The whole Michael Andrew coverage makes me think about Chas Morton and how much the experience of following swimming has changed. Chas Morton was a legend among swim nerds for my generation. A lot of his mystique came from the fact that aside from his swim times almost no one knew anything beyond his mindblowing times. I mean, this dude went 51.85 in the 100 fly at 12 YEARS OLD IN 1984! Most only knew who he was because his name kept popping up when you scanned through the top 16 age group lists in the back of Swimming World Magazine.
It's funny to think about how the internet age would have covered Chas Morton. But before we get to that, is it even a proper comparison? It probably says far more about Morton than Andrew that Morton's records are just now being broken. Morton's 51.85 remains one of two unbroken 11-12 NAG records, the other being his 1:56.61 in the 200 IM. In 1984 the winning time at the NCAA Championship, the world's fastest short course yards meet, was 47.02 (Pablo Morales, in case you were wondering). The 200 IM was 1:47.92 (Ricardo Prada). In 2012, the 100 fly was a 44.76 and 200 IM was 1:41.92. By that measure, a 12 year old in 2012 would have to be throwing down 49.3 in the 100 fly and 1:50.1 in the 200 IM to be like Morton.
In any case, there are obvious downsides and advantages to the way we follow age group swimming in 2012. While many worry that being covered on a swim site will somehow inflate and crush a NAG star to a greater degree than before, I feel the opposite. While the internet holds the power to hype things beyond what was available in the 1980s, it also hold the power to humble. If Andrew was to actually frequent the same sites that he is frequently mentioned on, he will likely learn that there is a long road from NAG to national and international success. I also think that much of the backlash against age group stars is used to excuse poor talent development in the US. Yes, everyone can look at the NAG list and pick out a bunch of names that didn't pan out in the long run. But the NAG record list has also been home to swimmers like Michael Phelps, Ian Crocker, Aaron Peirsol, Missy Franklin, and well, I could go on but you get the point.