Congratulations Michael Phelps and hooray for the USA! It's enough to put politics aside for at least one post!
A new generation of champion is emerging, breaking long held records with the aid of modern technology along with good old American fortitude. I hope a new attitude is part of the equation.
Yesterday there was commentary by Steve Politi of the Newark Star Ledger suggesting that Mark Spitz should have been there to congratulate the young man who broke the record he, Spitz, held for 36 years. He was not.
Mr. Spitz, to those of us who remember him, may have held the record but certainly not the Olympic spirit. He was arrogant when he won and apparently his ego is no less today. He'd have made a good modern day politician. It was always about him. When he didn't get what he felt was his due, he pouted.
He'd do well to remember that but for a quirk of physiology, he may have never have held the record. His knees hyper-extended, giving him incredible depth and leverage and a physical advantage over his competition.
Not being a follower of the swimming world, I lost track of Mark Spitz about the time his Wheaties box disappeared from the super market shelves. So I did a Google search to see what he's been doing with his life since. There wasn't much there other than reiterating his record in light of the likelihood of it being surpassed.
What was there was his web page . His biography gave this information. "Mark is a highly requested public speaker throughout the World. He has also executed endorsements for Xerox, Kodak, Bausch & Lomb, John Hancock Financial Services, General Motors, General Mills, Swatch and many others. Mark will continue to be a very hot commodity as long as there is an Olympic Games somewhere in the world or the desire by a group to hear from one of the greatest living legends of all-time in sports."
It sounds like he's done little other than hype products he probably never used and lived on speaking fees generated by an accomplishment long past.
As Mr. Politi's article stated, Mr. Phelps will learn that his role as ambassador for his sport will be nearly as important as his accomplishments. There are many world class athletes from whom he can learn this lesson and these skills. It is a shame it won't be from Mr. Spitz.