There are a bunch of phenomenal things about being Michael Phelps right now. In no particular order:
1. He is insanely talented.
2. He is rich.
3. It is Olympics time again, and he has a chance in London to add another seven gold medals to a collection that already includes eight from 2008.
4. And in less than a month, he is expected to retire to a life of golf, chicks and basically doing whatever the hell he wants.
It is good to be Phelps, but this kind of dominance creates two kinds of adversaries: Those who train religiously in hopes of beating you, and those who have zero chance of beating you so they talk smack about you.
Tyler Clary is the latter and already apologizing. (Clary tweeted, “I’m sorry @MichaelPhelps” and with reason). He told his friendly neighborhood sports columnist that Phelps is lazy and how much better Phelps could be if he only gave a damn. This, Clary knows, because he trained with him.
“I saw a real lack of preparation (from) him,” Clary told The Riverside Press-Enterprise. “They can talk about all of these goals and plans and preparation they have. I saw it. I know. It’s different. And I saw somebody that has basically been asking to get beat for the longest time.”
Clary certainly has failed to take advantage of this “opening,” as has most of the rest of the world not named Ryan Lochte. Because Phelps keeps winning, or in the case of the US Olympic swim trials, giving himself a chance to win in London by qualifying in everything. This, too, has an explanation according to Clary — the laziness or lack of talent (depending on how you read the following quote) of his competitors.
“The fact that he doesn’t have to work as hard to get that done, it’s a real shame,” Clary told the newspaper. “I think it’s too bad. You see that all too often, where you get athletes that are incredibly talented that really take it for granted. I think the things he could have done if he’d worked as hard as I do would have been more incredible than what he has pulled off.”
How exactly does one out-incredible eight gold medals in a single Olympics? And what if Phelps does not win every event he swims in London? Will Clary be right? Will everybody agree with him?
How do I say this nicely?
Tyler Clary, meet life.
Life, meet Tyler.
Life, tell Tyler how you work.
Life: I’m not fair.
Kate Upton has a better rack than I do. Tiger Woods, Michael Jordan and Tom Brady have unfair amounts of natural talent, and everything that comes with such talent. Bill Gates does not have to balance his checkbook. And on and on and on.
Life is not fair. Some people are just better at things than others. This does not mean they do not work their you know whats off or that when they eventually fail, it is anything more than the inevitable cycle of things.
For most of Phelps’ professional career, certainly the four years leading up to China, every time he was on a block, he was expected to win. He knew it. The guys on the blocks around him knew it.
This Olympics is different. He could lose. He, technically, could lose to Clary although that is unlikely. Many expect him to lose at least once, possibly more often.
And after eight gold medals, how do you deal with silver?
What Phelps has to learn, like Woods and so many before him, is how to lose. This sounds counterintuitive, especially for an athlete as talented as Phelps. It is not about preparing to lose. Anybody who has dealt with Phelps on any level in this past year knows how hard he has worked to prepare himself for London and not with the idea of settling nicely for silver. He had slacked, by his own admission, and he pulled himself back with grueling hard work.
The idea of learning to lose is more about willingly putting yourself out there again, of daring to try to best excellence, of being judged on who you used to be and being OK with whatever the result because you know you did everything possible to give yourself a chance.
Phelps has. And Clary will have his chance in a couple of weeks in London.
Whether he beats Phelps (wtg, blue collar workers) or not (wtg, Upton-like natural ability havers), what Clary needs to realize is one of the phenomenal things about being Michael Phelps is, whatever happens, he is and always will be one of the best swimmers of all time.