Sunday, May 03, 2009

Jodie Foster/Mark Spitz - Lindsay Lohan/ Michael Phelps

Obviously all of the above individuals displayed remarkable talent at a very young age and each of them leveraged and profited from their talents quite well.

Ironically enough, the Disney movie that proved Jodie Foster was a bankable icon post her nomination for an Academy Award as a 12-year-old hooker in the movie,Taxi Driver, was, Freaky Friday, the very same roll that made Lindsay Lohan an icon and a millionaire as well.

For Phelps and Spitz it was Olympia!

Foster and Phelps were raised by single mothers whereas Lohan and Spitz were raised in a nuclear family. (In Lohan's case that last comment may be a bit of a stretch but that is what it says on paper .)

Jodie Foster educated at Yale, Mark Spitz educated at Indiana, both never arrested and both became very successful parents.

Obviously Foster got the memo when she was about 14-years-old that her private life was non-existent. Mark Spitz got the memo too, cashed his million-dollar check post the '72 Olympics; created his own "medals" poster; bought a Ferrari, and moved on to start a family.

Four talented people a generation apart with the same sublime skills yet this current generation struggles with fame, money and other "vices" whereas the previous generation thrived.

This is not a, "my generation is better than yours," post but rather a "second mouse gets the cheese" post. Learn from their mistakes.

I advise younger talent to find the right mentors and be forewarned that these mentors are not sports agents but rather those people around you who are very good at what they do and have been demonstrably successful in what you want to accomplish. These individuals are the type of people who want you to realize every single one of your goals as their sole source of payment. Listen to those people first and grab onto your wallet when the people you are paying offer their opinions.


John Craig said...

Tony --
That's a fascinating analysis, and you make a lot of good points, but there are a few other dynamics at work here too. As far as the Foster/Lohan comparison, I'm guessing that Foster's single mom was probably a more stabilizing influence than Lohan's two flaky parents put together. Also, Foster was intelligent enough to get into Yale, whereas Lohan (even if she had dedicated herself to her studies) probaby isn't. Foster's intelligence helped her make wiser choices when it came to her friends, movie roles, and decisions about where to go every evening. Foster was comfortable with her sexuality from early on, whereas Lohan still seems to be figuring out who she is. In Foster's day, the nightclub scene, at least for younger people, wasn't quite as extensive as it is now, so the opportunities for nonstop partying weren't quite as rife. And finally, the media glare is harsher now than it was during Foster's youth; Foster was able to spend more private time with friends, whereas Lohan's every drunken move has been endlessly publicized.

As to the Spitz/Phelps comparison, it is true that Spitz led a quieter life. But his opportunities were more limited. He never got the kind of money that Phelps has. His biggest endorsement contract was $50,000 a year from Gillette, whereas Phelps has turned down endorsement contracts worth as much as $5 million. Even after inflation, that's the difference between upper middle class and rich. So Phelps has more money to burn, and "money to burn" often translates into "trouble to get into." Spitz seemed by nature not to be a womanizer, whereas Phelps seems to be more inclined that way, so is less likely to create a stable home life for himself any time in the near future. Neither guy is a brainiac, but Phelps also has the ADHD thing going. He was held up after Beijing as an example of someone who overcame it to achieve success, but it's not as if swimming well somehow cured the ADHD. And because of it, Phelps likes to spend time in places like Vegas, which is a mecca for people with short attention spans. (And Las Vegas has never been a place which promotes stable, healthy lifestyles.) As far as their siwmming goes, Phelps is actually the more dedicated one, and he seems more interested in exploring the limits of his talent in all sorts of different events. Spitz, after age 19, never bothered with anything beside the 100-200 free-fly. Of course, swimming is a different sport today, and in Spitz's day people simply didn't swim beyond their college years, and that dynamic has obviously changed. Both men had great swimming mentors (Counsilman in Spitz's case, Bowman for Phelps), but everyone I knew who knew Spitz said he could do amazing things in practice whenever he put his mind to it, but as a rule he didn't train that hard, whereas Phelps is more of a workhorse, which would indicate that in this case the younger generation has the stronger work ethic. Anyway, just wanted to make the point that it's a fuzzier picture than it might appear at first glance.

Tony Austin said...

I think you making an argument that it was extreme affluence that hurt this generation of talent?

Mark Spitz made 1-million bucks form the "milk people" I thought.

John Craig said...

Tony --
Spitz made money from other sources, but my recollection is that the Gillette contract was his biggest. If he made a million from the dairy interests, then I'm wrong.

I don't think the differential in money was a big factor differentiating Foster and Lohan; they both had plenty. But it does seem to be one of several factors that has made Phelps' post-Olympic life a lot different from Spitz's.

Tony Austin said...

From ESPN: After his Munich triumph, Spitz was bombarded with endorsement offers. He soon came to be known more as a good-looking, mustachioed pitchman than for his signature butterfly stroke. He made some $7 million in two years.

Tony Austin said...

John, I think Spitz and Phelps have a charisma problem, a problem that Lochte and Stephanie Rice don't have.

Nonetheless, do you feel Phelps' management is competent? I don't.

jim in LA said...

I think the revision of the Mark Spitz story is really nice, and probably for everyone's good. But, having grown up around Sacramento during those same years, I remember a few other details about Spitz that might not fit so neatly with this story. Before Indiana (and, by the way, before there was Indiana, there was little notice in The Sacramento Bee that said Spitz was going to swim at Long Beach State - I can only imagine Counsilman's belated pitch), Spitz had two coaches: George Hanes at Santa Clara and Sherm Chevoir at Arden Hills, both among the greatest coaches of that era. Late in his career at Santa Clara High, Spitz started swimming once again with Chevoir, apparently having been kicked off the Santa Clara Swim Club, and in the run up to the 1972 Olympics he swam under the Arden Hills (and Indiana) banner. As far as not being a womanizer, I recall local stories that might change one's view. Who knows about local gossip. But the point is: the picture's not so neat as all that ...

Tony Austin said...

Yes, everything looks perfect from far away but there were scandal sheets back then yet both Spitz and Foster seemingly knew how to keep their private lives private like avoiding place like "Studio 54" and/or places like this one from the 19070's:

John Craig said...

Tony --
If he made $7 million, then I'm wrong (thanks for doing the research I was too lazy to do). I guess the money was more plentiful for Spitz than I had thought. And yes, Spitz and Foster did keep their private lives more private. But I think that's a function of the relative lack of media glare back then as much as it is of their discretion, at least in Spitz's case. I agree that both Spitz and Phelps are charisma-challenged, though for different reasons. Spitz was quite handsome, but to know him was to dislike him, from what I heard from a number of people. Phelps isn't particularly good-looking, but he seems a nice enough, at least normal enough, guy. Neither of them was particularly articulate, but you can't really fairly expect that of a 22- or 23-yr-old who's spent most of his life staring at the black line on the bottom of the pool. Not sure I agree about Lochte; he looks like a Greek god, and he's a killer in the water, but when he opens his mouth he sounds like every other young wigger/skateboarder/doper you've ever met. Rice is certainly personable enough, but in my (very subjective) opinion she's overrated in the looks department, I think Manadou and Beard and Coughlin and even Potec have it all over her. As far as Phelps' management, I just don't know enough to say.

Jim in LA -- Wow, I hadn't heard that the reason Spitz swam for Arden Hills in '72 was because he had gotten kicked off the Santa Clara team. I remember hearing that Spitz would just lie on the pool deck during most of practice that summer working on his tan, but would occasionally get into the water to do something like a 200 lcm fly from a pushoff in 2:05 or something riciculous like that.

m said...

I'm always amazed at our attempts to lionize people that are good at something and somehow extrapolate their being good at one thing to "being good" at all kinds of things.

Spitz and Phelps are both iconic swimmers, both with stunning, once-in-a-generation talent. But that talent is just swimming. No idea as to their personal lives, no clue at all. Anything the media tells you is filtered through who knows what filter. And, really who cares? Is it not enough that to admire their body of work in the pool? Why do we have to know whether they are "womanizers", "gamblers", etc.?

As to Lohan and Foster, same goes: To me, their work on screen is the only thing that matters. Their personal lives are their own. Media be dammed. We don't have to read / watch that crap. We can make a decision to turn it off or close the page.

Tony Austin said...

Hmmm, I think it is a Darwinian thing to inquire about prominent people to see how they work.

maly said...

i think phelps suffered from the fat girl syndrom after beijing. mike being like a fat girl in high school where the cool or popular kids never talks to her , than suddenly after a diet and a make over she become popular and she tend to forget her older friends to hang out with popular one. i feel mike did that after beijing when he started to hang out with new friends.

Tony Austin said...

I agree with you, Maly! BTW, They actually have fat people in France? ;-)