magazine senior editor Alison Overholt and senior deputy editor Steve Malley, who oversee our Olympics coverage. He brought with him a box of Wheaties with his picture on it, so he's not totally unfamous.** But he should be a lot better known, not just because he's the best athlete in the world, but also because he has a great sense of humor. I know this because he didn't kill me when I stole his gold medal.
See, whenever athletes come by my office I try to get them to give me something. Anything, really. A shoe. A hat. A key. Not because I'm a collector. Just because I think it would be cool to say, "Carl Edwards? Oh, yeah, he was here recently and he gave me a sock." Or: "Tora Bright dropped by and gave me her belt."
Anyway, Clay brought his gold medal, and I thought it would be cool if he gave it to me. I know it sounds a little ridiculous, and a lot unlikely, but you never know unless you ask. So I asked. And he said no. But he did let me hold the thing while we were talking, and, when he wasn't looking, I switched it with the commemorative gold medal that New York City minted when it was trying to win the right to host the 2012 Games. Alas, when I handed the bogus medal back to Clay, he asked for his actual gold one back. The reason I know he has a sense of humor is because a) he laughed; and b) he signed his Wheaties box and gave THAT to me. I'll be using it for a charity auction, and I'll make sure to let the winning bidder know that it was donated by the world's best athlete, who everyone should get to know a little bit better.
Now on to my list of THE 27 BEST SPORTS IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW, ACCORDING TO ME. It's a humdinger of a ranking, though much less important than another list I keep: COOLEST SCALES (Top 3: the Mo scale, which measures the hardness of rocks; the Duckworth scale, which assigns the likelihood of dying from given activities; and the Richter scale, which measures the magnitude of seismic energy). Anyway, here's this week's update, for Jenny Craig:
THE 27 BEST SPORTS IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW, ACCORDING TO ME:
2. College football (BCS)1
3. MLB (National League)2
4. Golf (Ryder Cup)
5. High school football (Texas)
7. NASCAR (Sprint Cup)
8. Drag racing
9. MLB (American League)4
10. Tennis (women's)
13. Tennis (men's)
14. Kite fighting (Thailand)5
15. Touch football6
17. Mixed Martial Arts
18. Tennis (men's)
19. Field target7
20. Golf (LPGA)8
21. Wheelchair soccer
23. Snowmobile racing
1. It's hard to convey how strange it is to see Mizzou near the top the national rankings, or to hear Mag senior writer Bruce Feldman say he thinks they have a serious shot at winning the national championship. Very strange. Very cool, but very strange.
2. How much do I love NL baseball? The Cardinals are out of it and I still care. A lot. Go … Brewers!
3. Look, people, it's not complicated: Come visit me at work, get your sport on my list.
4. This is all about the Rays. The Rays just make me smile, DH or not.
5. Yes, kites, which are in the sky and made to fight each other. Tell me you wouldn't watch in a second.
6. I play in the Fourth Down League (FDL) in New York City. Some would call it the greatest touch football league in history. I wouldn't argue with them.
7. Because guns don't kill people—people who don't use guns solely for sport kill people.
8. It's hard to know what to say about that weird English-fluency rule, but now I don't have to. Which is a really good thing, this being America and all.
* Bruce Jenner, Rafer Johnson … the list goes on when it comes to world famous decathletes. Okay, maybe the list doesn't go on. But those two were really famous. And Jenner won't go away.
** In a book I co-edited with Mag executive editor Neil Fine, titled 23 Way To Get To First Base: The ESPN Uncyclopedia, we list every single one of the 1,400 athletes, entertainers and (yes) fictional characters to appear on a Wheaties box since the tradition started in the 1934. When we reissue the book, and update the list, I'm gonna put Bryan Clay in boldface. Just because.