In reality, Bryan Clay is truly golden
When did the most impressive undertaking in sports become a cartoon?
Perhaps now the decathlon will be appreciated again, thanks to Bryan Clay.
And maybe now Bryan Clay will receive his due, 10 times over, as he deserves.
We can partly blame Reebok. The "Dan and Dave" promotion of 1992 defined cheesy.
And someone please explain Bruce Jenner. He was the cereal-box boy, representing everything good, when he took decathlon gold in 1976. Now he has swan dived into the world reserved for Mini-Me and no-talent party girls. A sad reality indeed.
The decathlon needed Bryan Clay as much as he needed it, especially when the enduring U.S. track and field image of these Games was botched relays.
Clay's story is the way it's supposed to be; substance over hype. Overcoming adversity to become the best.
An undersized, rebellious kid from Kaneohe who lacked focus is now the world's greatest athlete, at least until LeBron James learns to pole vault — and throw the shot, heave the discus, etc., etc.
There's only one safe thing about the decathlon: It's impossible to drop a baton.
Many other perils await track and field athletes daring enough to take on multiple events. Ten in two days turns it into survival of the fittest, not necessarily the most talented.
Clay was both these past two days in Beijing, posting the best marks in the 100 meters and long jump to start it off and never looking back.
Track and field fans around the country watched as closely as friends and family in Hawaii, hoping Clay could salvage some pride for an underachieving U.S. contingent.
For whatever reason, the decathlon has lost its cachet. But Clay may have retrieved some of it by pulling his country out of the doldrums in one of the Olympics' signature sports. He also claims a spot right near the top of the pecking order of the greatest athletes in Hawaii history.
Where does he rank?
I'd say second to Duke Kahanamoku, a little ahead of Colt Brennan — first in the decathlon trumps third in the Heisman. Clay would have to come back and win gold again in 2012 before comparisons with Duke can be entertained.
We can debate it later. For now, though, it's better to take Clay's accomplishments for what they represent in the here and now.
He doesn't possess the flash of Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt or as many medals as Michael Phelps.
Clay is the ultimate grinder. He's an earnest, straight-forward, spiritual family man.
He's the world's greatest athlete, and he got his start on a dusty track at Castle High School.
It might not translate to Madison Avenue, although it should.
I think it's safe to say we won't see Bryan Clay in a reality show.
He's too busy being real.