Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Professional Swimming" in Our Awesome Economy

Anyone see the Newsweek article featuring Brian Goodell? Here's the lead-off paragraph:
Brian Goodell, of Mission Viejo, Calif., won two gold medals in the 1976 Olympics. An all-American, God-fearing golden boy, he segued into a comfortable career in commercial real estate. Until 2008, when he was laid off. As a 17-year-old swimmer, he set two world records. As a 52-year-old job hunter, he’s drowning.
Continuing on, there's another snippet about the former legendary swimmer struggling to make ends meet:
In California, Brian Goodell tells a similar tale of entitlement denied. The Olympic medalist is the kind of Wheaties-box hero whom corporations used to hire just to put on the golf course with clients. Those days are over. “I was one of the most recent hires, so it didn’t surprise me I was laid off, especially since we’d already experienced a round of layoffs. But I was surprised no one was hiring. I’ve always been able to find something within a few months. The negative thoughts,” he says, “can overwhelm you.”
This is scary stuff. You assume that legendary athletes who have reached the pinnacle of sport will always be able to find something. A job, an income. Hell, if I were an employer, and someone brought in a resume that said: "Olympic Gold Medalist" -- hired. Done.

I've heard tales of other Olympians in financial trouble, too. I remember Jason Lezak saying he had trouble solidifying one sponsor after the 2008 Beijing Olympics. This was a guy who gave most swim fans the most exciting moment in the history of the sport -- or possibly the Olympics (argue, go ahead. I dare you).

Whether Mr. Goodell is microcosmic of a larger issue with struggling Olympic athletes, I'm not sure. I don't or won't pretend to know why or how his troubles started, or what he's looking for. But what I do know is that the economy is tough, and an athlete (re: everyone) needs every single advantage they can to make it in this world.

So what's troubling is this great push (illusion?) of the "professional swimmer." Kids foregoing athletic collegiate scholarships in pursuit of some short-term financial gain. I believe the great benefit of the sport of swimming is the ability to get kids into college, and hopefully, some financial aid. Lord knows one of the only reasons I was accepted into halfway decent universities was because of my swimming pedigree.

I believe in the college system. I believe in using athletics to (help) get accepted into college. I believe that the best years of your life are in college, meeting life-long friends and drinking beverages and eating pizza and crashing sorority date parties when you weren't invited. I wish that there was some push to help young swimmers realize that -- especially for females -- swimming can lead to a scholarship, a degree, a career beyond swimming.

My sincere apologies for using Mr. Goodell in this post. I'm sure he'll land on his feet. And he DID go to college. I just merely wanted to use him as an example that, despite one's astounding athletic success, in our awesome economy these days, athletes need every single advantage they can get.

So wise up, youngens. Literally.

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