Mark Spitz is upset. And not because the moustache he had in 1972 probably cost him a few seconds on his world records.
But with Michael Phelps getting closer to eclipsing Spitz’s record of 7 gold medals in one Olympics, he’s offended that the Olympic committee did not invite him to view the moment first hand. To make the matter worse, the Committee invited some other celebrated Olympians to Beijing, but not him.
Spitz was in attendance to watch Phelps during the Athens games, but was not happy with that set up either.
“They did not once put my face on television. But as soon as the swimming was over, and Michael Phelps didn’t break my record, every time I went to beach volley, they put my face on the volleyballs.”
He went on to say that he thinks he should be the one to present the gold medals to Phelps, and that he too could have won eight medals had the 50M freestyle been a part of the ’72 Olympics.
The whole premise of a soon-to-be-former record holder being on hand to see the new record is a little strange when you think about it. It’s almost like your ex-fiancee inviting you to her wedding. You attend so you can try and show that it doesn’t feel weird, but deep down you can’t help but point out to everyone within earshot that the groom has a badly receeding hairline.
Seriously, though, the whole tradition has, in some ways, become a way to try and manufacture good sportsmanship. True, there are some athletes who handle it graciously and use it as a time to give their blessing to the new champion.
But this doesn’t appear to be one of these times.
I can see Spitz’s point of view and it is strange that he would not get an official invitation to watch the pursuit of his impressive record. But perhaps he didn’t get invited this time because the reason they would want him there is not the reason he wants. His comments don’t indicate that he wants to be there so he can support Phelps and pass on the torch. Rather, he seems to want to be there because he wants the face time. That’s evidenced by the fact that despite the special seat he got in Athens, he wasn’t happy because they didn’t show his face while Phelps was competing.
And not only does he want to be shown in the stands, but he wants to be next to Phelps and be the one who gives him the medals.
This may come as a shock to you, but I don’t know Mark Spitz. All I can base these few thoughts on is this one article. I’m not criticizing him as a person and not trying to diminish his achievements. He was a tremendous athlete and will forever be a huge part of Olympic history. And his contributions to the sport and the tradition should not be forgotten.
But the simple fact is, this moment belongs to Michael Phelps. If Spitz were willing to be there as part of the supporting cast and not the lead role, then his attendence would be a great exlamation point the games, the moment, and Phelp’s accomplishment. He doesn’t seem to want that, though, and I believe he is the one missing out on something special.