|Though I enjoy all areas of the Olympics, I have a particular interest in the performances of American swimmer Michael Phelps and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.
For those unaware, Phelps is the all-time Olympic medal winner with 21, holding world records in the 100-meter butterfly, the 200-meter butterfly, and the 400-meter individual medley.
Bolt is a three-time Olympic gold-medal winner and holds world records in the 100-meter sprint, the 200-meter sprint, and the 4 x 100-meter relay.
So, the other day, as I surfed the 'Net to check on Phelps' progress in the Olympics (Bolt yet has not run), I stumbled upon something that read: "Jim Thorpe's remains at the center of controversy."
Indeed, this caught my attention.
However, to ensure all readers can follow along, I'll provide a brief bio on the late Jim Thorpe:
Born in 1888 to parents of Native American lineage, Jim Thorpe grew up in Oklahoma's Sac and Fox nation.
Thorpe's legendary athletic career took off in 1907 at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania, where he excelled in baseball, lacrosse, track and field, and football, the latter two sports coached by the legendary "Pop" Warner.
Thorpe first gained national attention in 1911, when, performing as Carlisle's running back, defensive, back, placekicker and punter, he scored all his team's points in an 18-15 upset victory over then-collegiate powerhouse Yale.
Still, the following season, 1912, Carlisle won the national collegiate football championship, due, in large part, to Thorpe's prowess on the gridiron.
Thorpe received All-American honors in both 1911 and 1912.
It was the 1912 Olympics, though, that made James Francis Thorpe an eternal sports icon.
At those Olympic games, held in Stockholm, Sweden, Thorpe won gold medals in both the pentathlon, which consisted of five track & field events, and the decathlon, which consisted of 10 track & field events. (NOTE: The Olympics no longer feature the version of the pentathlon as it was in 1912.)
According to legend, a crowning moment for Thorpe came when King Gustav V of Sweden, after personally presenting to Thorpe his medal, stated, "You, sir, are the greatest athlete in the world," to which Thorpe humbly replied, "Thanks, King."
However, Thorpe's glory was short-lived: In 1913, he was stripped of his Olympic gold medals for having been paid a paltry sum for playing minor league baseball the summers of 1909 and 1910.
He spent the next 15 years playing professional baseball and football – even basketball.
He had his greatest success in pro football, making the All-Pro Team and, ultimately, being named to the NFL 1920s All-Decade Team.
The pinnacle for Thorpe came when he was voted "The Greatest Athlete of the 20th Century, out of 15 other athletes including Babe Ruth, Muhammed Ali, Jack Nicklaus and Michael Jordan.
Thorpe's latter years weren't so kind as he battled financial destitution and alcoholism. He died of heart failure in 1953, at 64 years old.
In an alleged money-making deal, Thorpe's widow had her husband's remains buried in a location around the towns of Mauch Chunk-East Mauch Chunk, Penn., on the agreement the two towns would combine to be renamed "Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania," which they were – though Thorpe, supposedly, never had been to the area.
In 2010, Jack Thorpe, Jim Thorpe's son, filed a motion to have his father's remains returned to Oklahoma reservation, so he could be laid to rest alongside other family members.
When I read the controversy surrounding the best resting place for Jim Thorpe's remains, I asked myself two questions: First, who, precisely, went to the trouble of conveniently breaking this to the media during the 2012 Olympics? Second, did he/she do so to honor Thorpe's legacy, or, rather, did he/she do so during, simply, to self-servingly grab headline space?
(NOTE: Check out the movie Jim Thorpe: All-American, starring Burt Lancaster, released in 1951.)
Mike Vinson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.