Olympic Outlook: Let's cool it with the Phelps/Lewis debate

Jiyeon Kim (KOR), left, against Mariel Zagunis (USA) in the women's sabre semis. (Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

Five thoughts to match the five Olympic rings for what transpired Tuesday in London.

1. It's been a great Olympics so far for the United States. No, really, here's the proof. The U.S. is currently ahead of its expected gold-medal pace. And there's so much left to do. The other end of that, though, is China's push to win the medal and gold total. I'm not sure how much anyone outside of Team USA folk truly care about medal total. It's always been arrogant for the U.S. to believe it's got the best collection of athletes. A little humbling would probably do us good. The most important thing, as usual: As long as we're beating Canada, all is well.

2. Mariel, oh, Mariel. Mariel Zagunis was the two-time women's sabre gold medal champion. She carried the flag for the U.S. at last Friday's opening ceremony. But she couldn't even medal at the event this year. A shame. She was terrifically humble in defeat. Hey, you want some perspective, though? Prior to Zagunis' performance in '04, the U.S. hadn't earned gold in women's sabre in exactly 100 years. She's earned some cred. Would've been so great to have her win it again, but as we're learning with these Games, taking three straight golds in three Olympics in the same event is damn near impossible.

3. Carl Lewis vs. Michael Phelps: the all-time greatest Olympian. I'll be over here, running/swimming as fast away from this pointless discussion as I can. Because you know what began Wednesday and is going to be given way too much airtime and print space and Web real estate? This. Let's just not have this verbal wrangle, OK? They're two completely different sports, and I've yet to hear a pusher for one side even acknowledge the incredible discipline and skill it takes for the other. Different athletes, different eras, different sports. We don't debate Walter Payton vs. Michael Jordan, so let's do the same here. Phelps isn't even done in London and this propped-up talking point is already taking off. Everything doesn't have to be a debate.

4. The Badminton Bandits had to go. Has anyone given a name to the four rebels who sought to throw games in order to better their bracket placement? I'm going with that. So, run with it, if you please. Although by Thursday afternoon the Chinese and South Korean badminton teams will be long past the news cycle. There was a point I was setting up to make, yeah? Oh, right. These ladies had to be kicked out.

See, I agree that the format -- a new format at that -- is a big problem. But I don't agree that it's what to blame. Athletes/competitors need to adjust to the field presented to them and try to win. This isn't deftly tanking for a better draft pick. This was basically mocking the sport and creating reason to give a big middle finger to the event organizers. They should've dealt with it and made their objections public in the wake of their inevitable victories. Instead, they looked and acted like 7-year-olds out there and dealt with the consequences.

5. I'm officially done with diving. Diving is like green beans. I love the Olympics like I love a big meal, but diving is officially the green beans of my course/viewing experience. Don't you feel the same? I tell myself I like it and I so badly want to like it. But I just can't. It's all the same and I can't tell much of a difference of what's happening out there. (Congrats to the U.S. for finally hauling a medal in here, though.) How about we mix it up. Have those synchro divers jump out instead of up. And can we measure impact on the water/biggest splash? Because everyone's watching that. Few other Olympic events -- summer or winter -- are harder to discern good from great, bad from acceptable, than diving.

Biggest non-story of the day: That U.S. swimmer passing up dinner with LeBron because she had a curfew to meet. This was an actual story reported on many sites today. Hey, we're not above the low-hanging fruit, but seriously, it's not like Lauren Perdue got tweeted at by Justin Bieber or was caught on a London Zipline.

In case you missed it: The least surprising news: North Korea's glowing reports of its own gold medal achievements ... record after record keeps falling in the pool ... the 10 worst scandals in Olympics history ...

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CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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