Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Leave Michael Phelps Alone

In a recent article entitled, “Michael Phelps Betrays Himself and His Admirers,” David Ramsey wrote that Phelps “fills us with shame.”

Because he took a bong hit.

And Ramsey isn’t the only one up in arms. Elisabeth Hasselbeck of “The View” and countless others have been making a stink about Phelps and his degeneracy, expressing their disappointment in his failure to act as a proper role model, even going so far as to demand that he serve time for his crime.

I’m sorry. Maybe I missed all the news coverage on this one, but did Michael Phelps kill a prostitute and burn an American flag after he finished smoking that bong hit?

I’ve never been a huge Michael Phelps groupie. I mean, much respect for all those medals and everything, but as soon as someone starts to have a following, that’s kind of where they lose me. Naturally, though, now that the world’s turned its back on him, I’ve obviously come to love him.

Sure, smoking pot is juvenile and silly and whatever. But you want to know what else is juvenile and silly and whatever? 23-year-old dudes. And you know what? Even though he has weird super strength and some kind of magical hidden retractable fins and is more famous than most of us will ever be, at the end of the day, Michael Phelps is just a 23-year-old dude. So I don’t get the expectation that he’d do anything other than act like a 23-year-old dude.

I understand that what he did was illegal. It’s just hard for me to take seriously that people are so up in arms about this when we live in a culture that turns a blind eye to the excessive consumption of alcohol by its young people. And legal or not, alcohol is the most toxic drug there is.


Too much alcohol can literally kill people. Too much pot makes people eat too much and laugh at dumb crap. Again, detox from alcohol can literally kill people. Detox from pot makes people get jobs and haircuts.

But what about his DUI in 2004, people will ask. Isn’t this a pattern? Well, a DUI is a heinous offense. I will admit that. I have no tolerance for that kind of idiocy. But it’s not impossible that the only pattern it was a part of was the pattern that dictates that dumb teenage boys will act like dumb teenage boys. Phelps lives his life under a microscope, so we just get to bear witness to every dumb thing he does.

But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that these behaviors are indicative of some kind of issue with substance abuse. It seems a little weird that our reaction would be to demand his head on platter rather than to express our concern. If the guy’s got a problem, he deserves our sympathy and support—not our censure.

In any event, I think it’s a little early to make that kind of assessment. For now, all we’ve got on our hands is the case of a 23-year-old kid who smoked weed at a party. And if that 23-year-old kid isn’t an Olympic medalist, this story sure as hell ain’t making headlines.

Oh, and speaking of which, State of South Carolina, I’m sorry but what? Criminal charges? For photos of someone taking a bong hit? I mean, really South Carolina. You already have John Edwards and those accents working against you. Is the goal to just eliminate any doubt from our minds that you are not a state to be taken seriously?

Well, don’t worry. I’m sold.


Josh Borenstein said...

Great post. Right on the money.

Anonymous said...