This blog is not for the light-hearted or easily offended. If either one of those descriptions applies to you, i would suggest you start drinking before you read this blog. A sense of humor is suggested. If you don't have one that sucks for you … find one and get a life!
I grew up a big sports fan in a house full of sports fans. My dad watched football religiously and was a huge Oklahoma and NY Giants fan. I grew in in North Carolina and was a huge Carolina and ACC basketball fan. All three of us, my two brothers and myself, were year round swimmers.
We all swam in college, my older brother and myself at Johns Hopkins and my younger brother at The University of Virginia. I knew people who went to the Olympics in the 80’s and I know some who are there right now.
My parents loved the Olympics and watched every sport. Back then it wasn’t on as much as nowadays so when it was on we were glued to the TV.
I remember the Munich hostage taking. I remember the devastation of the rescue.
I remember Olga Korbut doing her routine ad becoming a Russian gymnast who was America’s sweetheart. This was when the Russian’s were still our “enemy.”
Then there was Nadia with her perfect 10′s. Back then, although we routing 100% American it was about the personal triumph no matter the country.
In 1968 I was 9 years old when the American track runners raised their fists to the way blacks were treated in the United States.
The Olympics were more than just sports and just TV ratings; they were about athletes rising above politics. Back in the day the Americans were the dominant swimmers and then the East Germans beat them badly. As it turns out they were doping and it was upsetting. It was the first time I remembered that “cheating” had a place in Olympic sports.
The games have never been without drama whether it was the Russians beating us in basketball by redoing the ending of the game or by athlete’s taking steroids like Ben Johnson or Marion Jones did. However, I really feel it’s a disservice to the viewing public when the games are hyped as a personal one on one contest between two athletes like in the Phelps/Lochte story.
Anyone who has been watching Michael Phelps from the beginning, which was Sydney, knows that when Phelps made it in the team as a scrawny 15 year old, it was an amazing story but we didn’t know what to expect. Then he became “Michael Phelps” the amazing. He had an over abundance of talent and a hell of a work ethic. As a result, he became the best swimmer ever. And yet, he still wasn’t an extrovert so people saw him as arrogant and standoffish. I think he was shy and focused.
Ryan Lochte, who I really liked, isn’t some flash in the pan. He became great in college and set tons of records. Without Michael Phelps around he would have been the star. Great looking, personable and accessible Ryan is every PR persons dream. He has refocused and spent the last four years with one goal in mind, to be the best.
Michael, meanwhile, had nothing left to prove and admittedly slacked off. The trials and by extension, the Olympics have been hyped as the changing of the guard which I think does both these athletes a grave disservice. Ryan because he is the heir apparent but all he gets asked about is Michael Phelps.
Michael, because people think he no longer deserves the hype. The perception of him is that he’s an asshole. I know this because lots of non-swimmers only believe what they hear. He’s a reserved young man who is intent on his sport and when he goes out, he is constantly asked to be in pictures and give autographs. Even Natalie Coughlin said she felt bad for him.
So, everyone is routing for Ryan and he wins. People see Phelps as getting what he deserved. What? He swam poorly. He’s obviously not used to being on the losing end of things and indeed, looked shell shocked. The press was pretty mean about it in my opinion.
Keely spoke to a bunch of people who said “I’m glad he lost because he didn’t deserve to win.” I think it’s unfair the way he’s portrayed. Meanwhile, Ryan is a fun loving guy who loves people, cameras and even the spotlight.
I just think it’s become too personal. The Olympics should be about a celebration of talent, hard work and great teamwork
Instead, all we see is the winning and the losing. I think it’s sad. When I saw the women’s 400 IM at 11:45 last night (thanks NBC…not) I realized that most people will remember the American, Elizabeth Beisel being passed in the final 100 Free. What I’ll remember is one of the most phenomenal closing 100 frees I have ever seen in my entire life. The winner was Chinese and she crushed the world record.
Who cares that the American didn’t win? It was an amazing swim. I’ll remember the triumphs, not the failures.
And this Lochte/Phelps thing. A great rivalry requires great races. Let’s hope we get some of those.