The hyperbole started while Michael Phelps was still swimming his last event. Best ever. Greatest Olympian. The names Jordan and Ali spouted by NBC's commentators. Rather than debate what Phelps is the best ever at, exactly, like every other media outlet, let's just celebrate one of the greatest American careers of any kind. One of the few that includes bong hits, jingoistic heroism and earning $100 million by age 27.
When indie greats Archers of Loaf broke up at their peak in 1999, they closed their last, best album, White Trash Heroes, with the title track. Going out perfectly with a weird, ambient and indie rock anthem was something that I thought died in the go-go 2000s, when money was all that mattered. The other night during the last 50 meters of Phelps 100 fly win, suddenly each stroke became the "White Trash Heroes" opening bass drone in my head. Yes, Michael Phelps is a white trash hero, I thought. Being white trash fucking rules, and so does Phelps.
Exhibit A in the white trash files would be Phelps' Olympic pic: messy hair, un-shaved face, confused look on face. The pinnacle of white trash heroism is telling the entire Earth "I don't give a fuck" followed by four gold medals. On top of this, Phelps comes from a suburb of Baltimore and has blue collar roots. Mom's a school principal. Dad's a former state trooper and a football coach. Phelps further demostrates white trash tendency upon getting a DUI at age 19, then getting busted in 2008 smoking a "water pipe" at a University of South Carolina frat party. He also has ADHD, which used to be called "being a spazz." Most of the kids I swam with growing up were affluent and had parents who looked like those nerds who discovered the Higgs Boson. These kids went on to be dentists or doctors after studying at U Penn or Cornell. They were not boozing pothead scruffy spazzers. The white trash jewel in his crooked fitted is that Michael Phelps is a prolific wigger, complete with Cash Money Twitter love. In fact, he may be the first Global Wigger. As we all know, wiggers are the coolest people in the world and can be considered white trash. Thus Phelps brings swimming to the motherfucking lower middle class streets.
All sorts of people are giving their three cents on Phelps. Usually with a qualifier like "I don't know much about swimming, but this guy is no Teddy Ballgame." Correct. Ted Williams did not train for six hours a day, every day, swimming 50 miles a week. Nor did Ted eat 12,000 calories a day to keep going, which includes a full pound of pasta and an entire pizza for dinner. Considering the average adult needs about 2,000 calories a day, Phelps is eating for six humans and is still skinny. Ted Williams swung a piece of wood really, really well. Swimming always makes the top ten lists of hardest sports to train for, up there with cycling and wrestling, making Phelps' focus over the last 20 years flat-out incredible.
Now let's take a look at Phelps' choice of events this year. He swam the 200 and 400 IMs and the 200 fly. These are three very difficult events. They take a strategy of pacing and mucho endurance topped by an all sprint at the end. His other personal event was the 100 fly, a sprint, but by far the hardest sprint as butterfly is the hardest stroke. The guy didn't master the breaststroke, backstroke, or freestyle sprints. He didn't focus on long distance. Nope, Phelps mastered the hardest events. I'll give him some Babe Ruth points here: Phelps the sprinter is like when Ruth was a Sox ace and the longer events are Babe the bomber in New York.
Other sports shit talkers are touting 17-year-old Missy Franklin as the next Phelps. But Franklin at 6' 1" is about as developed as she'll ever be. Smart money says her third games won't be anywhere near what Phelps just did in his fourth, aka lead all Olympians in medals. Ryan Lochte: not even in this discussion. There is no neo-Phelps. Sorry NBC and corporate sponsors: you're stuck with a white trash hero.
After 43 million Americans watched Phelps win his eighth gold in Beijing, his first stop upon returning to America was the YMCA on 14th Street in Chelsea to visit the swim team and encourage youth swimming. That's the same YMCA the Village People's gay anthem "YMCA" was written about. Gotta give a man credit for going to a gay bath house on his first stop home. Global fame led to more awesome behavior. Dating Lily Donaldson. Afformentioned leaked bong rip pics. Getting on stage with Lil Weezy. Further wiggerdom. Not getting in the pool for a year. Training for 2012 and killing the games. Getting Tweets from Young Jeezy. Enjoying those Jeezy Tweets more than a call from Obama.
With your latest achievement, Michael Phelps, please do more cool stuff. Do it for America.