Golden Goggles Moments


By Mike Gustafson//Correspondent

In the minutes and hours after the final envelope was unsealed and the last Golden Goggle Award was handed out, a new kind of buzz was in the air. While many expected these Golden Goggles to be a swansong affair for our sport’s ultimate champion, Michael Phelps, fans also pointed towards the future. They pointed towards Katie Ledecky, Missy Franklin, and Nathan Adrian. And they pointed and said, “Onwards to Rio!”

The torch has been officially passed. Missy Franklin appropriately closed out the Golden Goggle Awards show with a humble and gracious speech – per usual – and thanked everyone for making this past year unforgettable. As she accepted her Female Athlete of the Year Award, wearing a beautiful gown custom-made by her cousin, Franklin also accepted the passing of the Phelpsian Torch. After winning five Olympic medals and qualifying in seven events, Missy Franklin will lead a new generation and a new era of USA Swimming. She has the poise. She has the grace. At 17-years-old, she not only leads off our medley relays.

She now leads Team USA.

Besides “The New Missy Franklin Era” moment, here are some other sights and sounds I noticed throughout the evening, besides just the Passing-of-the-Rio-Torch.

Ryan Lochte’s Fashion Did Not Disappoint.
You never know what to expect from Lochte. White suit? Studded lapels? More alien green shoes? This year, Ryan Lochte showed up in a look I can only describe as “Cat Woman-Esque.” Tight black leather (?) pants. Sleek and modern, though I’m sure most female fans were hoping for the pink Speedo. (And were probably equally disappointed to see Lochte show up with a beautiful blonde date on his arm.) Lochte didn’t win any awards, but he wins the award for most rock-star dressed, yet again.

Donald Trump and Gary Hall Jr. On The Stage At The Same Time.
Speaking of rock stars, so this happened. Two people you wouldn’t really expect to ever be together -- Donald Trump and Gary Hall Jr. – shared the same stage at the same time. Words cannot express the amount of joy seeing these two present one award together – and I’m not even sure why. Perhaps because I just want a reality show of the two of them on a road trip through rural Oklahoma rodeo shows or something. They meshed quite nicely on stage, even though I kept imagining Donald Trump turning to Michael Phelps and saying, “You’re fired!” and Phelps responding from the crowd, “Uh, no, I retired.” The Donald was the biggest surprise name to attend, and please, more of this duo in the future.

Mike Bloomberg Has Some Comedic Chops.
As the Mayor of New York City took the stage standing next to – or I should say under – the much taller Dara Torres, he spoke into the microphone and said, “I don’t know much about swimming.” At first, you could feel the tension of thousands of swim fans shouting at the live-stream, “THEN WHY ARE YOU PRESENTING AN AWARD?” But then Bloomberg turned into a statistical swimming wizard – part of the shtick – and showed up Torres in her swimming knowledge, reciting swim times, factoids, etc.. It was a funny moment, well-written and well-delivered. Kudos to Mr. Bloomberg for a job well done.

Swimming Has Our Own “Power Couple” - Annie Chandler and Matt Grevers.
They won millions of hearts this year with the viral YouTube proposal. They will continue to do so in the future, no matter what endeavors they conquer next. Swimming’s Power Couple and soon-to-be-married Annie Chandler and Matt Grevers looked very cute together – and very tall together – walking the red carpet arm-in-arm. Which makes me wonder: If these two have kids, what are the Vegas odds that we’ll be seeing a pretty good swimmer in the future? Or, perhaps, a 7’4” tall dominant volleyball player?

Swimmers Can Actually Give Great Speeches.
Missy Franklin, Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, and especially Dana Vollmer… they all gave great, humble, heartfelt speeches. Part of me wishes we could hear swimmers speak more genuinely more often. Too many times we are stuck with post-race interviews conducted seconds after a 200 butterfly where a swimmer can’t even open his eyes, let alone sound halfway articulate. The greatest thrill of these Golden Goggles was hearing these athletes speak, alone, without the media, saying exactly what they want to say. I’d love to see them have this opportunity more often, because swimmers are some of the most articulate athletes in the sports arena. Maybe more platforms to speak genuinely would attract more people to their personalities and the sport of swimming. Speaking of swimmer’s giving great speeches…

Nathan Adrian Thanked His Mom…
… and 50,000 female swim fans fell even more in love with him. Well done, sir.

“Call Me Maybe” = In My Head For Another Three Days.
Thanks. After showing the “Call Me Maybe” video again at the Golden Goggles, the song – and Brendan Hansen’s awesome underwater dancing moves – won’t leave my head. Still, a great nod to one of the best moments of the summer. Now, what lip sync song is in store for next summer, Team USA? Maybe Kathleen Hersey and Co. should be hired as permanent Viral Video Manager of the National Team.

The Smiley Club Strikes Again.
The women’s 4x100 medley relay won “Relay of the Year” but also won “most smileyest.” They call themselves “The Smiley Club” and fans saw why. Missy Franklin, Rebecca Soni, Dana Vollmer, and Allison Schmitt were all teeth and grins on the stage. It’s great to see athletes who are genuinely kind and wonderful people. Keep smiling, Smiley Club!

Michael Phelps Comeback?
Michael Phelps accepted what will be his final Golden Goggle Award Monday night. But he also said that he has been swimming a little bit, keeping in shape, splashing around. Imagine that, Michael Phelps showing up to your lap swimming. He comes up to you, wearing a cap with “PHELPS” written on it: “Can we split the lane?” How weird would that be? But be still your hearts, swim fans. He was just talking about swimming just to swim and stay in-shape. Not, you know, 7-hours-a-day triple practices in Colorado Springs.

The Golden Goggles Is Even Better With Social Media.
A few years ago, when Twitter didn’t really exist, the Golden Goggles were not nearly as fun for swim fans. They were more insular and exclusive, and the sights and sounds were limited to those who forked over thousands in cash for dinner table seats. Now, at least some swim fans can get in on the action, via real time updates on Twitter and Facebook. My social media feeds were genuinely as busy as during an Olympic final. Fans were chatting, sharing pictures, commenting along. This made me realize that swimming can exist even without live-TV broadcast mega-events. Swimming’s die-hard fan base will only grow with the growth of social media, and I was pleased most athletes and personalities let the rest of the swimming community experience the biggest “dry” night of swimming. Shameless plug: Be sure to follow the social media gurus at USA Swimming on Twitter and Facebook. They’re the best in the business.

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