The seventh round of HHR's Iron Ref is on.
Click here for a look at this week's competitors and an overview of the contest. CAST YOUR VOTE IN THE COMMENTS.
Voting will be tallied at 5 PM EST on Thursday. Remember, winners will return to compete for the title of HHR's Iron Ref. If you are interested in competing, drop us a line.This round's secret ingredient:
To understand the meaning of world class, you must give context to the word itself. “World Class” is a phrase that’s completely lost all its original meaning due to rampant misuse, ala no holds barred. Does anyone alive really even understand the definition anymore? Or is it just a stock phrase lazily pilfered from “Brent Musburger’s Big Book of Hackneyed Clichés for Announcers presented by AT&T”? To quote the trailer for a completely unnecessary remake starring Jude Law: “what’s it all about, Alfie?” At some point in time, it meant to be among the best in a skill and/or activity on this beautiful blue planet we call Earth.
The greatest single application of world class-ness as it applies to the world of sports is currently taking place in Beijing: oppression of human rights. Just kidding, politics and the Olympics don’t mix… except in 1936, 1968, 1972, 1980, 1984 and 2004. What I really meant to type was race walking.
I know race walking is an easy sport to pick on and everyone from bush league comedians to bloggers have taken a turn firing their semi-automatic assault rifles into the proverbial fish-laden barrel … but COME ON! How is this still an Olympic sport? It’s a perfect microcosm for the bastardization of the term world class. These “athletes” are competing in a sport created on a foolish bet made by two British gentlemen (distant relatives of the guys from Trading Spaces) after watching too much Monty Python while intoxicated.
Once we focus ourselves on eradicating ridiculousness like race walking and its continued trivialization of an important phrase, we can take “world class” back and bestow it upon those truly worthy. Kinda like black people and “N” word. Don’t worry. I’m black, I can say that that.
What does it mean to be "world class" at something? Well, Michael Phelps could tell you. Better yet, he could tell you, then grow a ladykilling Spitz-stache and start pulling in some serious arm candy at the local YMCA. You think the Uterine-Americans of suburbia wouldn't go for that look? Nice try. But Phelps is too obvious. He has two more gold medals this year than Antonio Alfonseca has fingers on his pitching hand. Brothers and sisters, that is a lot.
So I concern myself here with the little things. I've often wondered about those feats for which there are, sadly, no metrics. Examples: Who is the person, out of 6.6 billion or so on this earth, that is best at brushing his or her teeth? Or, if you prefer, how do you become a world class street crosser? These are the nuances that are overlooked in everyday life. What about the person who can hold the most eggs in his hand? Wait, there really is a measurement and a video for that.
Al Gore is spinning in his grave.
This principle, of course, can be applied liberally to the sporting world as well. Bloggers and other underwear-dwellers like to talk for days about good at-bat music. But only Brendan Harris of the Minnesota Twins has the courage and world classiness to roll with Warrant's "Cherry Pie." Best ever. Who are the NBA's world class garbage time players? Hollinger! Where are you now? Who delivers world class infield chatter at the major league level? What NFL interior linemen have reached world class level at secretly punching opposing groins?
These are the questions that haunt me like missing that ninth gold medal haunts Michael Phelps.
It's the one term that blow-hards, bleacher bums, basement-dwellers and self-serving columnists can all agree upon as the essence of excellence, usually discovered within the realm of global athletic competition.
There is no definitive statement on the term "world-class" without including the Olympics. And it just so happens that the Beijing Games has given us our latest example of a world-class athlete.
No, not Michael Phelps.
Phelps is, without question, among the greatest athletes of all time. There is no class that could adequately classify his talent or focus, so it would be a disservice to his eight gold medals this summer, and his 16 Olympic medals thus far to call him world-class.
But Bolt is a different story. He's great now, but not quite the greatest of all time in the track and field world. He's hot now, but we've seen hotter. A young career and unknown potential are the only things that make his talent a reachable goal; an attainable ambition.
A current world-class talent.
Plus, his name is Usain muthaf*ckin' Bolt, a world-class name about ten times as cool as Ocho Cinco, Colt McCoy, and God Shammgod put together. You or I could've easily gone to high school with somebody named Michael Phelps. Hell, had I been born 50 miles north of Washington D.C., I could've gone to school with THE Michael Phelps.
You might not like the way he celebrated his 100-meter win. So what. To hell with you. It's not about records, and it's not about being legendary. It's about being true; to self, to country, to the sport, and to the moment.
And if you can't be in a class of your own, at least not yet, you might as well be at the head of the one you're in.