Good line by a commenter on last night's DUAN, "Mark Spitz is printing 6-1 t-shirts as we speak." And it wouldn't surprise me to peak into Spitz's basement and see said shirts actually in production. If he wasn't rooting against Michael Phelps before, he most likely is now that he's been snubbed by the Olympic swimming powers that be. Spitz — perhaps the greatest Olympic athlete ever — will not be in Beijing to see Phelps attempt to break his record of seven gold medals.
"I never got invited. You don't go to the Olympics just to say, I am going to go. Especially because of who I am," Spitz told AFP in Hong Kong. "I am going to sit there and watch Michael Phelps break my record anonymously? That's almost demeaning to me. It is not almost — it is."
It's easy to write off Spitz as an egocentric lout; and admittedly, some of yesterday's quotes — not to mention the porn stache — are a little much. But people tend to forget that in the early '70's Spitz was considered by many the greatest athlete in history, and it has to be hard to give that up without a fight. It's difficult to put into context what Spitz meant to America, and the world, in 1972. Not only did he win seven golds in Munich, but they came against the backdrop of one of sports' darkest chapters, the Munich Massacre, in which 11 Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinian terrorists. The first Olympics in Germany since Hitler's 1936 Games was not mankind's finest hour; a fact not lost on Spitz, who is Jewish. He didn't get to stick around for the closing ceremonies; being whisked away by police due to fears that he would be a target. And then you had the lesser tragedies in those Games, including the U.S. men's basketball team, which was denied a gold medal by the Soviets on a controversial officials' decision to put three seconds back on the clock after the teams had already left the floor. Also, America's top two sprinters, Eddie Hart and Rey Robinson, missed the 100 meter finals when they were given the wrong starting time by their coach. So Spitz was something to cheer about amongst all the gloom, and he played the part to the extreme. As soon as the Olympics were over, he announced his retirement from swimming to become an actor. But infamous guest spots on a Bob Hope Special and the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour demonstrated to the world that as an actor, he more resembled a fish out of water. The acting thing never panned out, and he took other jobs; including a comeback attempt in 1992 to try and qualify for the Barcelona Games, which fell short. Today his web site refers to him as "a stockbroker and motivational speaker." AJ said it yesterday and it's true: The IOC doesn't want him in Beijing hogging camera time as Phelps counts down to eight golds. That would be a huge distraction in an Olympics that already has more than its share. But consider it from Spitz's point of view: How do you expect him not to feel slighted? The greatest Olympian in history is about to be replaced, and no one seems to give a damn. Like him or not, Spitz's personality is what it is, and of course he's going to complain about it. Not everyone can be as gentlemanly reticent as Hank Aaron. The IOC should have made some sort of gesture to Spitz, whether it be to allow him to tape a message of congratulations to Phelps, have a photo op with him, text message 'BFF,' ... something. Despite what you may think about his personality, Spitz once stood for something great; and meant a lot to us. But it's our nature in this throwaway society to dispose of our heroes once we're finished with them, and that's a shame. Spitz, Once The Star, Upset Over Beijing Snub [Yahoo Sports]