'Twas ever thus, of course, in the world of sport, but I've been struck by how this particular theme—pervasive as it's been—has been ignored by most of the media, at least as an overall trend.
Some of it's the natural evolution as one great gets older and is replaced by a younger rising star, like the dynamic between Usain Bolt—the reigning Olympic fastest man on the planet—and his Jamaican teammate Yohan Blake, who already beat him in the national trials. A couple track-and-field old-timers came out this week saying Blake was going to win—evidently in the interest of clearing a space on the bench alongside themselves for Bolt.
Then Ryan Lochte beat Michael Phelps in the 400-meter individual medley swimming event—in which Phelps didn't even make the medal stand, making manifest training partner Tyler Clary's prediction that Phelps was "asking to get beat" in preparing for the London Games. Lochte and Phelps are actually said to be chummy, but Lochte is clearly hungrier at this point, although he did lose the lead in anchoring a relay to let the U.S. team fall to silver, which still benefited Phelps in his bid to become the most decorated Olympian of all time.
All that's nothing compared to the spitting match between U.S. women's soccer goalie Hope Solo and former Olympic heroine and current commentator Brandi Chastain, who most infamously stripped off her shirt following her World Cup-winning penalty kick in 1999.
Solo took offense to Chastain's criticism of her teammates on defense—as any goalie would. And it wasn't anything fresh to the Olympics; the two have been sparring for months.
And so it is that the new athletes keep fighting for their proper space—not just against their immediate competitors, but against the stars of the immediate past. Of course, it helps to keep in mind that one has to bring home the gold to make a convincing case for one's place in history.