Saturday, August 30, 2008

Messing with My Moment of Zen

When Michael Phelps won all those medals at this summer’s Olympic Games, my heart sank.

This could only mean that suddenly Americans would rush to their local pools with their children in tow.

Americans are like that. When gymnast Olga Korbut competed in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics and Kurt Thomas in 1978 and Mary Lou Retton in 1984, gymnastics schools popped up all over the United States. Ice-skating’s popularity soared in 1968 with Peggy Fleming, in 1976 with Dorothy Hamill [who also contributed a haircut], and Scott Hamilton in 1984. More ice-rinks appeared and public ice-time became a rare commodity as private lessons increased.

This isn’t a new phenomenon. I happen to own a circa 1950s wooden tennis racket still in its press.

So why did Phelps’ recent achievements distress me? I happen to enjoy swimming at a local pool, as do a fair number of Hillsborough adults. Our moments of Zen occur during the calming hours spent swimming quiet laps with only other grownups in the pool. Those soothing moments may well diminish as more and more young swimmers decide they want to compete and swim teams become more popular.

Please, please don’t make swimming this year’s craze.

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