ATHENS, Greece -- Paging the Zebra.
Now that Shawn Crawford has destroyed all human competition in the 200 meter dash, it's time for a rematch with the one creature that has Cheetah Man's number: Zebra.
You remember the first meeting. Crawford got whupped by Zebra on FOX's Man vs. Beast show in 2003. But that first race was more or less a traveshamockery.
Crawford got to the track in the early afternoon, but didn't race Zebra until well after midnight (in 46-degree temps, no less). This may have been no accident -- zebras have the night vision of owls.
So much has happened since then. Crawford got an agent, a coach, and some discipline. He went from no-name with attitude problem to superstar with gold medal. His 19.79 Monday was a personal best. Now it's time to throw down again.
"I would like to see it," said 200-meter silver medallist Bernard Williams.
He's not the only one. "A lot of people want to see it," said Crawford's agent, Kimberly N. Trammell. "We may do it. He's in the best shape of his life. And Zebra's been duckin' Shawn."
Rumors abound as to what happened to Zebra. Crawford offered his own theory after his triumph Thursday: "He's probably retired."
Debatable. Why would Zebra quit after his one shining moment? Some say the animal was upset about the judging. Zebra was charged with a false start in the first race, and FOX raised eyebrows by hiring only human officials for the match.
Of course message boards and tabloids push the speculation further. Zebra did double in size in only a few years leading up to the race. Its jaw is incredibly large. And unnamed zoo workers have described Zebra as irritable. Zebra galloped off the track after vanquishing Crawford without even looking at reporters. Calls to the doping authority for Recalcitrant Animals of Mixed Color -- RAMADA -- were not returned.
Perhaps Zebra just needs an incentive. Can't Peter Carlisle negotiate a bonus with Quaker for a million oats? Or grass. Field mice? Whatever the thing wants. Get it done.
Crawford's agent is confident that a rematch will happen as soon as next month. "I don't think it could hurt," she says. But there's a roadblock Trammell hasn't even thought of, and we're not talking about The Giraffe.
"Wait a minute," Justin Gatlin said. "I want to run the zebra."
Eric Adelson is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.