Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Setting the record straight: Schooling Phelps

Setting the record straight: Schooling Phelps
by rick olivares

You know I am truly happy for Joseph Schooling that he won an Olympic gold medal in the 100-meter butterfly event and set an Olympic record. And am also truly happy for Singapore! Their commitment to sports excellence especially in the last few years is truly admirable and this should further galvanize them

Sure Michael Phelps came in second, but I think people cannot see the forest for the trees as they make a big fuss about Phelps "losing". 

First of all, Schooling was tops in the heats, the semis, and the finals. ALL THE WAY. After all, the 100-meter butterfly was his specialty.

Second, Phelps was second in the heats to Schooling, second to Hungarian Laszlo Cseh in the semis, and once more second to Schooling in the finals. 

So, in short, Phelps, wasn't the best although people think that by virtue of being Michael Phelps he was unbeatable.

If you watched the London Games then you would know that South African Chad le Clos also beat Phelps in the 200-meter butterfly event (and not the 100-meter where Schooling emerged victorious in 2016). In that 200-meter butterfly event, Phelps came in fifth in the heats and fourth in the semi-finals.

All throughout, Le Clos finished ahead of Phelps in every stage so how was Phelps the favorite? Sure, he could summon a Hurculean effort and win it. Yes, it is possible but that isn’t painting an accurate picture. We all know the American finished second in London.

Four years later in Rio De Janeiro, more than anything, Phelps wanted to win the 200-meter butterfly. And he did in the process also gained his revenge while le Clos shockingly didn't podium at all. The South African also had a great story coming in as both his parents were battling cancer and their health greatly told on his emotional state.

And speaking of emotional state, what makes Phelps’ story even more absolutely fascinating is his fall from grace following the London Olympics — getting caught smoking pot and driving under the influence of alcohol and thereby getting suspended by the American swimming association, his dalliances with other women despite being in a relationship, and the emotional burden he carried through the years because of his parents’ divorce.

Competing in Rio could have been disastrous for Phelps and even his coach tried to dissuade him. Well, the rest is history now as we know it with the American winning five more gold medals and one more silver; the last at the expense of Joseph Schooling’s great swim.

As for the Singaporean, he also entered the 100-meter freestyle event where he finished sixth in the heats and eighth in the semifinals. Now if he won that too considering how he did in the previous rounds that would worth really crowing about.

What should have been reported heading into the 200-meter finals was, “Can Phelps win this event?” or “Believe it or not, Phelps isn’t favored to win”. Now that would have made it even more worth talking and reading about. Furthermore, it would have introduced Schooling to the world at large instead of “coming out of nowhere” to win.

Sure, “Schooling schools Phelps” makes for nice copy and an interesting read. He should rightly be celebrated. But there’s a sin of omission to the reportage that does not exactly tell the whole story.

Just thought I'd clear it up. Nevertheless, congrats to Joseph Schooling and Michael Phelps. Both came away from Rio with memorable and golden stories and memories. 

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