Michael Phelps has it pretty good. After singlemindedly training for the Olympics his entire life, he won, and won and won and won, and hoisted himself alongside the greatest Olympic athletes in history. And now he gets to make money.
The problem with all of this? It’s possible that Phelps is so clueless, there’s nothing really there to market. Or so says SLATE’S Troy Patterson:
Earlier this week, in the immediate wake of Michael Phelps’ gold rush, Today host Matt Lauer sat the swimmer down for a chat. This was a conversation between a newsreader recently named to the International Best-Dressed List and an athlete so single-minded in his pursuit of greatness that he never fails, when wearing anything other than a swimsuit, to look notably awful. All the American media has its eyes on a newborn demigod, and he drapes himself in garments best suited for a quick hop to 7-Eleven.
That Phelps cannot dress himself is part of his gentle charm. He is not your average sloppy 23-year-old. Rather, he seems to have stopped developing, in some respects, at about the age he started training seriously and thus resembles a sloppy 11-year-old superhuman. Not without poise, Phelps has declared events related to his record-breaking string of performances “cool,” “very cool,” “neat,” and “really neat.”
Of course, athletes don’t have to be intelligent or even adults to rake endorsement dollars. They merely have to be successful and popular and maybe semi-good looking. But Phelps’ slight oddness does beg the question — with the cameras constantly on, in the new hot light of celebrity, how will he perform? If his wardrobe choices are any indication, it could be painful to watch.