Missed Opportunity

After Beijing, some wondered whether Michael Phelps’ eight gold medal winning performance would inspire many more young people to take up competitive swimming. My guess is his dramatic success has lead to a slight increase in participation.

One problem though, I wonder if other people are like me and, outside the water, don’t find him the least bit inspiring. He doesn’t appear to have anything interesting to say and seems downright uncomfortable on the national or global stage. I can’t help but wonder what the impact would be on youth swimming if the eight gold medal winner was an articulate, engaging, and even charismatic young man or woman with a social conscience.

Think Cassius Clay in a speedo and goggles.

2 thoughts on “Missed Opportunity

  1. Hey Ron.

    I for one don’t mind Michael Phelps out of the water—on terra firma, which isn’t quite his natural element anyway. I am intrigued by the fact that he’s so awkward in the world, in one aspect of his life, in the meeting and greeting of the public, with nothing much to say—but a totally different being, rather sublime, I should add, in the pool. With his mighty wingspan he’s sort of albatross-like, uncomfortable when he’s got land underneath his feet.

    I appreciate the fact he isn’t “interesting”. I am tired of interesting people. The earth seems weighted with the din of all these interesting people vying to be noticed, to climb Everest, to row across the ocean, get five degrees, know everything about everything, and all at the same time. What do we really mean by interesting anyways?

    Can we be still for a moment? Can we not cultivate silence and find meaning in that? Can’t we stop wanting tomorrow today? Could America learn to wait just even a little bit before it eats Obama because of the economy?

    I quit trying to be interesting somewhere in my mid-twenties, I believe.

    Come to think of it I find Michael Phelps interesting.

    And I think Tiger Woods is a dud. And a phony. For all his brilliance on the greens. Despite myself I cannot hesitate to cast judgment on this guy. And wait—he’s not black right? For me I think that’s where it began. He’s some strange amalgam of ancient races, even though he exhibits the phenotypes of African ancestry. But he isn’t black, he says. Give me a break. I wonder if that aspect of his persona got transferred down to young colored kids who might look upon him as a hero. Predictably in the tradition of some others like him he married a Scandinavian—the blondest of the blonds. I wasn’t surprised either when he didn’t have anything to say during the Presidential election. He was afraid to take a stand because in his world taking a stand might mean disavowing the White Machine like those crazy black nationalists.

    It’s funny that while I didn’t myself (being multicultural and global in my connections and views) mind Michael Jackson’s plastic surgeries and lightening skin, Vertilgo or not, because after all a lot of people alter themselves in one way or another—so why should he have become the world’s scapegoat?—I couldn’t and still can’t get past the hidden chameleon on Tiger Woods’ shoulder. Or the Saint on the other. The Saint which bestows him with the virtues that make the Crowd so very happy. I believe he was the perfect child, a golden child, and these are the prescribed methods and ways to act and be when you become a huge superstar. He and not Jackson was the real clone. You’ve got to be really responsible—especially upright. He even speaks what I can only describe as precision English. He went to college, even though he didn’t have to, but because society says it’s something you’ve got to do. Plus it would look nice on his already impressive resume. So he gets to invite Bill Gates but not Oprah (who declared him her son) to his wedding.

    No, Tiger Woods isn’t interesting, at least not to me. Michael Phelps on the other hand—I can dig him. Grunts, mumbles and all. Perhaps, gills, fins and all, he’s still trying to figure out who he is out of water. Perhaps not everyone needs to have something to say. Like Woods, Phelps maintains extremely close familial ties, but at least this hasn’t turned his humanity into Naughahyde, or a product of the Assembly Line.

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