Perhaps no news has rocked the cereal world like the invention of Wheaties Fuel, which was introduced in July 2009 to much hype. For the first time ever, it appeared that General Mills had harnessed the power and skill of world-class athletes, and put that power into a breakfast cereal. Emerging from the ominous shadow of the goofy animated Honey Nut Cheerios bee, the grain gurus of Minneapolis appeared to have finally pulled off the breakfast cereal scientific breakthrough for which a Gatorade-chugging, creatine-powdering population yearned.
But here's where the breakfast cereal clusters became a clusterf**k. Less than one year since its launch, it's become clear that the five prominent athletes General Mills used as its pitchmen and guinea pigs have all experienced setbacks in their respective athletic careers. Peyton Manning, Kevin Garnett, Albert Pujols, Bryan Clay, and Hunter Kemper are all probably wishing they had nothing to do with Wheaties Fuel whatsoever.
Because, as is obvious for anyone accustomed to flake cereals, people who are used to corn flakes will struggle when they suddenly have to ingest massive clusters of raisins, cranberries and almonds. This new Wheaties Fuel cereal doesn't go down as easy. And the Wheaties Fuel Curse may indeed be a tough thing to swallow.
Let's go to the athletes, individually:
Peyton Manning, NFL quarterback
The cerebral Hall of Fame quarterback who rallied his Colts team to a 14-0 record earlier this season found himself choking away an opportunity at a second Super Bowl ring, when he delivered a gift pass to cornerback Tracy Porter late in the fourth quarter of Super Bowl XLIV, icing the championship game for the underdog New Orleans Saints. Now, not only has "the Manning legacy stalled", but there's a furor over Manning Lebron-like failure to shake opposing quarterback Drew Brees' hand after the game. Athletic failure AND poor sportsmanship from someone previously associated with winning, grace, and humility--could this be the Wheaties Fuel Curse talking?
Kevin Garnett, NBA power forward
Wheaties Fuel's ability to foster poor sportsmanship continues with Boston Celtic Kevin Garnett, who was recently voted by 173 fellow players to be the NBA's biggest trash-talker (in a landslide vote). Garnett's team is a mess this season, with little hope for repair in the second half, and Garnett's decline in PPG and RPG since last season is definitely a contributing factor to the team's decline. Is Wheaties Fuel to blame for the death spiral?
Albert Pujols, MLB first baseman
Like Garnett, Pujols has tasted championship glory in prior years. But that was before Wheaties Fuel. In 2009, Pujols helped lead his Cardinals to the post-season, winning the NL Central and earning MVP honors, only to see his team swept out of the postseason in three short games. His 3-for-10, 0 XBH, 1 RBI showing might be appropriate for players of other cereal caliber, but certainly not of an All-Star player (and certainly not when Pujols' teammates are taking fly balls off their [honey] nuts). Oh, and the thread of Wheaties Fuel-fueled surly attitudes continues with Pujols (check out the last picture of a frustrated, argumentative MVP here). It's starting to sound less like Wheaties Fuel and more like Wheaties Fail, no?
Bryan Clay, decathlete
Clay maintains a pretty snazzy personal website, befitting the reigning Olympic champion in the decathlon. However, the corrosive impact of Wheaties Fuel is evident throughout the pages of the "World's Greatest Athlete's" website. On his "athletic bio" (apparently, the biography itself is energetic and active, rather than a "athlete bio," which would reference Clay himself), it cites his "phenominal [sic] speed and power." It also quotes Clay about how he "masters the throwing events," and then in the very next sentence cites Clay's four best events, three of which require no throwing in the first place. Meanwhile, the New York Times even ran an article following Beijing entitled "For Decathlete, Gold Medal Has Little Payoff", describing the lack of notoriety Clay has received, juxtaposed against former decathletes like Bruce Kardashian Jenner and current Olympians Michael Phelps. Conspiracy theorists have also noted that Clay has not won any more Olympic gold medals since his association with Wheaties Fuel was introduced. Coincidence?
Hunter Kemper, triathlete
Of all five athletes, Kemper is the one least sullied by the Wheaties Fuel Curse, as the athlete appears to be smiling in most photos (wouldn't you be smiling too, if you had to compete in seven fewer competitions than Clay?). But behind that sunny disposition lies a mountain of frustrated potential: Kemper has participated in three Olympiads, placing 17th, 9th, and 7th in 2000, 2004, and 2008 respectively. While his time improved in Beijing, at this rate of relative trajectory, he won't hit the medal podium until 2016, when he would be forty years old. With his own site mentioning perseverance as one of his main personal themes of 2008, he's an easy athlete for which to root--but seeing Kemper's truncated 2009 race schedule, caused by injuries in the second half of the year (as well as reflected in his disappointing 46th place finish in his most recent race, the Hy-Vee Triathlon of Des Moines), it's hard not to correlate his 2009 decline with the negative impact of Wheaties Fuel, which is clearly weighing Kemper down.
Five athletes, in five different sports. All five men, brought together to promote and use a single breakfast cereal, and all five men suffering a strange rash of disappointing injuries, declines in athletic performance, a dearth of championship titles, and bouts of poor sportsmanship. Is this the type of breakfast fare that ordinary mortals should eat to begin each morning? We at Sons of Steve Garvey hope you consider the facts and make your own cereal choices, and not become bowled over by the hype.
Beware the Wheaties Fuel Curse.
Earlier: The Dane Cook Dodgers Curse (TM)