Sony Ericsson ATP Tennis: I was enthralled over the weekend at the quality of both the players and how much tennis has changed. Maria Sharapova is definitely not hard to look at, Rafael Nadall is amazingly dexterous, good looking and "ripped" and he even played in the semifinal sets against Roger Federer wearing a Richard Mille timepiece valued at $525,000.
I was watching all of this on the Tennis Channel and during the interstitials they would feature brief segments called "bag check with [insert tennis star name goes here.]" These athletes would pull out sunglasses, rackets, sunscreen, all the stuff they are paid to pimp and talk about what they liked about them and how and when they are used.
When the commercials came on, they had one featuring Roger Federer confronted by two female TSA Airport Security officials who find a bag full of Lindt Chocolate truffles surrounded in what appears to be ice. Of course after sampling one, the two women nearly "climax" right there on the spot and then they instruct Federer that he will have to be stripped searched! Consequently I am sold and will sample some of these truffles this week.
After I saw Rafael Nadal destroy Roger Federer I went over to Maria Sharapova's website to see when she was playing next. Therein I learned that she has set up scholarships for kids in or around Chernobyl, she works extensively with a UN Charity, and that Nike takes very good care of her by flying her around in private jets. She is also sponsored by Tag Heuer; a timepiece manufacturer who also "sponsors" Leonardo DeCaprio.
These tennis athletes live amazingly fruitful lives. They spend more money and burn more carbon during a fast weekend than a swimmer can earn in several years time. Why is that? Swimmers can sell sunscreen, sunglasses, suits, goggles, yoga, apparel and even chocolate truffles but they don't. Why?
The worlds most popular sports feature trajectory physics as their premise: Baseball, basketball, football soccer, golf, tennis, etc, etc. Each sport takes an object, usually a ball of sorts, hurls it through space and time by hand or stick and ultimately has a target as the final goal. However, there are some amazingly successful sports that do not rely on the trajectory physics model such as yacht racing, formula one, skiing, skateboarding, snowboarding, cycling, and more. The key component that makes theses concept sports so enticing and ultimately successful generally involves "UFO grade" equipment or equipment the public can own and go out and have some fun with. The fact that athletes therein make a lot of money inspires both kids and parents as well.
As it stands now swimming governing bodies at large will not allow swimmers to wear tech suits. Pools are far and few between and mens college swim programs are evaporating with absolutely no support whatsoever from FINA or USA Swimming. Governing bodies only care about the Olympics, they only care that they can provide a team that wins. They do not want swimming to be a professional sport. They do not want governing body competition.
Tennis gets it, swimming doesn't. When your sport starts to fade you change it. You don't wait for a "Phelps" or a "Spitz" to show up to buoy it. If wearing techsuits would get more people swimming; like it did in 2008, you do what is necessary to grow the sport. Note: have any swimmers been featured in the Huffington Post in 2010 or 2011 besides Michael Phelps? 2008 featured many swimmers especially their suit failures like Ricky Berens and Alessia Filippi. High end equipment also allowed swimmers to sell expensive suits to affluent adults. When that was taken away, so were sponsorships.
The only way for swimmers to be treated and paid as well as tennis stars is to redefine the game in a professional setting that features promoters rather than governing bodies. Promoters will change the sport not governing bodies! Clay Evans once said to me they should hold a race in the Ballagio Fountain in Las Vegas and let people bet on the racers, Make swimming a spectacle rather a boring serious of heats. He is a smart guy!
I fear that swimming will always remain an amatuer sport - governing body execs make to much money and do to little for the sport to try and make it a viable one. For instance, take a look at the college swim programs that are evaporating. What are the governing bodies doing to prevent this decay? Look at the USA Swimming Foundation which suddenly disappeared when donors immediately pulled out. Why did the donors exit so suddenly? Has that ever been explained? What about that post grad FAST program in Fullerton? Why is that suddenly being left to die on the vine? I don't know the answers but a lot of you do.