Did I take that photo of Michael Phelps? Obviously not. In fact I didn't even watch the Olympics when he won an astounding 8 gold medals. I will admit to a serious love for swimming however, having grown up as a fish-child on the Gulf Coast.
What I have seen in the last week though is the photo of Michael Phelps taking a hit off a bong, assumedly smoking pot (although there are other things you can smoke in a bong. How do I know this? I don't remember.) And nearly everyday since I've seen Michael's name all over the press: should he lose his endorsements, should he apologize to millions of young swim fans, should he be prosecuted, how long should he be sent to jail for this?????
What finally caught my eye was a media poll with (to them) surprising results: in the 50-70 age group, the most common result was "Hey I had a bong like that!" and in the 18-24 age group "Hey where can I get a bong like that?". It was the folks in between, the 26-late 40's range that were incensed that he dare smoke pot, and immediately concerned about his image as a role model. Or should I say - it was the group that came of age during the late Nixon and Reagan years.This struck me because as a junior in college, I specifically remember the fall that the very first wave of conservative kids arrived, and it was like night and day. We went from workshirts and buffalo sandels to topsiders and Izod shirts overnight.
But I digress.
Michael Phelps overall has won 16 Olympic gold medals. He was awarded World Swimmer of the Year in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008, as well as American Swimmer of the Year in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Phelps has won a total of 48 career medals thus far: 40 gold, 6 silvers and 2 bronze. This includes all of the Championships in which he has competed: The Olympics, the World Championships, and the Pan Pacific Championships.
Apparently pot did not turn Michael into a slacker.
I guess my point is: when did people stop minding their own business? And dear readers, please spare me the emails saying "it's illegal, he's setting a bad example, it's irresponsible".
Yes, pot is illegal. And whether or not it should be is yet another blog topic. But unless he's behind the wheel of a car, I don't care. If anyone has earned the right to puff away and relax, it's Michael Phelps. Setting a bad example? Please - the only role model your kid needs is you. Everyone else is icing on the cake, and not accountable to you for what your kids might think. (Try this: "Yes,Timmy, Michael did smoke pot, and it was probably a poor decision, but it was his decision. Everyone gets to make their own decisions as to what's best for them.)
We are living in a scary society that highlights and publicizes every single thing we do, exploding our various shortcomings into monumental horrors, and preserving them for posterity via the internet. More than anything, I feel sorry for the generation growing up now. They have no chance to push the envelope, to find their own boundaries, to make poor choices or less-than-wonderful decisions (the kind that provide the best learning opportunities of all) without having it follow them for the rest of their lives.
I can assure you that I remember many, many people who never would have survived this kind of scrutiny, and yet managed to grow up and become perfectly respectable members of society. Some people develop drug problems, and millions of others don't. The next time you're talking to your favorite professional who might fall in that 50-70 age range, subtract 35 years from their age, and marvel at how they turned out okay. My generation, my parent's generation, the "Greatest" generation, the Flappers in the Twenties,and all the way further back, people have been allowed to make mistakes, learn from them, and proceed along the "growing up " process.
Michael, I feel your pain.