The Breakdown: Bong rips and corn flakes: the breakfast of champs |

The Breakdown: Bong rips and corn flakes: the breakfast of champs

summit daily news
Summit County, Co Colorado

There were some big ripples made in the world of aquatics this past week, as the world’s best swimmer, Michael Phelps, was pictured practicing some breathing techniques into a “marijuana pipe.”

The photo ” featured prominently on the cover of a British tabloid ” incriminated the Olympic champion in the public’s eye, enraging fans, agitating sponsors and making small children cry.

OK, so that was a huge exaggeration, but people were generally disappointed to see the golden boy of the Beijing games doing a Willie Nelson impression.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Phelps lost his endorsement deal with Kellogg and was suspended by USA Swimming for three months.

While some may argue that Phelps’ newly revealed hobby would actually help his cause with a cereal company, because, after all, a lot of cereal is bought by people with those similar interests, I actually understand the company severing ties with the 23-year-old.

As I argued with someone yesterday, endorsements aren’t selling an athlete’s achievements in their sport, they’re selling their image.

The fact that Phelps’ goofy mug won’t be on my Corn Flakes box anymore is the perfect example of that.

If you look at all the athletes you’d see in commercials or on billboards, all of them have a few things in common. They have to be decent looking, charismatic, unique and, most importantly, squeaky clean.

Rarely is there ever an athlete with legal troubles in commercials.

LeBron James and Peyton Manning are in nearly every 30-second spot during games, while people like Kobe Bryant and Terrel Owens have simple shoe deals.

The difference? Bryant ” with his sexual assault case ” and Owens ” with his extra long list of transgressions ” aren’t considered model citizens.

And that’s why Phelps, despite performing at inhuman levels, was dropped by Kellogg.

Granted, it was the only sponsor that decided to cut ties with him, but it was also the only one that’s contract was about to expire.

Now, people can argue that pro athletes are allowed a few mistakes now and then, and that what Phelps did wasn’t that bad in the grand scheme of things.

For the most part I agree.

I see no reason that Phelps’ legacy should be tarnished, or that this goes down as anything but a young person making a mistake.

But at the same time, being a professional athlete, and earning millions of dollars in endorsements, is a privilege that very few have. When someone becomes a Michael Phelps or a LeBron James, they should be held to a bit higher standard. As cliche as it sounds, those type of athletes aren’t just competing for themselves anymore, they’re competing for their fans and the people that look up to them.

Once in a while, reputations can be rebuilt, endorsements restored. Sometimes, people forgive and forget.

But I wouldn’t hold my breath, even if, in his picture, Phelps is.

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