Saturday, February 21, 2009

Michael Phelps and His Life Aquatic

“News” out of Richland County, South Carolina says that Sheriff Leon Lott won’t file marijuana charges against Michael Phelps due to a lack of evidence. It hard to believe the amount of “legs” this news story has had. It’s even harder to believe that a Japanese auto manufacturer (Mazda) had this American swimmer (Phelps) issue an apology to the Chinese. Dude! This is America. We simply don’t apologize for our drug or petroleum usage – it is what it is.

What’s the big uproar about the photos of Michael Phelps allegedly (allegedly – that makes me smile) smoking pot? He’s young and rich, but has never once been confused with one of the sharper tools in the shed. He gets a DUI after 6 gold medals in Athens. Four years later, the pot smoking pictures – alleged pot smoking pictures I mean! - come after 8 gold medals in Beijing. Following this stream of progression, I guess he’s looking at 10 gold medals in London, followed quickly by a tappin’-the-vein-heroin habit. I’m telling you now, don’t be surprised when, in four years, you see him grow his hair long, learn to play guitar, wear leather chaps and a torn up T-shirt, and become a full-on rock star. Or, maybe like River Phoenix’s brother, a rap “star.” Don’t get me wrong – that’s all cool; to each his own. More pressing issues abound – primarily, the question of “Why is swimming a sport?”

Okay, now settle down. Let’s hear this out logically and rationally.

No argument here, swimming is definitely an athletic endeavor. Have you ever tried swimming as a workout – damn! But, in its present sporting form, it’s completely ridiculous. A swim race makes perfect sense. First one to the end of the distance – be it 50 meters, 100 meters, 800 meters, whatever – wins. It’s simple. But, why the four different strokes at a swim meet? The freestyle is clearly the fastest stroke – over 200 meters, the men’s breast stroke world record holder (Kosuke Kitajima of Japan) is over 24 seconds behind the men’s freestyle world record holder (one Michael Phelps). In the four lengths of a pool that make up a 200 meter race, that’s over one length slower. Phelps could be out of the pool, dried off with his itsy, bitsy chamois, and headed for the opium den by the time Kitajima touches up. Why insist on spreading out the swim meet with three other strokes?

To test the how-absurdly-is-it-to-have-four-strokes theory, let’s examine how this would play out in another Summer Olympic sport, track and field. We’ll take the running events – all of them, from 100 meters to the marathon. Clearly, the fastest way to run is forwards, in a straight line. But, borrowing from our shaved bodied and head cap wearing aqua-friends, what about the other strokes, er, I mean strides? We could add the backwards run. Maybe the sideways run? Oh, and of course, my personal favorite, the skip. Can you imagine the “Bird’s Nest” in Beijing, packed to the rafters, eagerly awaiting the stud Jamaicans getting in the blocks for the Friday night marquee event, the 100 meter skip? Of course you can’t – it’s a stupid idea. And, so are the slowest three swimming strokes.

And, then there’s the swim suits. We’ve all seen the high-tech suits that cut water drag to next to nothing. Now, the typical suit for the freestyle is a full-bodied suit, covering the torso. Fair enough. But, for the slower, and as argued, completely unnecessary, strokes, the fashion statement du jour is the “jammer” or “legskin” suit - essentially a pair of long shorts. After careful observation, here’s how the men fit their jammers. First, find the bottom of your pelvic bone with your thumb. Then, go one to two inches lower. There! A micron above your willy. There’s where the jammers should come on your “waist.” Of course, proper etiquette requires close attention to shaving, lest you give all the television viewers a bird’s nest surprise.

Jammers. The final argument against the three slowest strokes in swimming. They’re silly, and with the Phelps pot smoking – alleged pot smoking! – story as proof, we have enough silly things in the world already.

At least that’s this guy’s opinion.

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