I know at this point it’s old news, but I promised you all a blog entry on the Michael Phelps situation. Since I’m about to admit lying to you all in my next blog entry after this, I figured I ought to do one thing right.
So…before I get started I want to make it perfectly clear that nothing…and I mean absolutely nothing…I say in this entry makes what Michael Phelps did ok. It does not explain it or provide a viable excuse that gets him off the hook for inhaling/consuming an illegal substance. What he did was wrong and he, quite frankly, should be glad that no one will help the police in corroborating their evidence against him. That said…
What we have here is an epidemic. I grew up in the 80s during the Nancy Reagan “Just Say No” Campaign. I know the difference between an illegal drug, a lethal drug, and a legal drug. What I also know is that for a long time a large part of the population of this world has believed that marijuana should not be an illegal drug. I am not a follower of this line of thinking. As long as it’s illegal, it really doesn’t matter if you think it shouldn’t be…it doesn’t change it’s illegality. Unfortunately, a large part of the group that believes marijuana shouldn’t be illegal is of a certain age group in which Michael Phelps’s age fits. I don’t mean to pin this on the youth of the world, but over time I’ve realized that a younger generation than me sees these things as simply ok, which is not right. Pick up any season of the HBO series Entourage and you’ll see how nonchalant marijuana use has become. In fact, it’s evident to me that the use of marijuana has become as prevalent as the use of your average nicotine cigarette. So, as we continue to move forward, we can choose to chastise Michael Phelps for his use of the drug, or we can attempt to find a way to educate people that while they might believe marijuana shouldn’t be illegal, that does not make it legal…not to mention educating them on why marijuana was deemed illegal in the first place.
My second concern on this matter is the parents of the kids who look up to Michael Phelps. It concerns me whenever I see someone allowing their child to “worship” a sports figure or celebrity in every aspect of their life. Certainly publc figures have a huge responsibility to the public, once they become a public figure, to conduct themselves in a manner in which they want to be viewed. So, yes Michael Phelps presented himself as someone who was dedicated, if not obsessive, about his sport. What he did not present himself as was a straight-laced saint. The thing is that Michael Phelps is human. Regardless of what his career choice is, he’s still human. And I defy you to go look yourself in the mirror and say to yourself that you have never ever in your life made a mistake that you wouldn’t want publicized to the entire world. We need to get passed this whole idea that because he’s Michael Phelps he should be held to a higher standard. He should be held to the same standard as any other human being. And that is that we make mistakes and when we make drastic mistakes, we are punished for them (theoretically).
It is absolutely OK for parents to tell their children that Michael Phelps is an example of how to be incredibly passionate about the sport or talent that you have because he is that example. What he does outside the pool are his choices to make just like any child who looks up to him has the right to make his/her choices outside the pool. Those choices do not have to be emulated, but at the same time, the way he represents the sport of swimming…in competition and practice and the like…is exactly how I would want any competitive swimmer to represent it.
Bottom line…there’s no easy answer, but I think the best place to start is education and communication. Education about illegal drugs and communication about what types of emulation are ok and what types are not. Perhaps then we might be on the road to recovery.