Saturday, August 16, 2008

Thanks Kid!

A lot will be said, written and discussed about swimmer Michael Phelps in the next few hours...months...years. Debates will rage on whether that win by a fingernail was fair [according to slow-motion film, it was] or if dominating a sport spurs on others to do their best or makes them sulk, which could lead to drowning. Many will point to this young man like a favorite son, as if screaming encouragement from a dry couch is equally as important as all the time he's spent practicing in the water. The Olympics aren't just a sporting competition, they are a temporary healing that unites a country. They make ordinary citizens feel as if they'd just focus their best thoughts in an athlete's direction, he/she will feel the collective love and go higher, faster, further. Many will say Michael Phelps makes them proud to be an American.

Not me. I'd say, "Thanks Michael for not making me feel ashamed to admit I'm American".

It's a tough world out there. There are many souls in the world who hear the word American and sneer. Taunt. Roll their collective eyes and sigh. Truth is, there are times I agree with them. I'm tired of Presidential elections that start 2 years in advance. Of elected officials who believe my vote gave them license to become a warped Sugar Daddy out of touch with reality, but firmly avowing he knows what's best...proving it by spending my tax dollars on his favorite project. I wish as much budget $$ was spent on improving our lives than used in finding ways to promote military officers. I truly wish there was a "Presidential Mute" button...or at least a Secret Service guy with a roll of duct tape and no qualms about using it when Bush's mouth gets ahead of his brain. I know what you're thinking...it's too easy a shot, so I'll pass.

Michael Phelps is like the poster boy for "What's still good about America". For all his Olympic glory, Phelps earned it the hard way...through self motivation and practice. You can't ask someone to do the laps for you in exchange for standing on the platform. Oh sure a politician would. Be do we really want to see them in swim suits?

Phelps may be Master of the Water, but on dry land he's polite and unassuming. His replies to inane questions are handled with a grin that says, "Are you serious?" even though his answers are humble and sincere. I guess what I like about him most is...sincerity. You get the feeling that what you see really is what you get. He doesn't trash talk other swimmers or point out their flaws. There is no Hollywood agent hovering in the background, no P.R. assistant watching his every word. Just a coach who saw in a rambunctious 11 year old kid bordering on juvenile delinquent the ability to shine when that energy was channeled. Rather than puff out his chest after a victory and proclaim himself God's gift to the swimming world, Phelps thanks that coach.

Hubby mentioned the other night his surprise that women go nuts over Phelps, who he views as a man size body topped with the head of a 12 year old in need of dental work. As the little girl who once had a picture of a speedo wearing Mark Spitz draped with 6 gold medals taped to her bedroom door, I knew what he meant. Although Spitz was an excellent athlete, he looked like someone sent out of Hollywood's Central Casting ..."in the role of Best Swimmer; tall, dark and handsome guy with mustache." But you know, that grinning kid face is the key to Phelps' charm. He's having a blast and you get the feeling he hopes you're getting a kick out of it too. Besides the amazing ability to utilize his body, Phelps embodies the America of my childhood...where anything was possible if only you tried. You didn't have to be rich or good looking. You just had to set goals and work to attain them. And when you did, your joy lit up your face with an ear to ear grin that was contagious.

Is Phelps extraordinary? Sure. Simply because he took "ordinary" to the next level.

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