Saturday, June 02, 2012

Why Michael Phelps is bigger than FINA, USA Swimming and can dictate what suits we swim in!

In the comment section of another blog post I mentioned that the Olympics are becoming less relevant and the ratings are getting generally lower.  I mentioned that that the 1976 Olympics were ultimately the "grand apex" of the movement here in the states and that the World Cup and perhaps the X-Games could become a bigger deal.

I realized a short time later that I did not do enough research on the 2008 Games, After looking at the ratings for each night it became mathematically evident that Michael Phelps was the focal point of the entire success of the games. In one instance his "most gold medals night" scored 30%-higher than beach volleyball players, Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh winning gold medals and Usain Bolt winning gold in the 200-meter dash on the same night.

Here are the top five nights out out of 16-days:

1 - 19.9 share - Phelps breaks most gold medal record - August 17th
2 - 18.8 share - The Opening Ceremonies spectacle - August 8th
3 - 18.1 share - Phelps makes gold from Lezak effort - August 10th
4 - 17.9 share - Liukin all around gymnastics winner - August 14th
5 - 17.8 share - Phelps wins on another relay - August 16th


On 2009 during the FINA World Championships is when we started hearing the excuses for his loses. His first excuse was delivered via surrogate; (his coach, Bob Bowman), that the techsuits created unfair advantages for lesser swimmers and Bowman categorically stated that his boy would not swim for FINA unless they were revised in a big way. FINA could not ban them fast enough. Phelps meant ratings and ratings meant more money for everybody but the swimmers.

Then came the excuses for losing and/or the excuses for bad times. We heard how out of shape he is and/or unprepared. Finally the most used of all, his "wake-up call," which he kept hitting the "snooze button" for month-after-month-after-month.

I wrote in 2010:
According to, Bob Bowman, Phelps still continued to loaf and failed to show up for workouts. Bowman and Phelps even traded expletives regarding his workout attendance. When asked by ESPN what has been going on with his "day job", it was suggested that the French Open EDF, the 2010 USA Swimming Nationals, and the Pan-Pacific Championships were summarily events held during an off year. He credited his lack of workout participation for giving him time to relax, to take up golf, and discover or define who he is as an adult.
From ESPN:
"... Bowman said he wonders whether he shouldn't have just told Phelps to take an entire year off after winning eight gold medals in the 2008 Summer Games. Phelps has shown up for about 40 percent of the year's work ..." 

With all of this nonsense and drama Phelps is now in a position that it is remotely possible that he may NOT make the US Olympic team or even medal if he does. In 2008 it was laughable to say this for his lead up to Nationals was far more stellar than it has been since 2009.

Now reasonable people can wonder whether Michael Phelps can beat Ryan Lochte or Ricky Berens in the 200-free at Nationals?

Despite all of the above Phelps is still the "center of infinity" come these Olympics. In 25-years from now when he suddenly gets the clarity and wisdom of an 50-year-old-man, he will truly realize George Bernard Shaw's words of wisdom: "Youth is wasted on the young."


Liliana said...

O ye, of little faith...

junker23 said...

Oh man. Here we go again...

I don't think the first half of this post says anything too enlightening. Michael Phelps, the biggest star swimming has ever and will ever have, can push for rule changes. This is not a new phenomenon in sports. (Or anything, really.) Kosuke Kitajima can change how we all swim breaststroke. The Indianapolis Colts can change NFL passing rules. Tim Hardaway's "killer crossover" destroys palming in the NBA. Stars can influence rule changes in sports. This is something that exists. Let's move on.

You then try to make a case that Phelps shouldn't be the "center of infinity" thanks to him not having already qualified for the US Olympic team in all of his events? (I'm not really sure what you're trying to say there. That's my best guess.)

Is it possible Berens sneaks in ahead of Phelps in the 200 Free, or Tyler Clary bests him in the 400 IM and Phelps doesn't get to swim either of those events individually? Sure. But Michael Phelps will make the US Olympic team. (Barring an anvil falling on his head on the way to the pool deck or some other unforeseen injury.) And relatedly, who's to say the same couldn't happen to Ryan Lochte? He overtrains and undertapers, misses the team in those two events. But he likes skateboarding, so who cares! What if Ian Thorpe snuck in and made the Australian team as a relay alternate? Do you think he'd overshadow some of his higher-placing teammates? Big names get talked about. This is a thing that exists. Let's move on.

junker23 said...

A similarly structured...argument? could be built around Phelps simply not repeating his 8-for-8 Gold Medal Performance. "Phelps is bigger than FINA, USA Swimming and can dictate what suits we swim in and can't even repeat his own successes! He only won 5 Gold Medals, he is a FAILURE and a DISGRACE! I don't think any reasonable person expects him to win 8 Gold Medals again, so missing out on an individual event or two in swimming's best country isn't the worst thing in the world. A major disappointment, yes, but not an indictment on his star power or anything.

And this was another installment of "Junker23 shouting into the wind." I eagerly await the posting of your "Deus ex jpeg" in a few months that makes this whole Phelps smear campaign seem warranted. Maybe then I'll get something resembling a response.

Tony Austin said...

Read the archives and see my change of regard for Michael Phelps. Coincidentally enough it occurred just as Bob Bowman's frustration was beginning.

Losing a race is never disgraceful. This has nothing to do with how many medals he wins or not. It's about a guy who hates his job, hates to go to work, makes excuses when he loses, and wants to profit from a swim school. Is that irony or what? Is that the attitude a potential coach or a mentor should have?

A professional shows up and does the best job they can. They come prepared and they deliver. If they falter yet did all of the above, that is not disgraceful it's meaningful.

What is disgraceful is showing up unprepared and then justifying how they could have really won if they practiced or if they nailed a turn better thereby degrading the win of the champion that beat them.

Now ask yourself this, what has Michael Phelps given to the sport versus what he has given back?

Compare the power Billie Jean King had and the sociopolitical accomplishments she made in Tennis versus the power and sociopolitical accomplishments Michael Phelps has made in swimming. Becasue of Billie Jean King, tennis player, Maria Sharapova, will make about $42-million this year. Right now our best swimmers are making $36,000 a year while the the USOC was handed a check for $423-million

What has Michael Phelps done to elevate the sport and the players therein? It's Terribly anemic in comparison don't you think.

Phelps will go done in history as the greatest swimmer ever who really hated his job towards the end! - Wow - What a legacy.

Quit apologizing for the millionaire.

Tony Austin said...

this sentence in the 5th paragraph should read:

Now ask yourself this, what has Michael Phelps given to the sport versus what he has received back?

junker23 said...

Now that's a bit more like it. More thought-out, but still doesn't do much to explain or clarify this post.

A trip through your archives (accomplished only by following a link provided in this blog post, a search for the word "excuses") shows a bit of wishy-washiness on Phelps, depending on what he says post-race. Excuses - bad! No excuses - good! This March: No excuses - still good! May 2012? Four bad posts in a row!

What's wrong with hating your job? Half of the doctors in the US regret becoming doctors I'm sure Phelps is plenty grateful he's not a coal-miner right now, but hating the day-to-day slog of your job isn't blasphemous. If it is, we need to start protesting outside of hospitals or something.

I see you brought up the swim school example again. Have you still not checked out its mission statement? He's not trying to get kids to swim 10,000 yards a day, six days a week for a dozen years. Its goal is to teach kids to learn to swim. Both do have the word "swim" in them, but they should not be confused as the exact same things. (Practicing for your driver's ed class is not the same as qualifiying for the Daytona 500, though involve driving.)

junker23 said...

Yes, Michael Phelps has not brought a windfall of riches to all other professional swimmers. But I don't think tennis and Billie Jean King are equivalent - she was just fighting for equal prize money between men and women, no? I admit, I have a limited knowledge of tennis history (outside of Anna Kournikova - 14 year old me knew A LOT about her) so I very well may be wrong. Monetizing elite swimming seems just as tough as monetizing other primarily Olympics-centric sports - Lashinda Demus says track is dying, shame on Jeremy Wariner for not having saved it? (A white guy in a sprint event, he could have done anything!) I can't fault a guy for not finding a way to monetize professional swimming, something it seems no one else has yet to figure out. I feel like Gary Hall tried to set up a series of elite meets a decade or so ago, but those didn't really go anywhere. There just doesn't seem to be a market for watching elite swimming in this country. (USA Swimming's bread and butter, 12 year old girls - how many do you think know who Nick Thoman is? He's a got a world record, but I would assume that maybe, eh, 5% would ever care? 10%?)

I don't know how much USOC's newfound half-a-billion dollars could help athletes though, especially just in one sport. How often do they get giant installments like that? I'm sure they've got plenty of expenses, so if that's just a big lump-sum payment they get every 4 years it might not really be that much.

junker23 said...

Unless Bob Costas or somebody makes a big stink at the Olympics regarding Phelps's feeling towards training, I doubt 99% of people will ever know anything about how he's felt the last couple of years. But again - who cares! You hear it all the time with football players and training camp - none of them likes camp, it's just something they have to go through to get to the thing they and the fans care about, the handful of games they play once a week. But swimmers are in training camp mode for basically four straight years - outside of the Olympics, no one cares what they do. The training is monotonous and punishing. But yet there they are, slogging through it. Natalie Coughlin said it herself recently - she hates feeling so tired and bogged down from training all the time. But she relishes it because she's not stuck inside at some office gig - and, since Phelps doesn't work for Dunder Mifflin quite yet, I'd assume he feels the same way. (I think I saw that the Coughlin interview on an NBC OnDemand thing, if you want I can post it on YouTube or something for proofs.)

I'm not apologizing for the millionaire, I'm not in favor of him saying he's unprepared at meets or anything. I'm just trying to figure out the point of this post. I still have no real idea, as most of the points you made with your last comment don't seem too related to your most recent post. 1) Phelps helped get suit rules changed three years ago. 2) Phelps makes excuses for poor performances. 3) Phelps might not make the Olympic team. 4) People still are going to care about Phelps over all other athletes. 5) Phelps may regret things when he's older. I don't know, those all seem fairly disjoint to me.

Michael Phelps literally brought me back to the sport of swimming in 2008, but I still always knew he was a fairly large bag of douche.

Tony Austin said...

Billie Jean King did more than ask for equal pay. She is the founder of the WTA.

From Wikipedia:

Before the start of the open era in 1968, King earned US$100 a week as a playground instructor and student at Los Angeles State College when not playing in major tennis tournaments.

In 1967, King criticized the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) in a series of press conferences, denouncing what she called the USLTA's practice of "shamateurism", where top players were paid under the table to guarantee their entry into tournaments. King argued that this was corrupt and kept the game highly elitist. King quickly became a significant force in the opening of tennis to professionalism. King said this about the amateur game...

[Note, Phelps made 100,000-Euros or $135,000 for doing a meet in France which, in his words, was a wake-up call. Rings true what Billie fought against mentioned above.

Tony Austin said...

What Billie said: In America, tennis players are not people. If you are in tennis, you are a cross between a panhandler and a visiting in-law. You're not respected, you're tolerated. In England, you're respected as an artist. In Europe, you're a person of importance. Manuel Santana gets decorated by Franco. The Queen leads the applause. How many times have I been presented at the White House? You work all your life to win Wimbledon and Forest Hills and all the people say is, "That's nice. Now what are you going to do with your life?" ....

Anonymous said...

Dear God, you really hate this boy (Phelps I mean). Bowman must show your posts to him, would be a great incitement.

And please, Franco was a dictator, he used the sport in a political way in Spain. I don't think is an honor to be condecorated by a tyrant. You can put other examples, Nadal has recived the Prince of Asturias Award, and that´s a great honor in Spain.

Tony Austin said...

I was quoting Billie Jean King who made those remarks when Franco was still alive... Yes, Franco was a dictator and not a very good man!

As for Nadal, he could one day be the greatest tennis player ever if he can last a few more years though I do like Roger Federer better.

HE will probably win the French again too.

I use to like Phelps but it was his decision to go political via techsuits and his excuses that killed my admiration for hi, I use to do posts about his bull dog and You Tubes of all his commercials.

But getting back to politics. He used politics to kill techsuits and some swimsuit companies along with them, he could have also used his political will to help out his fellow swimmers but he didn't.

My problem, not his.

junker23 said...

What exactly does Phelps saying that French meet being a "wake up call" insinuate? Seems like just his normal, "I lost, I need to be in better shape" type of thinking instead of him realizing, "Wow, I get paid all of this money for appearances but none of my professional swimming colleagues do. I must work to fix this."

Your most recent comments seems to flesh out a bit more of an actual point - Michael Phelps used his influence to ban suits, when he instead should have used that clout to increase pay for professional swimmers. And, as a supporter of both suits and competitive pay for athletes, can agree with that sentiment. Can I hold it against him that he didn't become some kind of revolutionary a la Billie Jean King? Not really. Phelps didn't get the suits banned by himself, it was definitely fairly Speedo-driven. Though that was clearly in his (and Speedo's) best interests to do. Speedo wanted to make sure they remained the world's #1 tech-suit manufacturer, as well as protecting their most valuable asset, Phelps. Makes some fairly compelling reasons for Phelps to want to get rid of 'em.

I know he threatened to hold-out of meets if rubber suits weren't banned, do you think he could've done the same to help increase pay for other athletes? It'd have been an incredibly bold move, with very little personal payoff for himself. (Which differs this from Ms. King - doesn't seem like she was making much money herself prior to her protests.)

Tony Austin said...

He was my point: Let's say Junker23 was the greatest swimmer ever and Junker23 got an offer months in advance for $135,000 to swim a couple events in France.

Nice Gig, don't you think?

The fact that you are being paid denotes your professional status is indeed appreciated.

With that in mind, it's my opinion that professionals don't phone their work in. They are prepared and ready and deliver the best they can. This applies to actors musicians, ballet dancers et al.

Showing up to a meet out of shape when Pan Pacs is just some weeks away just shows a pure lack of work ethic and thereby robbed the meet organizers and the fans of seeing a pure talent at Junker23's best.

Don't get me wrong, Phelps was the hardest working swimmer ever at one time. Then he gave up but still had one foot in the pool. My take is either "go large or go home"

Anonymous said...

What makes me laugh about Phelps complaints about the suits back in 2009 is that the original tech suits by Speedo that got this all going were specifically made for him...PHELPS! They came to Canham at Michigan and Club Wolverine to fit him, etc. But once him and Bowman realized others got more of an advantage than he did he started whining.

Tony Austin said...

Wow, what a piece of info that is. Thank you. that is so something they would do too.

I was reading an article about ballet shoes and how technology reduced injuries and "leveled the playing field" for prima ballerinas thus creating more first tier dancers and more programs.

It's my belief that techsuits globalized talent and made swimming more headline friendly.

New tennis rackets did the same for tennis.

junker23 said...

My latest comment from yesterday didn't go through on this post either, damn IE9. It was really long-winded and fairly worthless, so I will not attempt to replicate it. (I mostly agreed with your latest point, Tony, but tried to get into Phelps's head. It was horrible.)

Back to suits - I think most of Speedo's most high-profile athletes get their suits custom fit whenever a new model comes out. Definitely read about it during the FSIII's launch, I'll try to find a link this evening.

I also don't think referring to the LZR as the "original tech suit" is an accurate description. It was the first suit to use polyurethane, yes. But that doesn't make it the first "tech suit." I feel like you could go back as far as 1996 and the original Aquablade as the first real tech suit. The original Fastskin definitely was, and that came out nine years before the LZR.

Speedo's old AQUALAB websites pushed out tons of buzz-word fueled propaganda about those suits - fabric mimicking shark skin, being developed along with NASA, welded/bonded seams, etc. If someone wants to propose an argument how those don't qualify as "tech suits," I'm all ears.