Can't turn Michael Mania into fever for the Olympics

How much are you into the Olympics? As we enter the final week of the 2008 Games in Beijing, it seems like a fair question, one that is answered partially by the high viewing numbers NBC has seen thanks to Mr. Gold Medal, Michael Phelps.

But with Phelps done in the pool (I bet NBC wishes it could enter him in a couple of the track events) and the individual gymnastics events nearly over, are you still into it? Is it compelling television for you?

I have to admit I didn't think it would be. I also admit that Michael Phelps changed my thinking. The Olympics and NBC are at their best when telling stories, and Phelps' has been the ultimate. You couldn't help but be drawn into his quest even if you didn't know a butterfly stroke from a butterfly net before it all started.

I went from not really caring if I saw particular races to screaming (like I'm sure most everyone did) as Phelps won his seventh gold, narrowly winning the 100-meter butterfly by a fingertip. He lost! He won! By how much? Unbelievable.

Once you had seen that you had to see him go for his eighth and for history. And it was exciting as well. NBC couldn't have scripted it better nor could Phelps. It gave you everything you expect from the Olympics - a sense of awe in the accomplishment, an amazing respect for the athlete and a source of patriotic pride that the most decorated Olympic athlete ever is from the good old US of A.

But does rowing do it for you? Water polo? Or basketball, even with all of the NBA stars?

I can't argue with the grandiose nature of the Olympics. But you also can't argue that a lot of the events seem contrived - do we really need synchronized diving, BMX cycling and trampoline? And there isn't a chance of turning on network television and witnessing a rowing event any time other than the Olympics.

I guess it's no different than the Academy Awards. There are a lot of Oscars given out before they get to "Best Picture." It's just the movie folks don't show the technical awards for two weeks on CNBC.

Every summer Olympiad has its drawing cards - gymnastics and swimming being the main ones, with the 100-meter dash, basketball and some other high profile events mixed in - to go with the many niche sports that don't usually get to play out on this large of a stage.

And they all sort themselves out, leaving every Olympiad with its defining story.

Michael Phelps is the story of Beijing, overshadowing all else. Which is why while I can't cop to having Olympic Fever, I think I may have a slight case of Michael Mania.

Any chance we can suit him up for the basketball medal rounds?

E-mail Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Tuesdays.