Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Blogfight Armaggedon: Tony Austin (and Sarah Gjerstad) vs John Leonard

Tony Austin never shies away from a fight. So when John Leonard went on the offensive after Tony referenced a blog post that questioned ASCA's legitimacy, Tony dug in. Since then Tony has received a series of what he deems "threatening" e-mails from Leonard, the lot of which he promises to post today at 12 pm ET on his blog. This should be good.

Sarah Gjerstad is digging in too. She is the blogger who originally raised questions about ASCA on her Curb Northside ISD blog.

As you might be able to guess from the name of her blog, Sarah got involved because she is fighting against the construction of swim stadium using funds from the Northside Integrated School District (NISD). In her original post, entitled "The Ubiqitous George Block", Sarah wrote:

"ASCA is listed as a foreign corporation in Florida.  Foreign, in corporation lingo, means not incorporated in the state...Their annual reports to Florida state they are incorporated in Iowa...John Leonard registered in Iowa in 1968 but was terminated in 1992 for failure to file reports. ASCA has lapsed corporate status in Iowa so there may be no government oversight into their finances"

Tony quickly picked it up in his blog. What followed was a string of increasingly agitated e-mails from Leonard. You can read them for yourself here.

You can judge for yourself but it seems clear that there is one person acting rationally and unemotionally on this issue and one that is not. John Leonard seems determined to bully both bloggers into submission and increasingly frustrated that it is not working. I wonder if he will come for us next for posting this blog reference.

If the statements about ASCA are false and none of us understand what a 501-6C is, why doesn't Leonard just explain this? His response is the kind of response you get from people who are used to always getting their way in a certain context. They believe they are beyond reproach and asking them to explain something is tantamount to a full scale attack. I make no statements about the validity of ASCA but I am uncomfortable with the leader of America's largest coaching organization behaving this way.

As a veteran internet user who's had plenty of bad things said about him, let me offer Leonard this advice (if he's reading). If someone lies about you on the internet, take it as a compliment. It means they are very jealous and are lashing out as best they can. Your best defense is to show them how wrong they are not with a fiery attack and lawyers but to engage the internet readers in whatever forum is available. Show people how polite and rational you are. Show how the facts about you are wrong. Any rational person reading the same blog will realize that you are a nice, rational person and the individual attacking you must be a total crazy.

This only works if they're lying, of course.

Here it is! Our first ad!

Sorry for the low quality.  Enjoy!  I think we captured our user experience perfectly.  Please spread it around, and embed it everywhere to get us some more likes.  Yeah, baby.

"Are you tired of getting your swimming news from the same old boring websites? Come with us... to a place where you can get your news IN BRIEFS. That's right. Visit Chris, Gus and the Viking at THE SWIM BRIEF. swimbrief.blogspot.com."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Late Night Snack: Our First Commercial to Air Soon!

This is a sneak peek at the first commercial for The Swim Brief to air on Universal Sports.  Of course, it is still in production and our logo and text hasn't been added yet, but I am sure you can see how what we have filmed so far captures what all of our readers feel when they log in to our site.  Thank you to all of our sponsors for helping us to be able to afford some real daytime TV talent. 


We are almost to 100 facebook followers and 50 tweeters, so we are kicking about a tenth of the media butt as The Swimmers Circle!  Thanks for making us the 58th most popular swimming website in the world!

What Does Jim Tressel Have To Do With Swimming?

Jim Tressel resigned from his position of Head Coach, Ohio State Football this morning. You might wonder what the hell this has to do with swimming. Sit tight while I explain.

If you haven't been following, Tressel had been dogged by the ongoing NCAA investigation into his program. Prior to last year's bowl game, it was revealed that several players had been suspended for bartering their football swag for tattoos. Tressel, for his part, had impeded the NCAA's investigation and lied to cover his players.

Next week, I am required, as I am every year, to take a mandatory NCAA rules exam. Passage of the exam allows me to recruit off campus. When you're a swim coach, many of the rules strike you as completely crazy. In my first job, I complained about it to my boss. But the reason the NCAA has elaborate and sometimes ludicrous rules are coaches like Jim Tressel and the big football and basketball programs.

Among the proposals that are in line for next year are to allow phone calls to high school juniors (it is allowed among many sports outside swimming). We are moving towards an NCAA landscape where kids will be pushed to commit earlier and earlier. There are rumblings that unlimited text messages and phone calls are in our future. The reason is simple: this stuff is just too hard to regulate.

Of course, every now and then the NCAA catches someone like Tressel and can go after him full bore. After the allegations broke I was encouraged to have a talk with my swimmers and make sure none of them were giving their t-shirts away for free pizza. I would be amazed if they could get anything for their team swag but the risk was there nonetheless.

The entire system is trying far too hard to be something that it's not. Although it might mean immediate death for a lot of swim programs, I actually think that giving more money to football and basketball athletes (see the Big 10's "Living Expenses" proposal) makes way more sense than what we have.. College administrators might have a lot more trouble declaring their football and basketball programs as "revenue" sports if they actually had to pay the players what they bring into the school.

Instead we have a system where I will have to deal with increasingly elaborate rules because Jim Tressel lied about his players breaking NCAA rules, while a hundred other programs probably break the same rules. And the NCAA will continue to be effective. Still following? Me neither.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

This Week In: The Swim Brief

"I love a good pair of briefs"
On "This Week in the Swim Brief" we offer you a rewind of the best our blog had to offer in the past week. It's a chance to catch up if you've been away or are just joining us. It's also a chance for us to to look back and take another look at what we wrote and whether its still relevant. Enjoy:

Last weekend, Chris DeSantis went to San Diego for the College Swim Coaches Association of America conference. Like going to a coaching conference but can't stand sitting through all the talks? Chris has got you covered. For recaps of the best from the conference, click here  

On Sunday, the town where the The Screaming Viking makes his home, Joplin, Missouri, was devastated by a tornado. The Viking has been understandably taking a break from blogging and working on more important things like rebuilding his town. To read more about the tornado and how you can help, click here

On Wednesday, The Swim Brief was visited by another guest blogger, Tom Duke. Duke checked in with some vitriol that all but guaranteed we won't be the most popular swim blog in China. Thanks a lot Tom.

On Thursday, we had some vintage Mike Gustafson, as he described the mental machinations of anybody swimming the 200 fly. The blog would have been made much better with actual footage of Gus swimming a 200 fly. Maybe next week?

At the end of the week, we watch with rapt attention as blogger Tony Austin goes toe to toe with ASCA Executive Director John Leonard. Tony promises more updates on Tuesday and quite frankly we can't get enough.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gutter Talk: The Big 10 "Living Expenses"; Proposal

The Big 10 Conference has proposed a plan to pay scholarship athletes an additional $2000 to $5000 for "living expenses," which has the support of NCAA leadership and is estimated to cost at least $300,000 a year for each school to cover football and basketball alone.

What do you think?

"It's about time we got paid. I have had to resort to drinking Milwaukee's Best from a can, while other students are able to afford bottled imports. Plus, how else are we supposed to come up with bail money? Our coaches keep us too busy to work for like three months a year!"  Joshua C.- Football Practice Player on a Full Ride.

"I don't like it. Things are so much easier when we can just give it to them under the table and avoid all that boring paperwork. Will we still be able to hand it to them as a wad of $100 bills? It would be a shame if that tradition couldn't be carried on."  Harold L.- Athletic Booster Club President.

"I think this is a good thing. We just have to convince the NCAA to drop the minimum number of sports teams we carry down to two. If I can cut 14 of our 16 teams we could potentially compete with the schools in the major conferences." Robert H.- Mid-Major Athletic Director.

"Ummm... did the definition of 'amateur' change without a formal announcement?"Merriam W.-Librarian and Dictionary Enthusiast

"If they really have that much money to spend, shouldn't it go toward creating more athletic opportunities rather than fattening up the limited opportunities that are out there? You can't have it both ways: so many schools are saying they can't afford to support swimming programs but all of a sudden they can afford something like this?" Shawn K.- A guy who still naively believes in the NCAA is supposed to be about creating educational opportunities through athletics and who still believes non-revenue sports have value.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Big Bad Swim Movie

Sigh, its been a long day. Remember yesterday when Brendan Hansen came back and that was cool too talk about? Well, here's something to put you to sleep: The Trailer from the horrible swimming movie "The Big Bad Swim Movie":

National Record in 100 Fly- Video

Check out this video of Jasmine Tosky setting the National High School record in the 100 fly:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Hansen's Back!

Today, "American's Swim Team" breaths a sigh of relief. Brendan Hansen has come back to save our men's breaststroke. Hansen announced this weekend that he is coming back to swimming. Since his retirement following the 2008 Olympics, USA's men have floundered a bit internationally, with Mark Gangloff (8th) and Eric Shanteau (8th) finishing the year as the highest ranked men's breaststrokers. Both are the lowest rankings in any events except the 400 free.

Of course, when we last saw Hansen he was struggling himself. He went from breaking the WR in semi's at US Olympic trials to failing to make the team in the 200 and subsequently finishing out of the money in 4th. It was yet another example of what a cruel style the breaststroke is. Hansen's timing and rhythm seemed to leave him after that Omaha 100 breast semi.

Breaststroke has historically been a young man's stroke. Both Hansen and Ed Moses will be over 30 years old by this August, and no one besides Kosuke Kitajima has ever won an Olympic breaststroke title past the age of 25 in the modern era. Speaking of Kitajima; he is redefining all by himself what it means to have an international career swimming breaststroke. He has won two consecutive Olympic gold medals and showed no signs of letting up with the world's fastest time last summer. Prior Kitajima, world record breaststrokers seemed to age in dog years once they hit their mid 20s. Let's look at a couple of examples from the last 20 years:

Roman Sloudnov:
Age 20- Breaks WR in 100 breast 1:00.36
Age 21- First man under 1:00 at 59.94
Age 22- 1:00.65
Age 23- (Olympic year
Age 24- 1:01.29
Age 25- 1:01.56

And so on. Sloudnov only breaks his time from when he was 21 years old in a bodysuit. Hansen's teammate Ed Moses had a similar breakdown around the 2004 Olympic trials Here's another Russian:

Dmitri Komornikov
Age 22- Peaks with WR in 200 breast 2:09.52
Age 23- 2:12.02 (Olympic Year)
Age 24- 2:11.80
Age 25- 2:12.13
Age 26- 2:13.59
Age 27- 2:14.07

It's fair to point out that no one had ever see a female sprinter be as successful in her mid 30s, or late 30s, or early 40s before Dara Torres. We are in a new era of competitive swimming unlike even 10 years ago in terms of the longevity of swimmers careers.

In the linked above piece by John Lohn, Lohn makes an argument about Hansen's career that I strongly disagree with. I'll let John speak for himself:

"It can be argued that Hansen, a powerful technician during his heyday, was hurt more by the high-tech suit era than most other competitors. Before the suit craze hit, Hansen's biggest advantage over the competition was his technique. That edge was neutralized when the tech suits brought many other swimmers onto the same level"

Now, what this argument ignores is the actual results of the 2008 Olympics. Hansen lost at that meet to Kitajima, Alexander Dale Oen and Hugues Dubosq. Those three swimmers were ranked 1st, 2nd and 5th in the world for 2011, with nary a body suit to be seen. I'm fairly certain that Hansen was merely outswum in Beijing.

What then, does the future hold? I predict that Hansen will still be the fastest breaststroker in the US come Omaha but will be short of medaling in London. Of course, I'd love to be wrong.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lewis and Clark's Michael Miller

Collegeswimming.com recently posted an article about an amazing coach that I did not know was even still at it.  When I was an age grouper, Mike Miller was the head coach for the Glacier Swim Club in Juneau, Alaska, which is about a nine hour ferry ride north of my home town of Petersburg.  Please read the heartfelt nod for him as an honorable mention for Assistant Coach of the Year by his head coach and one of his swimmers from Lewis and Clark at the college swimming site if you haven't already.

Even as a 10 and under, I could see that Mike was an inspirational guy.  He is one of those people who has carried the Olympic torch and deserved to do so.  His athletes were very loyal to him, and he was seen as a pretty intense coach by my generation in SE-AK.  When Mike was stricken with cancer, I think I was a freshman in high school and still young enough that I didn’t really understand what he was going through.  Later in my life, as my own father fought cancer, I thought of Mike often.  Mike put up a fight and won, and through that fight he touched the lives of his athletes, and the SE Alaska community, even more. 

You have to remember, I was pretty young when I was on deck with him, but my memories of a few incidents still stand out to me to this day.  Maybe it is because I am now a coach and I have collected these things subconsciously to help make me better.  I am not sure; all I know is that he made an impression on me.

On swim trips in Alaska we did not stay at hotels.  We were billeted, or housed with families for two or more nights every time we traveled to a meet.  We built some unique friendships that way, but the system was not problem-free.  When I was ten years old, the host I was supposed to stay with did not show up to get me at the ferry terminal.  Mike took me to his home rather than trying to talk someone else into taking me.  His boys were a little younger than me, but I had fun.  He has a beautiful family and their compassion and hospitality were not lost on me even at that age.  He didn’t cut me any slack though, when at another meet the next year he caught me running on the deck at the Juneau pool and made me do push ups in front of all my friends.  How embarrassing.  It’s okay, Mike.  I deserved it.  I do the same thing to kids all the time now.

Mike could definitely inspire.  I remember once sitting in on a talk where Mike told us the story of swimming his first 200 fly.  He was teaching us to take on our fears in a way that helped us to embrace the unknown and to rise to the challenge.  I walked away understanding that we don’t really know what we are capable of until we just get up and give it our best shot, and that if we go into it with the wrong attitude we are not allowing ourselves to excel.  So you can imagine how disappointed I was in myself when a season later at a meet I whined to my coach Chris about having to swim the 400 IM, 500 and 1650 all in one two hour session…  I knew that my coach wasn‘t going to let me out of it, but it was worth a try.  The problem is, I didn’t realize he was sitting next to Mike Miller when those stupid complaints came out of my mouth.  Mike lectured me about not appreciating the gift I had been given by having the opportunity to swim all three.  He told me that my coach would not have put me in them if he didn’t believe I could do them and do them well.  I shut up and swam.  I cut ten off the IM, twelve off the 500 and almost thirty off of my mile.  It probably had to do with the fact that I knew Mike was going to be paying attention and I didn’t want to have to face him again.  He was right.  I was wrong.  It was as simple as that, even if he was lecturing another coach's swimmer right in front of him.  Swimming is a gift as is life, and we have to appreciate that even when, and especially when, it is really hard. 

I am truly thrilled to see that Michael Miller is still coaching and is still touching the lives of so many people.  The world of swimming is infinitely better with guys like him on deck.  Keep up the good work, Mike, and congrats on the nomination for Assistant Coach of the Year.  You deserve the recognition--  you reached me, and you weren’t even my coach!


Gutter Talk: NCAA Potential Relay Rule Changes

The NCAA is considering several rule changes for swimming, including inviting 16 relays to the D1 championship, allowing aggregate relay entries, tying relay entries to times rather than names, and eliminating last chance meets; all of which might severely lessen the number of individual qualifiers.


“We really need to move to a system that makes more sense.  I think it’s time we get the BCS involved.”  Chuck W.- Sports Management Consultant

“Let’s see.  There are 5 men’s relay events.  16 relays invited with 4 swimmers each, and relay entrants would not be limited to who actually swam it.  (5x 4) x 16= 320 swimmers.  Sure that makes sense considering the cap is set at 235.  Potentially there could be negative 85 individual males invited.”  T.S. Viking- Delusional Blogger 

“As long as we keep the mid-majors out I can live with any rule changes they throw at us.”  Braden K- theswimmerscircle.com

"Who cares?  It's swimming.  As long as the price doesn’t go up, let them do whatever the heck they want.”   Mark E.- CEO

Monday, May 16, 2011

Guest Blogger: Phelps Phan, Ritchie MP Cummins

"That's me taking a break between rounds of Push the Limit on my XBOX 360."

I have to admit, I had never watched a swim meet before until I saw the 2008 Olympics where Michael Phelps had his magical moment of winning eight gold medals. Since then, I have wanted to be just like Mike. I know that I won’t ever date like, supermodels or anything, but I can still be Phelpsian and live my life to the fullest every day just like my hero, Michael Phelps.

Michael has inspired me to be a better person. I used to be a slacker, but now I try really hard in all my classes at school. I am learning Chinese by using Rosetta Stone. I enter online poker tournaments almost every night. I have lost a lot of weight because I only eat at Subway. I bathe and practice my technique in a Michael Phelps Signature Swim Spa. I even tried marijuana once, but then I gave it up because Michael did too. I also spend a lot more time with my mom now because her wisdom can help to guide me to greatness just like Michael‘s mom Debbie, who I follow on Twitter, hoping for some juicy nuggets of inspiration to help me be more awesome too.

At first I was a little bit scared of the swim spa, but I signed up for swim lessons at the Y and that has really helped to ease my fear. Luckily, my instructor says I can wear my Speedo LZR in my lessons, even though the FINA swim people made it illegal. I call my instructor Bob, or sometimes Mr. Bowman, even though she is a girl. It drives her crazy! I know will never be as good of a swimmer as Michael, but I am not gonna quit my swim lessons until I can at least do one of those flip turn thingies without plugging my nose. Also, I am really good at the Xbox Kinect Michael Phelps game and maybe that will help me with my laps in the pool. You should see me when I dolphin kick. I got the hips!

The thing I like about Michael Phelps is that even when he looks like he is gonna lose, he still wins! He wins all the time, even when his goggles fill with water! Even when there is photographic evidence that indisputably shows that he lost! Eat your heart out Charlie Sheen. Michael Phelps is duh, winning! He never loses! If you tried the drug called Michael Phelps you would probably die because it would be more awesome than you could handle. Ha ha!
…uh, wait. What? He loses sometimes? Well yeah, but if you know anything about swimming you know that even Michael has his best events, and then he has some that he doesn’t really focus on. Michael always jokes about how bad his breaststroke is, but breaststroke is the slowest stroke so of course he doesn't care about it. His events from Beijing are the ones that he never loses. Duh.

…uh, what? He was 6th in the 200 free at the Charlotte Ultraswim? Umm… yeah but if you know anything about swimming you know that the best swimmers always swim slower when they are practicing really hard. Nobody practices harder than Michael Phelps. Plus, he hasn’t lost his best event, the 200 butterfly, in like nine years!

…uh, what? Peng Wu who? A Chinese guy beat him twice in the last four weeks? In the 200 fly? Ummm… what suit was he wearing?

Well. Uh… The Olympics are still a long way away. Maybe this will make Michael really motivated and he will win nine gold medals in London. I think that is his plan. I heard he is adding the 100 freestyle to his repertoire so he can race Ian the Thorpedo again. That is going to be really exciting. I can’t wait for next summer. I have already booked my hotel in Omaha and I am trying to win enough at poker to be able to fly to London! If there are any Phelps Phans who want to meet up, email me at swimbrief@gmail.com and we will get together and talk about how Michael Phelps has changed our lives!


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Jessica Hardy Came Home

Two nights of observations from the Charlotte Ultraswim Grand Prix:

Last Night:

As predicted here, Soni vs Hardy was the race of the night. What made it excited was, of course, the unexpected. In this case that was Hardy's closing speed. She was 34.88 on the second 50. She's come a long way from her return last summer when she finished the race is 38.32(!)

It was jarring to see Dagny Knutson swimming a B heat of 400 IM and getting beat. Doesn't it also feel weird that she is older than Elizbaeth Beisel. It can't have been fun for Knutson, who has been the unfortunate victim of some drama since she decided to break her commitment to Auburn.

Lebherz! Harris! Ford! Its the men's 400 IM at from Ultraswim! Aren't the two fastest swimmers in this event ever at the meet? I almost feel like they are trying to make sure me, David Rieder and Garrett are the only people watching the webcast.

Wacky things happen at a mid-season meet when almost no one is tapered. Like the men's 100 breast, where Eric Shanteau blew a body length past Mark Gangloff on a pullout, seemingly had the race in hand until a hard charging Vlad Polyakov pulled up even and then completely fell apart the last ten meters. It was as confusing as it sounds.


I thought for sure that Michael Phelps had loafted the 200 free prelim in the morning. Turns out not so much, as he turned in a 6th place finish in the final. Is he going to (gasp!) lose the 200 fly tonight? Yes! (dodges lightning bolt)

How anti-climactic will this 50 free be if Josh Schneider wins it? Looks like I'm cheering for Nick Brunelli.

Is David Plummer going to whup Ryan Lochte and co.  in the 100 back or am I just dreaming that?

Dominik Meichtry- by far, the best Swiss swimmer at the entire meet.

Swim-Off Hype: Foreshadowing The Future?

So a lot of the buzz on-deck here at Charlotte has been centered around the swim-off between Jones and Schneider. We won't get into the details. You know what happened. You know the stakes. You know the dilly, yo.

Fact is, that swim-off generated more excitement than I've seen in a long time. Of course, there was a World Championship roster on the line. Which is a big deal. However, a lot of the excitement centered just on the fact on the hype of it.

Think about it: How many of you stop whatever you're doing whenever a swim-off happens during a meet? Or you'll see the words, "swim-off required" in the results posting, and say to yourself, "Ohhhh, I can't miss that."

One interesting tweet from @Speed_Endurance mentioned that we should do these types of swim-offs more often. Specifically, at the Olympics. I got into a conversation with a few people about this during lunch today. Of course, the Olympic structure (eight swimmers per final) will never change. We can speculate all we want about the potential excitement generated that an "Olympic playoff" would create, but it ain't happening.

But there's no reason that we couldn't have a playoff championship structure (similar to the JAX50) each and every year. Swimming needs to have that "annual event" that's in the same location, same time of year, same name, same format. You could say that the national championships serve that purpose -- but do they really? I lose track how many "national championships" there are in the course of the year (short course, long course, YMCA, junior) not to mention that sometimes the biggest names don't necessary fully rest for these meets.

Swimming needs a Masters. Or a Kentucky Derby. Or a Wimbledon. Something that happens every year, circled on the calendar, that generates the same buzz and excitement and tradition.

We need an "every year" event bigger than the swimmers themselves.

1.) Dallas Stadium.

2.) Playoff structure. Elimination. Head-to-head races.

3.) Cash prize. Swimmers always need money. Money is exciting.

4.) A pair of literal "Golden Goggles" to the winner. Or something catchy -- like the Masters' green jacket.

5.) No corporate name, like the "CitiBank Swim-Off." Remember, you want a name to build tradition. Something that will exist in 100 years from now -- think: Rose Bowl, Kentucky Derby, etc..

6.) NOT during summer. Because you'd want to do this around the Olympic schedule. You'd want to hold it every year and get big names involved, no matter if it was an Olympic year.

7.) Something not dependent on the names involved. I cannot stress this enough. Wimbledon survives because it's Wimbledon -- and yes, tennis is also at the Olympic level. If you put all your marketing eggs into one basket (swimmer) and that swimmer decides to retire, or fails to show up -- what then? Instead of creating a smorgasbord of meets (since with swimming, it's tough to reach peak performance every other month) why not center the focus on one meet, each year -- and market the hell out of it? After 10 years, it becomes tradition.

8.) Name it after me.

9.) No lane lines. Seriously. Just once I'd love to see a meet with no lane lines. You incorporate the strategy of open water, the toughness of water polo, and the speed of fast pool swimming.

10.) Make it a festival. Every aquatic event, fundraiser, Hall of Fame ceremony, do it in one weekend. A celebration of swimming -- like the NBA All-Star weekend is. Instead of a "slam dunk" contest, you could have the swim-off playoff. Instead of the 3-point contest, you could have a 50m underwater race. Make it an aquatic celebration, with many exciting things going on, including interactive zones for fans to mingle with athletes -- and I think we could reach this "swim-off hype" year after year.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Jones Wins! (And Other Thoughts on Charlotte Ultraswim)

Sometimes, swimming seems extremely predictable. Michael Phelps always wins, Aaron Peirsol always wins, Team USA always the 4x100 Free Relay. Then Phelps all of a sudden isn't even the best swimmer on his own national team. Peirsol loses to multiple countrymen. Team Australia pulls the big upset and all of a sudden Michael Klim is playing an air guitar. The exciting moments are when something completely goes against that conventional wisdom, and its happened in spades this past year of swimming.

Now that its over, the Cullen Jones/Josh Schneider swim off seemed very unpredictable. Except beforehand everyone I talked to had decided that Schneider was better. It was clear why- Schneider was the young guy on the rise. Jones has seemingly leveled off over the last few years. The narrative makes sense- Schneider was just coming into his own and Jones was on his way out. Or was he?

The swim off is also a simple reminder of the utter objectivity of swimming. Having just watched my beloved Boston Celtics get booted from the playoffs by the Miami Heat, I will now be subjected to endless stories about how Lebron has finally arrived and Kevin Garnett is done. But the whole thing is muddled by five players being on the court at the same time. If a few plays go the other way then maybe Boston is still the title favorite. In swimming, there is no doubt who is better right at this moment- Cullen Jones.

Two more quick hit thoughts as I get frustrated by poorly updated live results:

-Is anything less exciting than watching Michael Phelps loaf his way through prelim 200 freestyles on the first day of these meets?  I feel like every time I check results he's in 7th or 8th in this race, he practically has the prelim 200 free with the least possible effort down to an art.

- Rebecca Soni vs Jessica Hardy in the 100 breast will be the race of the first night. I love watching races like this where its back half vs front half. Sure, back half usually wins but not always. See Crocker vs Phelps, 100 fly, 2005. I feel like last summer Hardy got psyched out when Soni was right with her at the first 50- here's hoping she gets a leg up enough here to make it a fun race to watch.

Check back for more thoughts and inane commentary as the weekend progresses.

Gutter Talk: Jones vs. Schneider Swim-Off



"I heard there was a lot of trash talking in practice.  It almost makes me feel like swimming is a legitimate sport."  Kobe B- Sports Fan.

"I am just glad they didn't tie again."  David M.- Swim Coach

"I heard Schneider kicked the crap out of Jones in the parking lot.  Does that mean he gets his spot back?"  Brad P.- Boxing Promoter

"I am surprised that those results were allowed to stand.  We all know how racist Omega Timing is after that Phelps/Cavic incident in Beijing."  Travis B- Taxi Driver

"I just lost a lot of money.  Man, I suck at picking winners."  David R.- Self-Proclaimed 'King of the Swim Geeks'

Hite Hired to Lead Wisconsin Program to Termination

 The Screaming Viking!-- May 10, 2011

MADISON, Wisconsin.   University of Wisconsin  Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez announced Monday that Whitney L. Hite will be the coach to lead Badgers Swimming into it’s final years.

Hite joins the Badgers after spending the last two seasons as an Assistant Coach under Arizona’s Frank Busch.  Before that he was in Seattle where he served as the University of Washington men's and women's head coach from 2006-09 and the team was cut at the peak of their success. During that time, Hite led the Husky women to a best-ever 12th place finish in 2008, and their men cracked into the top 16, which was their highest finish since the Earl Ellis era of the 1970‘s.  

“It is my great honor and pleasure to be announcing Whitney Hite to be the next and final head swimming coach of the University of Wisconsin.” said Alvarez.  “We  were especially impressed with the way he helped to build the program at Washington in spite of their limitations.  They really proved that without a 50 meter facility and even without divers a program can have national level success.  We hope that when we follow the current trend of cutting swimming programs, Coach Hite will have built something that Alumni can be proud of.  All we hope for is to go out in a blaze of glory when the team is finally cut due to Title IX, the financial crisis, or whatever other excuse we can come up with to trim off the sports that don’t bring in any money.  In this day and age, finding a coach who can help you to terminate a program on a positive note is a quality we look for in candidates for all of the sports nobody cares about."

Alvarez continued, "The benefits for the University of Washington were immeasurable and cutting both the men's and women's programs there certainly contributed to Mark Emmert's rise to the position of CEO of the NCAA.  If those teams hadn't been doing so well at the time, UW might have had to reconsider the timing of their cuts to make a bigger impact and send the right message to the lowly non-revenue sports.  Remember guys, the reality is that we are gonna cut all of you some day.  You might only have a short time represent your school to the best of your ability before we take away the sports to which you have committed your young lives.”

“I am thrilled and honored to take the helm of the Wisconsin program,” Hite said.  “This is one of the best athletic departments in the country and I look forward to building a program everyone can really get behind.  When the program is cut a few years from now, I hope that we get a heartfelt look back in the media as we did with the Washington Huskies.  It always feels good to have angry former Olympians out there applauding your efforts and trying to drum up futile support to save the sport from extinction.  That‘s when you know you did a really great job.  The passion of the swimming community was really displayed and it made the cuts that much more of a wonderful experience for the athletes on the team to cap off that final season.  I can't imagine going out in any better way and I wish only for Wisconsin swimming to have an experience as fulfilling as that.”

A Denver, Colo., native, Hite graduated with a B.S. in sports management from the University of Texas in the spring of 1997. He earned his master's degree in education from Georgia in 2001. Whitney and his wife, Helen, were married this past September.

Greatest Swim Offs That Never Happened

In light of today's gargantuan swim-off between Cullen Jones and Josh Schneider at the Charlotte Grand Prix, today we'll be looking at epic swim-offs than never happened. There are no rules. (It's like asking who's hotter: Meg Ryan, or Jack Nicholson c.1974?) And if you complain about the logistics of this exercise by pointing out "swim times are swim times, idiot" then you're the same person who ruins Time Travel movies by pointing out plot holes and space time continuum flaws.

Gus' Pick: '09 Michael Phelps vs. '05 Ian Crocker, 100m butterfly. The reasons are simple. Phelps' only "blemish" (if you can call it a blemish (Jesus I'm picky)) during his 2008 Beijing streak-week was his non-world-record-breaking swim in the 100m butterfly. Crocker's 2005 100m butterfly lasted through Phelps' magical 8 Gold medal run, and for that reason, I'd love to see these two suit up and battle out the 100m fly. No lengthy event programs. No full-body suits. Because when you analyze it, '05 Crocker was the only person to beat Phelps at the 2008 Olympics. He just did it 3 years earlier. Prediction: Crocker flies out to an early lead, and he nips Phelps at the finish... only because '05 Crocker knows to put his head down at the finish. 

DeSantis' Pick: Tom Jager vs Matt Biondi: Oh you mean we already saw that literally dozens of times? My bad. Anthony Ervin vs Gary Hall Jr: You might say this literally should have happened. In 2000 Ervin and Hall tied for gold in the 50 free. In the aftermath, there was a lot of "Oh good for Team USA, we're friends, we train together with Mike Bottom, blah blah blah". I don't believe it for a second. These guys were pure sprinters - do you think they really enjoyed the tie? I call BS - unfortunately Ervin retired before the next Olympic games and Gary basically laid low until the next Olympic games, so we never got a totally satisfying rematch. Oh and by the way, I think Ervin smokes Hall and completely changes his legacy- no back-to-back 50 titles for Hall, and just the one individual gold that he shared with Ervin.

Viking's Pick:  '88 Evans vs '09 Pellegrini 400m Freestyle:  Janet Evans' 400m free record was broken a few times during the tech era and the record currently stands over four and a half seconds faster than her 4:03.85 from Seoul with Federica Pellegrini’s 3:59.15 from World Champs in Rome ‘09.  Four seconds makes Janet sound like small beans instead of the big deal she really was.  Some of her records didn’t even have anyone knocking on the door until we started wearing suits with arms, legs and plastic.  If I had a time machine and could set up the ultimate swim-off, I would pit Pellegrini vs. Evans with all things equal.  The suit Janet swam in was essentially a practice suit by today’s standards, even after plastic was banned.  I say we would let them play rock, paper, scissors to decide if it was with 2009 suits or the 1988 antique model and they would get up and rock a 400 free.  My guess is that Janet would win, and if they were in shiny suits she would go about a 3:54.  And then she would want to go out with me because I have a time machine and I wear a helmet with horns and that is just awesome.  By the way, this scenario will be a chapter in my upcoming book “A Completely Made-Up History of Competitive Swimming.”  Reserve your copy today by emailing me at swim brief@gmail.com

Gutter Talk: Phelps' Oxygen Tent



"For some reason, the scene where Cheech and Chong were driving their car really slow and got pulled over comes to mind."  Ian C.- Retiree

"Now how many ladies can he fit into one of those at a time?"  Jimmy T.- Entrepreneur

"Will USA Swimming be auctioning off any of his recycled air?"  Gary T.- Phelps Phanatic

"Wait... he's training again?"  Ian T.- Celebrity

Monday, May 9, 2011

Living the Dream: The Swimming Trucker

If they make a movie about the swimming trucker, I think it should be called "Sit, Shift, Stare, Swim."  I dare you to say that five times fast.

On a rough Saturday morning in college I was watching cartoons through the painful eyes of a splitting headache when my roommate Clint walked in and asked “did you know you guys kept me up until past three o’clock last night?”

“Keep it down, dude.  Shhh…  You’re killing me.”  I replied.  “Rough night.  And no, I don’t remember keeping you up.”

“You and Todd were plotting out your plans to drop out and become truckers.  It really seems like you’ve put a lot of thought into it.  You were going on and on about how awesome your new Smokey and the Bandit lifestyle is gonna be.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.  Shut up.”

… I must have reached that point after the bars closed on Friday night where the conversation went beyond small talk and into absurdly deep subconscious hopes and dreams.  I don’t get there very often and it usually takes quite a bit of help from Jim, Jack, Jose and Sam Adams if you know what I mean.  I don’t think I had ever voiced my secret longing to hit the road in a semi.  The reason I never did it?:  I just couldn’t leave the sport.  Especially at that time in my life as I had just started my coaching career for $200 a month with an awesome group of 12 and under Aqua Bears.

I had worked in commercial fishing in SE Alaska.  I had no problem with being away from civilization for weeks at a time with no shower, no healthy conversation and a bed with three walls designed for a person no taller than 4 feet.  I had proven I could stay awake for 12 hour wheel watches with auto-pilot and nothing to look at but the horizon.  I knew I could drive a truck and enjoy it.  My biggest issue with heading out to sea for 8 weeks was the thirty pounds I had to lose in the fall to get back into racing shape.  My body would just fall apart if I went back to a life like that and that is exactly what trucking would have been, only way more sedentary.

So, when I saw Siphiwe Balika being interviewed on MSS last week, I was tremendously impressed.  He has been a trucker for three years.  He is on the road for over 300 days a year.  It didn’t take him long to start gaining the trucker physique and he made the decision to fight it.

I know what you’re thinking.  Sylvester Stallone was a world class arm wrestler in Over the Top and all he did was hook up a pulley in the cab of his truck.  What is so impressive about this guy?

For starters, he swam at Yale and was out of competition for 18 years.  He just turned 40 and won the 50 and 100 free at Masters Nats this spring with a pulled groin.  He bikes, runs, swims open water and at local Y’s, does push ups, sit ups, squats… he basically finds a way to be a fit person even when he is facing obstacles in every direction.  He is also taking his message to other truckers to help them combat the obesity that is essentially an occupational hazard in the industry.  What a bad ass.  He has basically turned his career into a lifelong fitness tour and is making the world a better place by pulling others along for the ride.

“It’s a mindset.  Whether you’re home and you’ve got children, working a 9 to 5 job, you can find time to work out in that situation.  It’s basically just a commitment.  I realized that if I couldn’t find 15 or 20 minutes to keep myself healthy, then what am I really doing?”

Damn… How many of us have nothing standing in the way of fitness but our own minds?  I work at a pool all day and I still can’t get off my lazy butt.  As a coach, I am supposed to be the guy who makes a career out of bragging on my sport being a "lifetime sport."  After hearing this interview, I totally believe in the message.  Anyone can find a way to be a fit person.  Anyone.  This guy is a freakin’ hero.  Keep it up man. This story is truly inspirational.  I am in awe.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Gutter Talk: The Ed Moses/ Ryan Lochte Documentary


"Oh God, I hope there is a slow motion running scene."  David H.- Head Lifeguard

"I heard it was only going to be ten minutes long because youtube is the only company interested in distributing it."  Natalie C.- Professional Dancer

"Can I get a cameo if I agree to not punch anyone in the face?"  Nick D.- Convicted Felon

"If it's not better than Bethenny Ever After, I'm not watching it." Michael G.- Guy who wears swim briefs as underwear almost every day.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Motivational Playlist: "Inspiration Au Gratin"

The Star Child should get at least a little credit for coaching me all the way through age group, high school and college.

Gus reminded us the other day that music can be a major motivator in the life of a swimmer.  I mean, heck, now we have multiple companies selling water-proof mp3 players just so that we can swim our laps without missing a beat.  When I make a motivational play list I typically focus on THE METAL, so Motorhead, Tomahawk, Dio, etc come up pretty often, but once in a while my ipod’s mental problems can stretch all the way to things like the Thompson Twins and Anne Murray.  (Please don't tell anyone who went to Petersburg Middle School from 1986-88.  I have a rep to protect.)

Why am I telling you all this?  Because I want to share a guilty pleasure with you.  There is a little understood sub-genre of metal that I want to help you appreciate when you make your next motivational play list for swim practice.

When you think of the hair bands like Poison, RATT, Motley Crue and Cinderella, the first songs that people remember are the power ballads.  They were the ones that helped the girly-men breakthrough to the mainstream.  That is the stuff I don’t care for too much.  Some of those bands really rocked and put out some awesome party music, but that is not really where I am headed with this either.

When I dig out the hair metal, it is all about the motivational rock anthems.  Skid Row’s “Youth Gone Wild,” Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer,” and stuff like that.  You know what I am talking about.  I am not afraid to admit that I think that type of music has real value, even when it is often too cheesy to bear.  I know it seems silly, but my childhood and adolescence were filled with idols who told me that I could do anything I want and I should never let the man grind me down.  Of course, that message coming from guys in tight leather pants with long hair and make up might not go as far nowadays as it did back in the mid-80’s, but still… that stuff helped to shape my personality.  It is a part of who I am and I did not come to terms with it until years later in adulthood.

To take this a step further, I have to give praise to the man who should be considered the father of the cheesy inspirational rock anthem; the man who was not afraid to add the extra cheese:  Paul Stanley of KISS.

The Phantom of the Park didn't stand a chance with Paul on the job.

You see, I once had a friend who swore up and down to me that Elvis’ greatest years were the bloated, big-time diamond crusted Vegas years because that was when he really had the chance to get weird and hold nothing back.  His shows turned into a massive spectacle that a lot of his old movie fans couldn’t relate to.  I had never even considered the possibility of that being Elvis at his awesomest.  Similarly, I used to think that the 80‘s and early 90’s incarnation of KISS was their weakest, but now I am here to convince you that KISS’ greatest years were between taking off their masks and the years of reunions.

My playlists are always given a name, and my favorite is Inspiration Au Gratin.  It is about 50% glam KISS.  This phase was definitely when they were their most inspirational.  Paul took crap for writing the dumbest songs during this time, but his message was universal and will never die:  “If you want to be a rock star, work really hard and don’t listen to everyone else when they tell you how much you suck.”   I can’t believe that American Idol hasn’t asked Paul to be a judge.  Seriously, his message probably subconsciously inspired half of those delusional losers that fill the stadiums to give it a shot even when all of their friends and family begged them not to.

Go back and listen to these songs and tell me that you are not destined to be a freakin’ rock star.  You will swim all best times with this playlist:

Crazy Nights, Turn on the Night, My Way, Reason to Live, Lick It Up, I Love It Loud, Shout It Out Loud, I'm Alive, Heaven's on Fire, Who Wants To Be Lonely, Radar for Love, Tears Are Falling, Uh! All Night…

And of course, the greatest, most magnanimous, dripping with cheesy goodness, inspirational, stickin’ it to the man rock song of all time:  God Gave Rock and Roll To You.  You will notice in the beginning of the video, even after the broken water main caused the floor to flood and the entire crowd to go home, they kept on rocking…

Kiss - God Gave Rock 'n' Roll To You by inthe80s

“I know sometimes life can get tough, and I know sometimes life can be a drag; but people, we have been given a gift.  We have been given a road… and that road’s name is Rock and Roll!!!”

I dare you.  Create a play list of these songs and work out to them.  Even if you have avoided mid-life crisis KISS up until now, you will not be able to deny their power. You owe it to Paul to give this a chance.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Jessica Hardy and the Complicated World of Supplements

I know that there are mixed opinions out there on Jessica Hardy.  Her doping case has been a roller coaster ride from the beginning.  Some feel that her penalty reduction and now her recent reinstatement of eligibility to swim at the 2012 US Trials and Olympic Games is a slap in the face not only to Tara Kirk who arguably should have filled Hardy’s spot on the ‘08 team, but also to others who were not able to escape their fate after testing positive for a banned substance.  I personally believe that her positive test was due to a tainted supplement as she claimed but I understand if you don't buy it.  USA Swimming warns us that if we take a supplement we assume the risk.  I just feel it is never that simple and that each case needs to be looked at carefully.  There are a lot of people out there who are taking supplements with the assumption that they are safe.  Jessica Hardy had a guarantee from Advocare, but learned later that a guarantee doesn't matter much.

In a single ASCA newsletter I can see all in one glance an article about a doping suspension, a warning about sport energy drinks, and an advertisement for a sports drink that is endorsed by several of the greatest swimmers in US history.  The supplement that Jessica claims was tainted was endorsed by several swimmers, including Larsen Jensen.  Mixed messages anyone?  

The FDA does not regulate supplements the same way they control the ingredients in food. What products can you trust?  Even the stuff on the shelves at Wal-Mart is risky.  Add to it that we live in an age where ten year old kids are downing Red Bull before a race and adults are using Viagra for a competitive advantage.  There are a lot of gray areas in doping.

The drug list can be confusing.  The NCAA has a list of substances we are told to stay away from, but many don't realize that there is also a list of supplements that athletes can take that can not be given to them by their school or coaching staff.  These include anything that contains a “muscle-building component” such as protein above a small amount.  Did you know that Accelerade and Pure Sport, while they are legal, are not in the same category as Gatorade simply because they have additional protein? Pure Sport's entire marketing strategy is based on coaches getting a cut of the sales from their team. To make it even more complicated, some substances such as caffeine are allowed, but only up to a specific threshold.  

Things are even more wacky with Clenbuterol, the substance that Jessica Hardy tested positive, then negative, then positive for at the ‘08 Trials.  Clenbuterol has been found in several supplements in which it is not listed on the label.  There have even been cases recently in which cyclists have been able to prove that they tested positive due to contaminated meat.  It has been shown that up to 20% of meat processed in Mexico is treated with Clenbuterol and might test an athlete positive after a race.  You might have Clenbuterol in your system right now without knowing it. 

Remember the world-class ping-pong player who tested positive for a banned substance? -- well, it turns out that he was eventually exonerated because he was able to prove that tainted meat was the culprit.  I was totally chuckling, picturing a guy with one arm that was totally ‘roided out… but it turns out it was just trace amounts.  How disappointing.

Damn, I thought table tennis had finally hit the big time with it's first drug scandal.

Ross over at The Science of Sport posted recently that Clenbuterol has become so common and so complicated that it should be either removed from the banned substance list or at least be changed to be allowed at certain levels like caffeine, with penalties once that threshold has been passed.  There aren’t really any good ways to know if someone’s Clenbuterol doping was intentional or was caused by something as simple as a cheeseburger or a multi-vitamin.  Is it time to take a closer look at it?  Especially at the international level, unintentional Clenbuterol contamination is a real threat.

I have always felt for Jessica.  It would have been unreasonable to just let her off the hook, but she was facing a penalty that would have stretched over two Olympic cycles if they had followed it through to their original wording.  That would have been ridiculous.  She already missed one big opportunity and many people would have just hung it up after that.  

Jessica, you deserve another shot.  I am excited to see you make the most of it.  Thank you for sticking with it and good luck.