Monday Superlatives
July 29, 2019

Caeleb Dressel is America's next Olympic megastar

You probably don't care about the swimming world championships, even though it's the second-biggest competition in the entire sport. And I'll tell you something: I don't either. But if you're like me, you absolutely care about the biggest event, the Olympic games, and are riveted for the entire week and deeply sad when swimming gives way to (vastly overrated) track and field.

So let me be (maybe) the first to tell you: Learn the name Caeleb Dressel. Learn the somewhat annoying spelling of the first name. Learn what he looks like. Learn it all. Because Caeleb Dressel just did what has to be one of the most impossible feats in this or any other sport: He broke Michael Phelps' record.

Gwangju 2019 FINA World Championships: Swimming - Day 7

Maddie Meyer

In this case, it was the record of seven medals at the world championships, which Dressel broke this past week in South Korea. He won six golds in Gwangju, including three in one night, along with two silvers (both in relays). And unlike Phelps, he races in swimming's coolest event: The 50m freestyle. It's the 100-meter dash of the pool, and it's the most exciting individual race there is. Watch him go:

It's not totally clear how many events he'll swim come Tokyo 2020, but with the addition of a mixed medley relay (boys and girls swimming together!), he may have a chance to tie Phelps' record of eight medals in a single Olympics, and if he has a really special week, there's a small chance he could even shag eight golds.

The NBA Ruiners of the Week: Billionaire Owners

This is a good piece of journalism by Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst at ESPN and a fascinating read, but the fundamental issue can be simplified into three easy steps for the novice:

1. Some NBA owners (read: the ones who own bad teams) are upset about "tampering" in free agency, especially as it concerns player-to-player interactions.

2. There is absolutely no way to enforce this evenly without, like, seizing Kevin Durant's cell phone. Good luck!

3. It doesn't matter, things would turn out the same regardless, and certain owners are just mad because they live in Charlotte.

You're welcome.

Saddest End to a Sporting Event That Didn't Involve Actual Tragedy: The Tour de France

The Tour isn't on many American radars each summer, particularly because most of us still consider it a dopers' haven, but this year's race was spectacular. It had everything you'd want, from great sprints to riveting mountain stages, and the story of the month was Julian Alaphilippe coming out of nowhere to lead the Tour for 19 stages and give France a chance to have a champion for the first time since 1985. I got sucked in, and I wasn't alone—even sites like The Ringer couldn't resist.

The set-up was perfect for the final two mountain stages in the Alps on Friday and Saturday, but after the second-to-last major climb on Friday, this happened:

And this:

And this:

The race organizers had no choice but to call off the stage, and to take the finishing times at the top of the penultimate climb, the Col de L'Iseran. That was a huge boon to Egan Bernal, the 22-year-old Colombian rider who raced to the top of that peak in an attempt to give himself some separation for the finishing climb. Unfortunately, it left Alaphilippe, defending champ Geraint Thomas, and other contenders out of luck, and though nobody was to blame, it was deeply unfair—those challengers could have made a move on the final mountain, and in fact might have been planning to surge then. Instead, Bernal took the yellow jersey. It would be like deciding Game 7 of the NBA finals based on who led in the third quarter after an electrical outage.

THEN, as if the anticlimax wasn't enough, weather forced organizers to drastically shorten stage 20 on Saturday, another massive Alps climb, which effectively made it impossible for any of the riders to catch Bernal. That decision, again unavoidable, served him the race on a silver platter. Wonderful drama turned into a coronation overnight. It's even sad for Bernal—he turned in an excellent Alps climb on Thursday to put himself in position to win, and it's very possible that he would have won the yellow jersey anyway...he certainly looked good on Friday's ride before the interruption. Now, his win comes with an asterisk.

So, it's not the worst thing in the world—nobody died. But it's a sad, frustrating end to an otherwise great race, and there's nothing to blame but the weather.

The Greatest Baseball Throw in Human History: J.P. Crawford, Mariners

I've been thinking about this throw since I saw it Saturday morning on Deadspin, and I keep coming to the same conclusion: I've never seen anything quite like it. Yes, the title of this section is surely exaggerated—I think—but when I scan through all the great plays I've seen in my life as a baseball fan, I can't conjure up anything that equals it. I've seen shortstop jump throws, second baseman cross-body-up-the-middle bullets (thanks, Robbie Cano), countless nail-the-runner-at-home missiles from the outfield (or the even more impressive nail-the-runner-at-third-from-right-field), but the pure physics of this just stagger me.

OK, enough words. Watch:

It's so good that it's almost impossible to describe exactly why, but let me give it a go—first, when a shortstop has to dive deep in the hole, the result is almost always a base hit, even when they get a glove on the ball. Unless current-day Cecil Fielder is running, it's just too hard. This is why shortstops try to keep their feet deep in the hole, so they can at least attempt the Derek Jeter running jump-throw. When they do dive and manage to get an out, it's not from the outfield grass, and they typically have time to stand, plant, and throw. What Crawford did is some insane combination of things that shouldn't be possible—diving stop in the outfield grass, back to first base, no chance to plant, so he improvises a damn two-step jump throw as he stands, generating momentum from a standstill, and manages to nail a runner who's faster than the average player. The amount of power and accuracy and physical creativity this takes is bananas. It's magic.