Michael Phelps won 8 gold medals. That's pretty impressive. So he's a national celebrity now, which is cool. And he'll come back to the States to a hero's welcome, which he deserves. But, honestly, 2 months from now will it really matter? Sure, he'll always be able to do a television commericial or two and years from now he'll show up at the Olympics and everyone will be impressed (Hello, Mary Lou...) but, let's face it, it's swimming.
I'm not saying anything bad about swimming. Everyone can swim but not at a competitive level. It's a very demanding sport. But it's not going to translate into everyone deciding to swim. Phelps can't impact the sport of swimming like Lance Armstrong impacted cycling or Tiger Woods impacted golf. Everyone can buy a bicycle and go for a ride and everyone can buy some clubs and give it a go but not everyone can, or will, hop in a pool. What I'm saying is that the long-term effects of Phelps' amazing feats will pale in comparison to those of Woods and Armstrong.
Does it really matter? No. Phelps will still be a millionaire many times over and will always have loving fans. But don't pretend like Phelps is going to make millions of swimmers out of the American populace. Just isn't going to happen. Just isn't the right sport.