A few thoughts about Michael Phelps

Originally Published: November 11, 2009
By Patrick Hruby and Toby Mergler | Page 2

Michael PhelpsFredrick Sandberg/AFP/Getty ImagesWhat slowed down Michael Phelps in Sweden … the old-style swimsuit or drag from the goatee?

At a World Cup short-course swim meet in Stockholm on Tuesday, Michael Phelps failed to qualify for the finals in two events and barely advanced to a third. He initially blamed his results on an older, lower-tech swimsuit, but after the rest of the press left for the night -- read: we made it up -- Phelps offered additional excuses:

• All the Doritos and Gummi Bears caught in my beard created a lot of drag

• The other swimmers were clearly half-man, half-machine … all cop

• I was hoping if I wore a two-piece, the host country would invite me to join their bikini team

• I thought it was throwback night

• If Batman didn't wear his suit, he'd fail too

• I'm on the record as repeatedly saying that anything that is good enough for 1904 Olympic freestyle champion Zoltan Halmay is good enough for me

• I wanted to swim naked, but those notoriously uptight Swedes wouldn't allow it

• To be fair, I didn't think anyone would possibly still be paying attention to me

• When you are all about your image and you get a chance to rock this look, you take it

Beyond offering the opportunity to make Zoltan Halmay and "RoboCop" movie poster tagline references, Phelps' old-school swimsuit meltdown made us wonder: When it comes to otherworldly deeds, just how important are duds?

Below, a wholly unscientific survey:

Superman: Without suit, has all the same powers yet is condemned to career as professional newspaper journalist, a half-step removed from CD-ROM drive manufacturer. Verdict: Absolutely essential

Batman: Suit deflects both bullets and sprayed champagne. Perfect for a night out at an establishment frequented by pro athletes. Verdict: Moderately important. Bruce Wayne still gets dates

He-Man: Hey, that grappling hook has to go somewhere. Verdict: Essential, and seemingly immune to physical laws governing mass and volume

Spider-Man: In or out of suit, eventual sequel is gonna break $300 million, even if it's lamer and more bloated than the last one. Verdict: As superfluous as the Sandman

Iron Man: Far more important than the guy inside. Verdict: Essential

Catwoman: Far less important than the gal inside. Verdict: Unnecessary, and in the case of Halle Berry, unwanted

James Bond: Smooth, suave tuxedo perfect for high-stakes card games, secret lunar shuttle launches, distracting attention from Daniel Craig's scraggly, jagged face. Verdict: Crucial

Mike Singletary: Boxers enough to inspire decent play out of Alex Smith, Shaun Hill. Now that is uni power. Verdict: Essential, more breathable than briefs

Imperial Stormtrooper: Narrow eye slits, inflexible shoulder joints appear to interfere with ability to shoot in any direction remotely approaching straight. Verdict: Mostly harmful, unless used as a disguise

Bill Belichick: Without hoodie, identity as Sith Lord exposed to both the general public and the guys making tapes for Ernie Adams. Verdict: Important until final overthrow of league office, Galactic Senate

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Undefeated, untied and unbowed in throwback Creamsicle duds. All that, and a roguish wink for the ladies! Verdict: The Bucs should sleep in their jerseys, like Jason Terry