The 41-year-oldswimmer will compete in her fifth Olympics.
Dan Patrick: Whatbrought you back?
Dara Torres: Iwent to a meet about three weeks after I gave birth to my daughter, and didO.K. Then about three months after giving birth I went to the Masters WorldChampionships, and I had so many masters swimmers come up to me and say, Itwould be great to have a 40-year-old in the Olympics. Then my head startedspinning. And here I am. DP: Nine months pregnant, do you think you could stillbeat me in the 50 meter?
DT: Oh, not evena doubt.
DP: What about100 meters?
DT: That might bedifficult. I'd probably need CPR.
DP: You'refourth-best in the world at age 41, and the mother of a two-year-old. Whyshouldn't I question that?
DT: Nowadays anyathlete does anything out of the ordinary and right away it's, Oh, they must bedoping. I knew that was going to happen, so I took a proactive approach andspoke to the head of USADA, which is the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, and said,"Is there any other test you can do to prove that I'm clean?" If I wastaking something, do you think I would go to USADA and ask to be tested, notknowing what kind of tests they're going to be doing?
DP: If you wentagainst Michael Phelps in the 50 meter, what's it look like?
DT: He'd crushme. He's got those underwater kicks where he'd already be halfway down the poolbefore....
DP: He looks likea fish.
DT: I know. He'slike a little dolphin.
DP: Those laserracing suits: They're controversial, but if anyone can use them, howcontroversial are they?
DT: Exactly.Maybe Speedo went five years ahead of where they're supposed to, but you weregoing to see those suits at some point.
DP: Could Isponsor a portion of your suit, put the Dan Patrick logo on there, like NASCARdoes?
DT: How aboutright on the rear?
DP: Well. O.K.(Laughs.) Finish this sentence: If I don't win a medal in Beijing?...
DT: ... I will bebummed.
DP: This is it,right?
DT: This isdefinitely it. I promise this is my last Olympics.
JONATHAN PAPELBONmade an innocuous comment before the All-Star Game about wanting to close, andit got blown up into a silly headline in New York that led to his being booedwildly at the game. I hope the experience doesn't make the Red Sox' closer clamup. He's an athlete that's fun to talk to.
I RECENTLY ASKEDHIM about his younger brother Josh, who is also a closer, in the Red Sox farmsystem. In short, Josh is after his older brother's job. Jonathan told me thatthe competition between them goes way back: When they were kids, to help themsettle their differences, he said, "My father had to buy us a trampolineand 12-ounce boxing gloves." So who won the trampoline fights? "There'snever been a situation where he's gotten the best of me," Jonathan said."Did you knock him out?" I asked. "Oh yeah," he said."Knocked him out cold."
O.K., SO HE'S ATOUGH GUY. Well, if so, he just doesn't look the part out there on the mound. Ijoked that instead of being such a baby face, maybe he should grow some facialhair, like other closers do. He said, "I think I'll leave the mustache toGiambi. But I might bring back the [Dennis] Eckersley hair (right), how aboutthat?" I like it. "Or," he said, "maybe I can bring back themullet." No, Jonathan, don't do that.
DOWN THE STRETCH,the Red Sox will have to fight off rivals ancient (the Yankees) and new (theRays). I asked him which team the Sox would be more likely to brawl with.Instead of deflecting the question like most guys would, he made a pick: theRays. "We had that little thing in the first half with Coco and Shields.[Coco Crisp and James Shields started a June 5 brawl; eight players weresuspended.] Those things don't really dissipate too easily." Dissipate? Theguy's got a vocabulary, too. Here's hoping he continues to use it.
The Last ShouldBe First
THE REAL problemwith the "debate" over whether Papelbon or Mariano Rivera should closein the All-Star Game was that it was completely misguided: As this year's15-inning epic proved, closers should start in the Midsummer Classic. The lateinnings should belong to starting pitchers—guys who can easily go an extrainning (or two or three) if need be. It's better than having position playerslike David Wright and J.D. Drew take the mound, as almost happened this year,with home field advantage for the World Series on the line.
THE FINE PRINT:Big change at the Tour de France this year: The leader gets a yellow specimencup.
Go toDANPATRICK.COM for more from Dara Torres and other recent interviews and tohear live audio of Dan's radio show, 9 a.m. to noon ET, Mon.--Fri.
TOM MAYES/CAL SPORT MEDIA (PAPELBON)
CLIFF WELCH/ICON SMI (ECKERSLEY)
NATI HARNIK/AP (TORRES)
ILLUSTRATION BY KEITH WITMER