Michael Phelps Wins Some and Loses Some


“Epic. It goes to show you that not only is this guy the greatest swimmer of all time and the greatest Olympian of all time, he’s maybe the greatest athlete of all time. He’s the greatest racer who ever walked the planet.”-Mark Spitz

The breaking news story directly following the Super Bowl last Sunday centered on the release of an incriminating photo capturing beloved Olympic champion Micheal Phelps smoking cannabis. In my mind, Phelps screwed up. Of course, an element of bad luck had to play a part in this photo leak. He was probably with a bad crowd at the wrong time (It reminded me of a recent story I heard about a guy being dumped by his girlfriend after after she found him cheating in a picture posted on Facebook. He should’ve been more aware of his tagged photos). Nonetheless, I was worried Phelps would be another star that is praised one moment by the media and simply chewed out the next.

The issue here is not that he smoked marijuana, but rather that he smoked marijuana as Michael Phelps, mega-athlete and sports hero that he is. The “Olympic swimmer/man-dolphin” won 8 out of his 14 Olympic medals in last year’s games. He has 48 career medals and was titled Sports Illustrated magazine’s Sportsman of the Year in 2008. This is a guy who captivated nearly 40 million American viewers during his final swim in the Olympics. Everyone watched and admired him as he made history winning the most Olympic medals ever. Phelps was the American idol.

“Michael Phelps” is a self-made brand name. I remember really marveling at the fact that his agent claimed the swimmer had the potential to make over $100 million in celebrity endorsements. It’s true-Nike, Speedo, PowerBar, Subway, Kellog’s, and Mazda have all tapped into his celebrity, and Phelps has made over $5 million in celebrity endorsements. As soon as I saw his defiled picture, though, I knew his contracts would fall through quicker than the time he set for the Olympic record in the 100 m butterfly event (51:25 s, in case you were wondering). I was interested in seeing how the companies would respond.

Here’s the scoop so far. Kellog’s announced that they are not renewing Phelps’ sponsorship deal, which ends in late February. Yesterday, though, Subway publicly admitted they will keep Phelps on as their endorser. However, his name was quickly removed from SubwayFreshBuzz website listing their top “Fresh Celebrities”, and the release of his new television ad campaign is postponed. The biggest blow yet might have been when USA Swimming suspended him for three months. That must have hurt.

While this story continues to enthrall the media, I am reminded that Phelps, the alleged man-dolphin, is essentially human. I’m hoping that he’ll do what he does best and swim. Then maybe he’ll eliminate the doubt his critics may harbor of him. I’m also hoping that the new Subway ad campaign will outperform the current lousy “5 Dollar Foot Long” commercial. At the very least, Phelps can still count on getting his 10,000 calories a day with free foot-long Italian BMT’s.


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