When Michael Phelps took center stage in Beijing, he dominated the competition in the pool over and over. His ability to step up at the Olympics, on the biggest stage of his sport, was unprecedented. But when he took the stage last night in New York as host of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, it was clear he wouldn’t be running away with the standout performance. That honor belonged to Tina Fey, the Sarah Palin doppelganger who was on point from her opening line of “Good evening, my fellow Americans” spoken in perfect Canadian/Alaskan-speak. The Palin and Hillary Clinton opener was solid, with Fey doing Palin’s “aw shucks, God is great” perfectly. It was like Fey was served up a Billy Wagner fastball right down the middle and knocked the shit out of it. Video below: Click to view Phelps on the other hand looked, well … like a fish out of water at times. (Sorry!) The episode featured a cameo from an old school Charles Barkley mid-80’s Sixers jersey (pictured above), which brought a tear to my eye. That was one of few highlights from the evening. In a bit Phelps did as himself on the “Charles Barkley Show,” the Olympic swimming legend simply forgot to bring the funny. That seemed to be the trend throughout the night. Click to view When they tried to make fun of Phelps ridiculous eating regimen, the jokes just didn’t click. Wow, he eats a lot! Video below: Click to view Why was Phelps unable to translate his dominating persona in the pool to the comedic stage in New York? Well, because he’s a swimmer. Despite 99.5% of the world not giving a shit about swimming except for one week in August every four years, Phelps was able to truly capture the attention of the American public and the rest of the world while he was in Beijing.
It’s simple really. For men, Phelps appeal when he is in the water is on par with Jordan on the hardwood or Tiger on the golf course. We love watching the best in the world simply dominate. It’s simple for women too. While Phelps is certainly kind of goofy looking, the ladies still swoon for him. When you have a body that looks like it’s been chiseled by Michelangelo himself, that goofy white boy smile isn’t so bad. And when that body is on NBC covered in clothing, that appeal is diminished. But does being a tad awkward prevent you from killing it on SNL? Not at all. An article in the Baltimore Sun ranks the top five athlete performances on the show. Fellow goofy looking white guy Peyton Manning wins the top honors. For my money, if you want an athlete to be funny, I’ll take Sir Charles any day of the week. Phelps on the other hand, he was kind of turrrible.