Topical Tuesday: Michael Phelps

I’m thinking about starting a new feature on this blog that nobody reads called, as you can tell from the post title, “Topical Tuesday”. Here I’ll discuss current events and my sometimes benign, usually inflammatory, takes on what everyone else seems to be talking about. If nothing else, it will give me fodder to use at least one day a week while I’m going through the very boring (at least to everyone else) process of editing my novel.

Now, a picture has surfaced of Micheal Phelps, Olympic darling, taking bong hits at a party on the University of South Carolina in November. The world is responding by calling Phelps a poor role model and corporations are responding by possibly withdrawing endorsement deals that promise to make the medal-heavy swimmer a very wealthy man.

What the hell is wrong with us?

Okay, I do understand that marijuana is illegal. I accept that Phelps, knowing he is under a microscope in this world of camera phones and tabloid press, made a very poor decision in electing to light up. I’m fine with all of that. The problem I have is with our reaction and, more specifically, our expectations.

Why do we continue to consider athletes role models when, time and time again, they have proved themselves unworthy of the role? You can list countless examples–Barry Bonds, Charles Barkley, Plaxico Burress, etc. etc. etc.–that have shown us, beyond any doubt, that athletes are, if anything, more fallible and prone to poor decision making than the rest of us are. Are we so enamored by anything that appears on television that we have to engage in a sick form of hero worship or are we just jealous of their fame and compelled by this jealousy to knock them off the pedestals that we placed them upon?

Why do we so often turn to celebrities and athletes when we look for role models for our children when there are so many better ones readily available? We continue to throw our proverbial panties on the stage of these unworthy demigods and overlook the parents and teachers, the ministers and coaches, the soldiers and volunteers that, while human, embody the very characteristics we look for in role models. We do not see through our televisions; we are blinded by them.

So Michael Phelps smoked some pot? There are a good number of 23-year old guys out there who have done that, some who have gone on to fulfilling lives of service and moral behavior. In reality, it is not the disappointment in this Olympic champion that has disappointed us, it is disappointment in ourselves, that we have allowed ourselves to once again place our trust where no trust was warranted, that bothers us. We have failed again to place our reverence with someone worthy of it and that, more than any other reason, is why Michael Phelps is in such trouble.

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About Lee Smiley

I write things. Maybe you'll read them.
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