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To Kevin, et al.

Subject: Joey Cheek will not be the flag bearer either!

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How far we've come: Four years ago, we came to the Olympics outfitted with gas masks to protect us from terrorist attacks; today we need only be protected from the byproducts of the modern world. Sorry to get all Al Gore on you there ...

Truth is, I have been surprised by how few cars I've seen on the road these past couple of days (and surprised that it's had little visible effect on the pollution ... seriously, Kevin, if we have time tomorrow, can we find time to build a smogman? Or maybe make smog angels?). When I was here in November, the traffic was worse than any city I've ever visited. Forcing Beijing's residents to drive on alternating days has drastically cut down on traffic. The plan calls for drivers to check their license plates and drive accordingly: Even numbers drive one day, odd numbers the next.

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I thought about this today during the introductory swimming news conference, when I noticed every seat in the auditorium was even numbered. Made me wonder about where we're supposed to sit tomorrow. Or does that mean we have the day off?

Side note: Not sure what you thought of today's interviews -- which included Michael Phelps, Katie Hoff, Dara Torres & Co. -- but once actual competition begins, let's make sure we debate and discuss Phelps chances of winning eight medals, Torres' carrying the torch for 40-plus-year-olds and how many times Katie Hoff is going to be asked to talk about puking at the 2004 Games. Oh, and can someone donate some clothes to Amanda Beard?

The most interesting speaker at today's news conferences was Eric Shanteau, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer one week before qualifying for the Olympics in the 200-meter breaststroke. "What I show the general public is my positive side," he said. "I am human. This has been a roller coaster ride. This isn't just the flu; this is cancer. ... It's on my mind constantly. I can't help it. That's just how it's going to be."

How can anyone -- American or otherwise -- root against Shanteau?

If I made important decisions, I would have selected Shanteau as the American flag bearer for Friday's Opening Ceremony.

Anyone who had Michael Phelps in the flag bearer office pool was a giant loser -- primarily for having such an office pool but also because Phelps will be bearing no flags Friday night. In fact, Phelps confirmed today that for the third Olympics in a row, he won't even attend the Opening Ceremony.

So who is carrying the U.S. flag? Lopez Lomong , of course. Lomong, who's racing the 1,500-meter here, has an interesting backstory. A Sudan refugee, his tale is as inspiring as anyone. My question for you, Kevin: Is it a bit weird to have someone carrying the flag who wasn't born in the United States? Or does he simply exemplify the so-called American dream?

In closing, I'm sorry you bailed on the penis dinner. Work comes first. If you can make it with me to the Great Wall tomorrow, I promise to buy you a cricket-on-a-stick.

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