Not since Eli Manning stared blankly into the void as his brother won Super Bowl 50 have the people of these United States of America so desperately needed a face to be explained.
But that deep desire re-emerged this week, when Olympic-legend-turned-internet-meme Michael Phelps pulled together a face for the ages, henceforth known as “Angry Michael Phelps Face.” It was formed in the moments before the men’s 200 butterfly semifinal in Rio de Janeiro, as his South African rival, Chad le Clos, danced or boxed or something in the ready room.
Like Manning’s face before him, and Michael Jordan’s before him, Phelps’ was quickly altered, captioned and transformed by the collective unit known as the internet. It was used as a symbol of pain and suffering, of frustration and anger. We knew what we saw when we looked at Angry Michael Phelps Face, but one question remained: What did Angry Michael Phelps see when he stared out from the Face and into the dark world in front of him?
“I just had music going on in my head. I had thoughts going on in my head, spitting water a little bit all over the place, so I was in my own zone,” he told “The Today Show” on Tuesday. “I was not intentionally mean mugging him or giving him a dirty look.”