Ryan Lochte: Rejection from 'The Bachelor,' Swimming's Place in American Culture
During the London 2012 Olympics, if there was one man whose style and presence screamed bachelor, it was American swimmer Ryan Lochte. Even his mother was all for sending her boy out on one-night stands.
Yet the Huffington Post reported Thursday evening that Lochte has been rejected, turned away by The Bachelor.
How is this possible?
This fairly irrelevant bit of pop culture is representative of the position swimming has in American society. Even though it is our sport—one that we dominate—the American people are simply not that interested in swimming.
Olympic Fever Is Short Lived
There was a brief period—about a week long—during the London Olympics when Lochte and Phelps were two names that even non-sports fans knew. The Lochte vs. Phelps rivalry was known to people who did not even know the basic rules of swimming—other than that you want to swim fast.
Now, only a month later, swimming has diminished back into obscurity. There it will stay until the summer of 2016.
Other than an ephemeral handful of gold-medal races, Americans do not want to watch swimming or swimmers.
How often do you watch a professional swimming event?
Americans Know What They Want
The American sports tapestry is dominated by a few sports—football, basketball and baseball. The American populous does not want to see a whole lot else except for once every four years.
Imagine if New York Jets quarterback Tim Tebow—a well known football player—wanted to be on The Bachelor. Is there any doubt he would be chosen?
He cannot even remove his shirt without triggering a media frenzy.
Lochte Will Never Be Loved Quite like Phelps
With Michael Phelps retiring, Ryan Lochte could in theory be the next great American swimmer. However, he will never reach the pinnacle of stardom that Phelps briefly achieved.
The primary reason is that it takes too much luck. Winning gold in every event requires fortunate results in relays, individual dominance and some good old-fashioned luck. Phelps' historic run at the 2008 Olympics included multiple close calls, such as the hundredth-of-a-second victory in the 100-meter butterfly.
Moreover, Lochte will never have an opportunity to be that dominant. He will turn 32 during the 2016 Olympics, too old to completely obliterate the field. Between now and then, there are no swimming events that the American public truly cares about.
The fact of the matter is that the American public does not want to see swimmers, except for very brief moments of triumph.
We have witnessed in recent years one of the most dominant eras of American swimming that we will ever see. It will not get any better than this.
If Americans do not care now, they will not care any time soon.
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