Cullen Jones is only one athlete, with one Olympic gold medal.
Swimming's Greatest Asset?
Sure, my title is bold in the aftermath of Michael Phelps' 8 for 8 performance in Beijing. I'm sticking by it, though. In the long run, when swimming history is written in a social context, I know Cullen Jones will be king.
If you considered the face of American today, you can't deny all of the colors and shades. We're a multi-racial nation, and we're better because of it. When different cultures flow together, we all benefit from a creative energy. I believe is it empowering, even life-sustaining. In our on-going story it is what makes us great.
Cullen Jones is aware of his role in this narrative, and he is graciously following in the footsteps of other great athletes who have broken the color barrier. While Cullen is only one color, he recognizes the rainbow as well. Cullen encourages African Americans to swim, but his message encompasses everyone.
If swimming, as a sport, is ever going to reflect the face of American society, it will be because of Cullen's testimonial, and his cross-country promotion of diversity. Cullen Jones is the key. Without him, our story remains the same: near-absence from urban and minority communities.
Sometimes images are more telling! Checkout this kid who is so emotionally connected:
Just because Cullen is a man of color does not mean he qualifies for this role as king. It takes a unique mix of intelligence, charisma, compassion and patience. Fortunately, for us, Cullen has it all. He's a true star. I know. I've been privy to a few conversations, and I've heard about all the companies and media networks clamoring for a piece of his image.
Checkout this commercial and you'll see why:
Additionally, Cullen has sex appeal. I've heard it from many different women, often described the same way: "Cullen's not arrogant. He's sexy and attractive, in a completely approachable way."
Check Cullen out in this video making a connection with a Candace Brooke Silva, a big blogger who follows swimming (among many other things on her show OH YES THEY DID):
Here's Cullen connecting with Heather Lettieri (one of my favorite Facebook friends):
Is Cullen swimming's greatest asset?
It's a tough question when you consider it. Granted, Michael Phelps is the reason we've drawn in fans beyond our niche community, but if we want to sign up kids who have traditionally gravitated to basketball, football and baseball, I believe Cullen, in the long run, will have the greatest impact.