From Hall of Fame to Shame

It’s hard not to admire a gifted athlete. Most everyone wishes they could somehow have the fame, success, and respect that comes with being a sports superstar. But, the more famous you are, the harder you fall. One small, seemingly unnoticed mistake can shatter a professional athlete’s reputation. Most recently, two of sports biggest icons have had their names cast into the furnace of public scrutiny: Olympic champion Michael Phelps and baseball superstar Alex Rodriguez. Not many people can claim the title, Greatest Olympian of all Time, or gain the scale of international adulation that 23 year old swimmer Michael Phelps has. However, a recent surfacing of a photo of Phelps smoking a marijuana pipe at a college party has cast a far more negative spotlight on Phelps than of the one he earned in the pools at Beijing. Phelps legitimized the photograph and came out in an apology saying, "I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again." USA swimming expressed disappointment in Phelps actions and slapped Phelps with a three-month suspension from competitive swimming. However, Phelps greatest concerns are the reactions of his numerous sponsors. While most of his contracts have stayed intact, Phelps deal with Kellogg’s cereal will not be renewed (Tony the Tiger doesn’t think drugs are grrreat!). Currently, with the suspension in place, Phelps would seem to have more free time on his hands to maybe go to more parties examine even more "new" objects. As a champion, who after earning eight gold medals, said he wanted to be a role model for the kids, Phelps certainly has a lot work to do in order to re-build that reputation. Many feel Phelps should be given a second chance because actions were simply bad judgments and mistakes made by a kid. However, those people seem to forget that he was also forgiven by the public four years ago for DUI charges for his youth. Phelps made a mistake that many teenagers often experience in their lives. His decision making is in question but his abilities in the pool are not. Mistakes can be forgiven and forgotten but cheating cannot. Two weeks ago Alex Rodriguez (commonly known as A-Rod) was baseball’s greatest star; the man who would save major league baseball from the shame of steroids that had plagued the sport for years. Except A-rod, the savior, was a juicer himself. A Sports Illustrated report revealed that four sources claimed that A-Rod was one of 104 baseball players who tested positive for steroids in a 2003 research program. Rodriguez confirmed the report and deeply apologized, describing his actions as "stupid, naive, and regrettable." Many Rodriguez’s millions of fans have certainly changed the way they see baseball’s greatest player. Being branded with names like A-Fraud and A-Roid, Rodriguez’s legacy will forever be tainted for with his substance abuse. His records in the coming years will undoubtedly be smudged with regret. A-Rod was seen by many to be the man who would surmount the career home run record and erase the bitter legacy of Barry Bonds. Now, that chase may never be acknowledged again. Besides Rodriguez himself, the entire MLB organization has taken a major blow. The sport’s greatest player, its one hope to escape the steroid era, has proven himself to be no more than a cheater. The world of sports these days can be described as less admiration and more denigration. Phelps and Rodriguez are just two examples of seemingly invincible athletes who have had their respectability yanked away. If two of sport’s greatest superstars can be brought down then who is next?