I hate hype. I tend to be a skeptic. I scorned the hype around the IPOs for Facebook, Zynga, Groupon, etc.
But I feel differently about Michael Phelps. Maybe it's because of my father, who was a lifeguard, a swim coach and a champion surfer many years ago. My dad qualified for the Olympics, but in those days, a lifeguard was considered a professional, and only amateurs could compete. My dad always wished he could have been in Olympics.
But he told me stories all through my childhood of how he worked so hard to be a champion swimmer and surfer. He made me revere having a dream and working hard to achieve it.
Phelps has worked hard to make swimming cool for kids. It was not a sport that was admired or thought to be cool. He changed that. He has not been into glorifying himself. He inspired two of the young swimmers who were in these Olympics who won gold themselves. And that made him happy.
Phelps's mom just sent him to swim to use up his energy when he was a kid. His mom didn't send him to a special training camp or to live in a place to work with the top coach in the world. The average, everyday coach noticed young Michael's God-given ability. And then, the coach nurtured that talent.
Phelps came up from obscurity and achieved something no other human being has achieved. He has given hope to every underdog who loves to swim. That is a great gift.
The New York Times ran an article about Phelps which is a great summary. Worth reading.
I believe individual achievement is something good, not bad. Without the ability to achieve and the ability of us to recognize and appreciate achievement, underdogs would never go anywhere. We all need hope. Michael Phelps has given thousands of kids and other people hope.