MIAMI HEAT superstar Shaquille O'Neal has a legitimate gripe, and for once it's not about Kobe Bryant.
Shaq is a big, big guy, but he was a little taken aback when he found out the other day that he was rated as "obese" in a weight analysis of NBA players that was based on a formula promoted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC uses something called the Body Mass Index (BMI) to assess the risk of weight-related diseases by placing individuals into one of four categories, which are determined by a calculation of height and weight. The actual formula is weight (in pounds or kilograms) divided by height squared (in inches or centimeters) multiplied by a factor that produces a standardized number for both the English and metric systems of weights and measures.
I sure am, and I almost called Brian Billick to explain it to me before Orioles strength and conditioning coach Tim Bishop pointed me to an easy calculator on the CDC Web site (www.cdc.gov).
Shaq, who is 7 feet 1 and 325 pounds, has a BMI of 31.6, which - in the eyes of the federal government - makes him obese, because anyone who registers a BMI of 30 or more falls into that category. The normal range is 18.5 to 24.9. If you fall between 24.9 and 30, you're simply overweight.
The trouble with the BMI, and I actually did a little research on this, is that it doesn't take into account the ratio of fat to muscle, though the CDC (on the same Web site) defends the measurement as a useful tool for examining the relationship between weight and disease.
So Shaq may have been right when he dismissed the notion that he is grossly overweight in favor of a term more in keeping with his terrific athletic ability and immense star power.
"I've read that same formula, but as an athlete, I'm classified as phenomenal," O'Neal said last week. "You can look it up. You think that, stick to science. Top 50, three rings, lot of money, two mansions."
OK, I know what you're all wondering. I've been on a modified Sidney Ponson Diet for the past month and everybody has been commenting on how different I look since I returned from spring training in Florida on Thursday. Unfortunately, the comments ranged from "Nice tan" to "I thought you were going to go on a diet," but I've still got some very happy news.
My BMI is 31.4.
Eat your heart out, Kazaam.
No lie. I'm 6-2 1/2 and a hefty 248 pounds, but I nipped Shaq at the wire (though he still holds a slim, 2-0 lead in the mansions department). Thanks to the CDC, the fact that I'm something like 68 percent body fat doesn't even come into it. The federal government says I'm in better shape than Shaq and that's good enough for me.
In fact, I feel so good about it that I'm going to send Uncle Sam a big fat check on April 15.
Here's a little additional perspective on the whole BMI thing, compliments of Bishop, who has advised me to either lose weight or start rebounding.
Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts is listed in the media guide at 5-9 and 176 pounds, which gives him a BMI of 26 and makes him - for the purposes of the next census - overweight.
Hey, if B-Rob is overweight, I'm Sasquatch.
I actually did lose a little weight during my three weeks in Fort Lauderdale, but not nearly as much as I thought I would when Sidney gave me the big "grilled fish and 45 minutes of cardio" lecture on the first day of pitcher and catcher workouts.
The grilled fish part worked fine, but I have to admit that I seldom put in the whole 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercise ... unless you count chewing.
This not really just in: Six-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong has decided not to endorse the 2012 Olympic bids of either Paris or New York, telling reporters that he just realized that his opinion and $4.50 will get you a really milky cup of coffee at Starbucks.
In case anyone was wondering, my "Bring Back the Bullets" campaign has garnered an amazing wellspring of support. At last count, I had gotten one e-mail.
Wizards it is.