Ever heard of Michael Phelps, the famous Olympian with all the gold medals? Actually, that’s a rhetorical question, because if you have even watched 5 minutes of the 2012 London Olympics than you probably know more about Michael Phelps than his own family knows about him. In fact, Michael Phelps might now be the most over-exposed and over-hyped athlete the world has ever seen – and we’re not even halfway through the games!
Of course, Michael Phelps is not to be blamed for this over-exposure, at least not directly (you could say earning a million gold medals didn’t help his cause). The problem these days has little to do with athletes like Phelps who are over-exposed, and everything to do with television ratings and the efforts needed to offset the billions of dollars spent televising the Olympics. The folks at NBC have obviously made the decision that the more they talk about Michael Phelps, the more viewers they will attract, and the more money they will make as a result. Whether this is actually true or not can certainly be debated, but one thing is certain: We fans will most certainly pay a “Michael Phelps price” as a result.
Even though Phelps isn’t having quite the same Olympic outcomes as he did four years ago, he is still swimming well and seems to be taking all the hype he is receiving in stride. Ironically, he probably isn’t fully aware of how annoying it can be to hear all-Phelps, 24/7, as it’s likely he is not as tuned into the NBC broadcasts as we fans are. For us, the fans, it’s been a non-stop deluge of Phelps, so much so that even when others are interviewed about their winning accomplishments (enter Ryan Lochte), the questions still center around Michael Phelps!
While it’s understandable why Phelps is receiving so much attention with all his previous gold medals and all, it’s also understandable if some fans have become satiated with all the Phelps discussion. In fact, I think of it akin to listening to old Rolling Stones songs that used to be great, but now after a million playings get kind of old (I would imagine even the band dreads playing some of those songs!).
The sad part about the Phelps media explosion may be all the little stories of interest that will never make the news as there is only so much air time available each day. While we are learning about how Michael Phelps previously dealt with success, his experiences with marijuana, or the depression he felt after the last Olympics, what we are not learning about are many of the fun and interesting stories of less glamorized athletes and less known about sports. Many would argue, including me, that it is those stories that really add to the Olympic viewing experience.
I hope Michael Phelps continues with his record-breaking success, and he is without a doubt the most decorated Olympic athlete ever. At the same time, if NBC decides to take their foot off the Phelps accelerator, I for one won’t mind.
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