Ex-Olympians ask, ‘What now?’ after Letterman, Leno stop calling

It has been only a week since Morgan Freeman’s last Visa commercial. The Olympics from London ended last Sunday, but it seems longer than that.

There was no beach volleyball on TV Sunday, no water polo. True, there were four Little League games, and Little League is sort of like the Olympics in that it lasts about two weeks and there are other countries to cheer against. But I’m not a big fan of watching 11- and 12-year-olds damage their arms by throwing curveballs, even if some of these 11- and 12-year-olds are built like Roger Clemens.

Here’s all you need you to know: Carlos Marmol is trending on Yahoo at the moment. Carlos Marmol. He’s 1-2 with a 4.23 ERA and a WHIP of 1.70. For the Cubs.

What happened to the javelin thrower from Paraguay?

Last week, there was a flurry of post-Olympics activity generated by the talk-show producers who jockeyed for position like Angel Cordero Jr. and Corey Nakatani to land the top Olympians.

Letterman had decathlon champion Ashton Eaton on Monday, the women gymnasts on Tuesday, swimmer Dana Vollmer on Wednesday and Erik Kynard, the high jumper, on Thursday. Leno had gym titan Gabby Douglas, wrestler Jordan Burroughs, swimmers Missy Franklin and Ryan Lochte and sprinter Allyson Felix. Hope Solo sat down with Jimmy Fallon to talk women’s soccer and angry tweets.

And it wouldn’t come as a big surprise if “Sabado Gigante” had the Paraguayan javelin thrower, because every time I do the Banzai Pipeline with the remote control there are fabulous Spanish-speaking babes on Univision, with most sporting midriff tops or Argentina soccer jerseys.

Oh, yeah, and General Mills has announced that Michael Phelps and Misty May-Treanor will grace the new Wheaties boxes.

But then what? What happens to the Olympians after the last Visa commercial fades from memory, after new sign-ups at local gymnastics academies slow to a trickle, after we have long stopped asking about the rules to team handball?

For those who can put off real life for four more years, no problem. Take a couple of weeks off, then get back in the gym or the pool or wherever one practices the modern pentathlon. Go for the gold in Rio in 2016. And if you get the gold, or even look like you might get it, then you, too, might be in a Visa commercial or be sitting next to Letterman when it’s over – unless you are somebody like Lolo Jones. In that case, good luck, pally.

You also can become a coach, I suppose. Or make a Subway commercial. I would not, however, try to follow in Mitch Gaylord’s footsteps and become an actor, because there probably won’t be an “American Anthem II.”

But for the Olympians who choose not to coach, who cannot put off real life any longer – or do not become announcers – the transition can be difficult.

It’s hard to feed a family over the long haul on the stipend one receives for doing the Mashed Potato on “Dancing with the Stars,” even if you are paired with one of the Houghs. It can be dangerous, too, or did you forget when May-Treanor ruptured her Achilles in Season 7?

And even if they do put your picture on a cereal box and you become an announcer, there are no guarantees.

Bruce Jenner didn’t achieve financial security until he got a facelift and married a Kardashian. But there are more American gold-medal winners than Kardashians. At least at last count.

“I don’t want to call it depression, but that’s what it felt like,” said Lori Harrigan-Mack, the former softball pitcher from UNLV who retired from the Olympics (and international competition) in 2004 with three gold medals in her safety deposit box. “It’s done and there you are.”

There you are. Just you. No teammates with which to hang, no coaching staff to tell you what to eat or what time to go to bed or how to pitch to the Japanese clean-up hitter. Nobody to type your resume, nobody to schedule an interview.

“For 16 years, I lived out of a suitcase,” Harrigan-Mack, 41, said. “Then I had to put my clothes back in the drawer and see how you live. It was a hard adjustment, very rough for me. In a way, it’s like postpartum depression. I’m just now learning how to adjust to it.”

It has taken eight years. And Harrigan-Mack had a career lined up from the day she announced she had thrown her last riseball. She’s the head of security at Mandarin Oriental, a five-star hotel on the Strip. Not all gold medalists are that fortunate.

And what about the Olympians who finish 11th in the kayak sprint, or don’t throw the javelin for Paraguay?

I read where Ryan Lochte was partying at Tao at Venetian on Thursday and hosted some sort of shindig at Palazzo on Saturday night. But Lochte wasn’t trending on Yahoo on Sunday morning. His spot had been taken by Carlos Marmol.  

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.

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