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For NBC and Phelps, Eight Really Is a Lucky Number

The Chinese launched the XXIX Summer Olympics at eight minutes after eight on the eighth of August, the eighth month, fully embracing the idea that, in Chinese culture, the number eight is good luck.

Michael Phelps, who won his unprecedented eighth gold medal at a single Games last night, is in no position to disagree. Neither is NBC, which arguably has benefited from Phelps’ gold-medal run as much as he has.

The coverage has been as great as the unprecedented feats of Phelps and his aquatic teammates. The prime-time coverage of the women’s marathon may have been dull until the photogenic but hardly exciting finish, but the medley relay that the U.S. men’s team swam to win last night was a thrilling TV event to watch.

Equally thrilling, given everything that’s going on in the world, is that a new sports hero was anointed, as the world watched, for a new generation. It took luck, as well as skill and dedication, for Phelps to accomplish what no Olympian had ever done before – but if Phelps emerges, after these Games, as the role model he appears to be, then we’re the lucky ones.

A new American sports hero? Say it’s so, Joe.