Feb 2, 2009
"I Don't Smoke the Weed if it ain't Purple or Blue"
The second that I came across the photo showing Olympic superstar Michael Phelps taking a bong hit I knew that we were in for an extended round of passing judgment, excessive moralizing, and a level of overall hypocrisy that would threaten to make me nauseous. There are few things in the world more annoying than a scandal involving an athlete and their indulgence of certain substances. Considering Phelps immense level of success, both as a swimmer and now as an advertising force, I knew that this event would prompt a national conversation that would once again be misguided and uninformed. I dread moments like this. Not because I think it's a shame that a grown man decided to blaze it up, but because of the inevitable responses that would come from various sectors of this square-ass nation that we continue to live in.
In a country as economically and culturally shell shocked as our own is right now, there are much more important things going on than the sight of a 23 year old smoking weed. Yet because many still subscribe to this silly notion of athletes as role models, the response to such an event is about as predictable as Terrell Owens criticizing the quarterback for not throwing enough footballs in his direction.
What Sir Charles said back in the day still holds true, athletes should not be thought of as role models. His recent arrest in Arizona on drunk driving charges suggests that Sir Charles still believes strongly in what he said many years ago.
Athletes are trained to be superior in their respective sports. One doesn't get to be as good as Phelps just by watching swimming competitions on television. Phelps has been groomed to be the man in the pool since he was a boy. And as Malcolm Gladwell points out in his latest sensation Outliers, all the hours that superstars like Phelps put into pursuing their craft as a youth has a direct connection to their uber success as adults. Phelps is the greatest swimmer of all time and one of the top Olympians ever. Yet for all those hours spent in the pool, there were other aspects of Phelps' life that went unattended. There's only so many hours in a day. Phelps is an incredible swimmer, but those hours in the pool don't automatically translate into him knowing how to be a "model citizen."
Phelps is evidently a young man who likes to get his party on. Perhaps all that discipline that he has exhibited while in training stops when it comes to his personal life? The man might just need a release. He's not a robot. So he exhibits a lack of discipline out of the pool that rivals his dedication in the pool. His strength is perhaps his weakness. This all says to me that he is human, not a poor role model.
When did we start investing athletes with all these superhuman characteristics anyway? I enjoy watching great athletes because they are great at what they do. If I want to be impressed by someone for the moral standard that they set, I'll go and read about Gandhi.
The act of smoking of weed continues to rile the feathers of many uninformed people in our society. When are we going to get off this prohibition era reefer madness attitude that surfaces every time the subject of marijuana comes up? The man was photographed smoking a bong, not sticking a "hairon" spike in his arm. This country is so backwards on this weed issue that it ain't even funny.
I could do without Phelps fake apology too; as if he is going to stop gettin' his swerve on now! The words of apology are to appease the advertisers and their customers; a pure PR move. Yet such a move has become part of the political theater that always accompanies an event like this. It's empty rhetoric, that's all.
Dude got popped for drunk driving before and now this. He brags about listening to Jeezy before going out to dominate his sport. This all tells me that he likes to indulge. I ain't mad. When his out of the pool activities start to impact his swimming then I can hear the arguments about keeping priorities straight, but beyond that, as long as you ain't hurting nobody, do you. As Method Man once so famously said, "roll that shit, lite that shit, smoke it!"
When will all the hypocrisy stop? When will people be more incensed about truly detrimental activities like the "alleged" war crimes of the previous presidential administration? When will we stop holding human beings to unrealistic standards of behavior? When we will stop expecting athletes and other public figures to be saints? When we will drop all these ancient attitudes about weed?
I guess the answer to all these questions is when the society stops with all the hyperbole and gets hip to the real deal. I don't have any illusions that this is going to happen any time soon though, if ever.
Meanwhile, I wonder if he was burning kush in that bong? Considering that he was in South Carolina, I doubt it. Smoking a bong full of stress, now that's a crime!