Where is Mark Spitz? Uninvited? Unwanted? Unseen? He has not yet been invited to Beijing, and if that remains the case, it will be because Olympic organizers are lacking, among others things, a sense of history and propriety.
It goes without saying that Mark Spitz holds the 36 year record of seven gold medals from a single Olympics. It should also be remembered that he broke the world record in all seven events. This is the granddaddy of all swimming records—and Phelps is expected to break it. Shouldn’t Spitz be there to watch it happen?
There is no need to go into detail about how that the Maris family was there to see McGuire break Roger’s single season HR record, or that Hammerin' Hank was invited to watch Bonds break his career mark. It is something called class, and that seems to be lacking, thus far, among the powers at the 2008 Olympics.
This is Phelps' time in the sun. No one can deny him center stage in what will arguably be the greatest feat in Olympics history, but it was Spitz who built the stage. Without Mark Spitz, there would be no record to shoot for.
Phelps and Spitz have lived in the same sentence from the day that we realized that Michael was something far beyond the exceptional. It has been Spitz and Phelps, and Phelps and Spitz, and it should be no different if the record falls as expected.
Mark Spitz has been a class act throughout Phelps' career—publicly stating that he is cheering for Michael as he chases down his hallowed record. Let’s hope that the Olympic Committee garners some class of its own and rolls out the red carpet for Spitz.
The passing of this baton should be done while the world watches. When it’s over, Mark Spitz will forever vanish from our view. He deserves to walk across center stage one final time—a stage that may belong to Michael Phelps forever.
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