I would feel sorry for Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps — a 23-year-old with ADHD is going to make snap poor judgements — for getting caught in a photo smoking pot out of a bong. But it is hard to muster up a lot of sympathy for someone who has become a multi-millionaire because of his image.
Let’s face it, people don’t love Phelps because he is Aquaman after his record-setting eight gold medal performance in Beijing last year. They pay him sponsorship money for the Olympic ideal, and that sort of went up in smoke with the damaging photo.
“I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment,” Phelps said in a statement. “I’m 23 years old and despite the successes I’ve had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.”
It can’t happen again. Olympic fame is fleeting. There are very few Olympic athletes who have sustained any sort of long-term marketing presence. Mary Lou Retton comes to mind. Let us also remember that Phelps is an international star, and in some parts of the world this won’t have much of an impact. I don’t think the damage is irreparable.
One thing — now we know why Phelps ate 12,000 calories a day.
I will be on The Sports Reporters on ESPN 980 AM on Thursday, Feb. 5, from 5 to 7 p.m.
To learn more about Thom Loverro, go to www.thomloverro.com