Mark Spitz: Bitter Much?

Okay, I just read the most ridiculous article about Mark Spitz. Apparently he’s a little upset he wasn’t invited to Beijing so he could witness swimmer Michael Phelps break his record (Spitz won 7 gold medals in 1972 Munich). Apparently Spitz is mad that he doesn’t get to hang one of Phelps’ medals around his neck. Apparently he’s dissatisfied that he didn’t get any cameratime during the 2004 games except for when he attended a couple volleyball matches. He’s mad he didn’t get a personal invitation to Beijing.

Geez, Mark, maybe it’s cuz you’re an ass.

Seriously, dude.

The quote that made me roll my eyes at this diva’s opinion:

“I am going to sit there and watch Michael Phelps break my record anonymously? That’s almost demeaning to me. It is not almost—it is.” (italics mine)

And then there was this quote:

“I won seven events. If they had the 50m freestyle back then, which they do now, I probably would have won that too,” he said.

So let me get this straight.

1) He wants a personal invite.
2) He wants to be on camera as much as possible during the swim meets so people can see him being “supportive.”
3) He wants to personally present Phelps with one of the gold medals.
4) He wants the world to know that he could have won eight medals too, if he had the chance.

Nothing says “humility” more than an attitude like that, Mr. Mark “I’m only a little bit self-entitled, arrogant, egotistical and bitter” Spitz.

No wonder he didn’t get an invite this time around. If he was even fractionally this bitchy in 2004 *I* wouldn’t invite him to the party either.

The kicker?

“He’s almost identical to me. He’s a world-record holder in all these events, so he is dominating the events just like I did,” Spitz said. “He reminds me of myself.”

Oh Lord, I hope not. Michael Phelps – please do NOT follow in this guy’s footsteps. Carve your own. Be grateful for how much America loves you right now. But in 36 years when another upstart sets out to win nine medals, don’t start to behave like Whitney or Mariah. Just wish the guy (or girl) luck and be grateful for the time you DID have in our collective conscience. Our love is strong, but our memories are short. So enjoy it now, Mr. Phelps, and then move on. But don’t be a Sputz – don’t be like Spitz.

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For more of my commentary on Mark Spitz and his interview on The Today Show, please see this post

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33 comments

  1. What a looooooooooozer! “Boo-firkin’-hoo”. All past pictures, and current one’s are still right; HE HAS A FAT HEAD. Get over it Markie; you are now a has-been.

  2. “Somewhere along the line, I’m in his breath and in his thoughts and that’s only positive, that I had that kind of influence,” Spitz says. “Why not pass the baton? It’s about time.”

    That doesn’t sound bitter to me.

  3. I’m really embarrassed for anyone who doesn’t recognize that he is absolutely correct about this.

    He may come off as arrogant or whatever you want to call it, but Michael Phelps wouldn’t be getting the press that he’s getting if it weren’t for THIS MAN’S athletic accomplishment – while representing OUR country, I might add. If all these other Olympic greats have been invited and are attending this year’s games, Mark Spitz should absolutely be there as well. This is a seven-time Gold medal winner who did so at a time when they weren’t dealing with steroids and HGH and wearing $15,000 wetsuits for aerodynamics.

    I would be willing to bet that if you asked Michael Phelps if he would accept a gold medal from Mr. Spitz, he would jump at the chance.

    Try thinking for yourself, people, instead of following the tone of some unknown blogger. Mark Spitz is an American Olympic legend and deserves respect.

  4. Amy, you can bash the writer of the original article all you want, but I made sure to only post and comment on his DIRECT QUOTES. And while I agree that he accomplished a lot in his sport(obviously, since his record has stood the test of time for this many years), it’s just a SPORT (don’t get me started on my opinion about having ATHLETES for heroes in today’s world). So in that regard his opinion of himself is a little bit higher than necessary. And I don’t believe Phelps has tested positive for steroids or HGH, so I’d be careful about throwing those accusations around without anything to back it up.

  5. Jaynee…think about it, and put yourself in his shoes (ok, no shoes in the pool)…you are the Olympic champion and in 36 years NOBODY has broken your record or has even come close. Now, chances are that Michael Phelps will do it this Olympiad. Mark Spitz is alive and well, clearly able to take the trip to China, and sounds sufficiently gracious about passing the baton. Would you not feel slighted? You absolutely would, and especially since other former athletes have been invited.

    From what I have read, Mark Spitz he has challenged the IOC over the years on several issues and I believe they decided this was just punishment of sorts, but I don’t know this for certain.

  6. Niki – my issue is the sense of entitlement. If he wants to go to the Olympics – GO! No one is STOPPING him! They haven’t FORBID him from going. He probably can good tickets with relative ease, right? So go already! Just because they didn’t call you doesn’t mean you need to play the martyr and spout off like a petulant, spoiled child who got socks for Christmas instead of a Wii.

    If he truly wanted to show that Olympian spirit, he would just go and provide his own private support. You are right that Phelps would probably be VERY honored to have Spitz in the audience as he tries to break the record, and I’m sure he’d be thrilled to receive a gold medal from the very man who served as his inspiration growing up. BUT, Spitz shows a supreme lack of humility by speaking so egregiously instead of manning up and just going to Beijing WITHOUT all the fanfare.

  7. I have to say that I didn’t take what Mr. Spitz says at all the way some are taking it. He doesn’t sound arrogant to me, and I myself wondered why in the world (if he was still alive) wasn’t he a commentator at the swimming events? I think he is most certainly the most qualified and entertaining to provide commentary during the swimming portion. The media is doing us a disservice by not supplying us with Mr. Spitz during this time. Just my two cents…

  8. Danielcrew – now THAT would have been a great idea to have him as a commentator in addition to Rowdy Gaines. And given the controversy of his statements, I wouldn’t be surprised to find Mark Spitz sitting next to Bob Costas at the end of this week to provide rebuttal on the backlash from his comments.

  9. Bjorn Borg was at Wimbledon this year in acticipation of a Federer win (which didn’t happen). The tennis folks handled it much more gracefully than this has been handled. Really – how can it by anything BUT a snub that the OIC or even NBC didn’t invite Spitz to Beijing? Spitz has every right to sound off, even if he comes across as bitter. His achievement in ’72 in the midst of the Cold War had vast significance for the U.S. Regarding Spitz’ statements, Dizzy Dean once said “It ain’t braggin’ if you can back it up”. Does anyone doubt that Spitz could have won an 8th medal had there been the additional event? There has to be more to this story than meets the eye.

  10. I would ditto the comments of Daniel and Amy. He might have chosen different words, and may have come across as lacking humility, BUT, he won 7 Gold medals, which was a supreme personal and national honor that we all celebrated at the time. He deserves our honor and respect still for his accomplishments. Because he chose to stay out of the limelight all these years, except for coming to the last summer games (I seem to recall seeing him interviewed briefly) perhaps it was thought he wouldn’t be interested in attending and taking part in the hoopla. It would be awesome to see him present the medal to Michael Phelps if/when he wins his eighth.

  11. To the “gentleman” who wrote the article:
    You sound a little bitter yourself, what is the matter? Did Mrs. Spitz ignore your advances?

  12. Graygcs – the article was written by a woman, and to my mind she did nothing but report the story and supported it with direct quotes from Mark Spitz, himself.

  13. Pathetic. Bob Costas fills Olympic airtime with a woman who interviews the tallest old man in China but the producers can’t find a spot for Mark Spitz? I applaud Mark Spitz’ reaction – unlike 99% of the population he isn’t afraid to tell it like it is and express his real opinion.

  14. Buzz – I’m all for expressing opinions, but I think everyone should be tactful and gracious about it. Untamed reactions such as Spitz’s won’t garner him any apologetic invites to Beijing.

  15. Why *wasn’t* he invited? I don’t get it. There are some raging egomaniacs in all sports; in this case, the achievement merits being remembered and honored always — at least as far as sports events go. It’s not like the media to overlook an opportunity to dredge up the past, and in this case the 7-medal win was legendary. I think I’d be bitter about that being overlooked. . .

  16. Lorraine – one of the other commenters, Niki, said that Spitz has been vocal in some disagreements with the IOC in the past. So it’s possible that they didn’t invite him because he’s proven himself ornery and combative.

    And while I agree that athletic achievements merit being remembered and honored, I think athletes fall into the trap of believing their own hype and thus have a sense of entitlement (and it’s not just athletes but ANY celebrity). Based on his quotes in the article, I believe Spitz has fallen into that trap.

    So while I can still appreciate his accomplishments and acknowledge that yes, he probably WOULD have won 8 medals had the option been open to him, I still think that if it’s so important to him to be there, he should just go. I predict that if he shows up they’ll let him in, and let him participate. And you know NBC would then clamor to have him in the studio given the controversy.

  17. Spitz hasn’t fallen into any trap…he’s been that way since he was a young 20-something at Indiana State.

    All of America (at least, those of us old enough to have been watching) view Mark Spitz as some kind of American trademark. The Best. Unbeatable. Everything we want AMERICA to represent. No one cares what mark Spitz the man is like. We didn’t then, most of us don’t now. But many of us seem shocked to find out the man is an egomaniac.

    Surprise!

    Mark Spitz has been viewed through rose-colored glasses by Americans for so long now, we’ve forgotten that NONE OF US KNOW HIM, other than what the media built him up to be all those years ago.

    The REAL Mark Spitz has always been an egomaniac. Every reporter whose ever spoken off the record with team mates (whether Olympic or college) have confirmed that a lot of eye-rolling is done (either consciously or subconsciously) when speaking of the REAL Mark Spitz.

    Was he a fantastic swimmer? Absolutely. A great Olympic athlete. Obviously. But, was (is) he a humble man who rarely places himself first? Now you know. Don’t be so shocked.

    It’s easy to be seen as the boy-next-door-who-done-good, when ALL of America says so. Try to find ONE article in the 1970’s that DIDN’T get all gooey when speaking about Mark Spitz. They don’t exist.

    We are doing the same thing to Michael Phelps now…

    Twenty years from now, when Phelps throws a public fit, everyone will say, “but…but…you were our golden boy…” Problem is, no one THEN will be able to say that they knew the REAL Michael Phelps, either.

  18. just a thought for amy – what swimmer spends 15K on a suit designed for AEROdynamics? I mean, they are swimmers right? Shouldn’t they have suits designed for HYDROdynamics?

    Andywho,

    just splitting a hair.

  19. Mark Spitz is the best swimmer thrue the time.
    Mark Spitz retired when he was 22 years old!
    Michael Phelps IS 23 years old.
    If Michael Phelps had retired when he was 22, then he would only have 6 olympic gold-medals.
    Besides they did not have the same type of training then like they have now.
    Mark Spitz will always be the best ATHLETE.
    And for everybody who loves phelps did you know that he has ADHD and ADHD makes people HYPERACTIVE.
    Phelps is one of the best swimmers thrue time but NOT the best.

  20. Besides everytime Mark Spitz makes comments about Phelps are they good.
    He says that he hopes that he will break his record and even if he doesnt tell the truth then he has all the right in the world to be angry just look att Björn Borg when that other tennis player beat björn borgs record he wasnt smiling.

    And now a question to you who complain on Mark Spitz, would you be smiling if somebody takes away your record.

  21. Swedish – what does having ADHD have to do with Phelps’ ability to swim? Having ADHD doesn’t provide him with special gifts anymore than being born lefthanded gives someone a leg up in baseball. If you can swim, you can swim period. If you can pitch lefthanded, you can pitch period.

    Mark Spitz retired at 22 because he wanted to. Spitz wasn’t told to retire – he could have easily kept on swimming and attempted to perform in the 1976 Olympics to win more medals. But he chose not to. Phelps is still swimming at 23 because he wants to. He won a lot of medals in 2004 but opted to come back again because he loves swimming and wanted to give it another shot.

    Certain atheletes will ALWAYS be talked about – long after their records are broken. There are plenty of athletes who made notable contributions to their sports that were later surpassed, but they are still spoken about. So it’s not like Spitz will suddenly be obsolete if Phelps breaks the record. He’ll always be “the first.”

    You proved that in your own comment. You remember Bjorn Borg’s name – but not the dude that took the record next.

  22. Swedish – Nobody is denigrating Spitz’s abilities as a swimmer, nor his achievements as an Olympic athlete. However, the facts are on the table, Mark Spitz is an ass. His former teammates confirm it, his former coaches confirm it, every time he opens his mouth to whine, he confirms it. In fact, I believe that is what this complete thread has been about…

    And Jaynee is correct. Spitz walked away from the sport at the top of his game. No one asked him to quit. But he was too busy living the high life (and much has been documented about this) to bother to train for the 76 Olympics (where he might have doubled his gold medal count).

    Also, if you go back to the 68 Olympics, Spitz told every reporter within hearing distance that it was a “forgone conclusion” that he would walk way with “at least 6 gold medals.” He won nothing. Your hero-worship is misplaced in light of the basic historical FACTS, and Spitz’s abominable recent remarks.

    Although his name escapes me now, there was another U.S. swimmer who was actually FAVORED over Spitz in several categories, but collapsed a lung at the last moment, leaving Spitz with NO REAL challengers. This guy ACTUALLY got into the water for the first race anyway, and was AHEAD of Spitz when his stitches broke and blood appeared in the water.

    Please get your facts in order BEFORE posting your hero-worship about a man you know NOTHING of, other than the media hype (and there was plenty of it in 1976.)

  23. Swedish Swimmer wrote:

    “Mark Spitz will always be the best ATHLETE.”

    As opposed to whom?

    1. Babe Ruth (the first player to hit 60 home runs in one season [1927]; , a record which stood for 34 years; lifetime total of 714 home runs at his retirement in 1935 was a record for 39 years)?

    2. Michael Jordan, who scored 40 or more points in six games, and 50 or more in one game; 6-time NBA Champion; 6-time Finals MVP?

    3. Pele, rated by many as the greatest footballer of all time. He was given the title of Athlete of the Century by the International Olympic Committee?

    4. Jenny Thompson? (one of the most decorated Olympians in history, winning twelve medals, including eight gold medals)

    5. Olga Korbut? (first perfect 10 score)

    6. Larissa Latynina? (18 Medals, 9 Gold)

    7. Carl Lewis? (9 Golds)

    8. Paavo Nurmi? (12 Medals, 9 Gold)

    9. Matt Biondi? (11 Medals, 8 Gold)

    10. Bjørn Dæhlie? (8 golds)

    11. Vera Caslavska? (11 Medals, 7 Gold)

    12. Kato Sawao? (12 Medals, 8 Gold)

    13. Takashi Ono? (13 Medals, 5 Gold)

    14. Edoardo Mangiarotti? (13 Medals, 6 Gold)

    15. Boris Shakhlin? (13 Medals, 7 Gold)

    16. Nikolay Andrianov? (15 Medals, 7 Gold)

    17. Sonja Henie (won more Olympic and World titles than any other ladies figure skater.)

    Help me out here, Sweden. How does Spitz rate as the “best ATHLETE?”

  24. Nikki wrote: “Somewhere along the line, I’m in his breath and in his thoughts and that’s only positive, that I had that kind of influence,” Spitz says. “Why not pass the baton? It’s about time.” That doesn’t sound bitter to me.

    You are absolutely correct. The terminology is narcissistic, not bitter.

  25. Amy wrote: “but Michael Phelps wouldn’t be getting the press that he’s getting if it weren’t for THIS MAN’S athletic accomplishment – while representing OUR country, I might add.”

    Actually, he would.

    Any American athlete who has the ability and the chance to take home 8 gold medals in his or her particular Olympic sport (re: Jenny Thompson…the press was ALL OVER her) would absolutely be the focus of intense media scrutinies.

    The fact that by obtaining one more than a previous athlete only puts a human face to the situation (think Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth’s record, etc.)

    As the elder statesman, it is absolutely up to Spitz to be humble and self-effacing in the face of this, as Gordie “Mr. Hockey” Howe, often referred to as the greatest player to lace on ice skates, was when Wayne Gretzky smashed all his records.

    “Records were made to be broken, and this youngster is the very best I’ve seen play in my 50 years in hockey. I’m honored.”

    THAT is the way to do it.

  26. Amy further states, “I would be willing to bet that if you asked Michael Phelps if he would accept a gold medal from Mr. Spitz, he would jump at the chance.”

    Actually, they HAVE asked him this. His response was “I’d rather be Michael Phelps than the “next” Mark Spitz. I try not to think about it. I just take every competition as it comes. I don’t think about Mark Spitz at all.”

    THAT statement was in all the papers, and speaks volumes…

    Then Amy said, “Try thinking for yourself, people, instead of following the tone of some unknown blogger. Mark Spitz is an American Olympic legend and deserves respect.”

    And I would have given it to him freely and with my sincere thanks. However, the more I learn of the “man”, the more I think we’ve been sold a bill of goods and that Mark Spitz is an arrogant, self-serving prima donna, and NOT the “boy next door” we were led to believe in the 70’s. Every time he opens his mouth, he digs himself deeper into a hole.

    He should be happy, both for this kid AND for America, but instead, his concern is that he feels he isn’t getting enough credit. So much for the wise elder statesman; hello petulant child.

  27. “From what I have read, Mark Spitz he has challenged the IOC over the years on several issues and I believe they decided this was just punishment of sorts, but I don’t know this for certain.”

    Niki, you’re making assumptions on hearsay.

  28. Daniel wrote: “I have to say that I didn’t take what Mr. Spitz says at all the way some are taking it. He doesn’t sound arrogant to me, and I myself wondered why in the world (if he was still alive) wasn’t he a commentator at the swimming events? I think he is most certainly the most qualified and entertaining to provide commentary during the swimming portion. The media is doing us a disservice by not supplying us with Mr. Spitz during this time. Just my two cents…”

    Daniel, according to his biography, Mr. Spitz is “not comfortable” in front of the cameras. Back in the 70’s, his handlers tried to get him spots on television commercials and movie cameos, but it just didn’t work. Perhaps this is the reason, perhaps not, however I thought I’d throw that out there.

  29. Thank you to all who commented. I would leave the thread open for more discussion, but on the other comment thread someone insisted in being rude, and so I have opted to shut down the comment thread on both Spitz posts.

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