Michael Phelps: what have we learned?

>> Sunday, February 1, 2009

Many of you are probably aware of the recent photo released by a British tabloid paper “News of the World” showing newly minted swimming legend Michael Phelps inhaling a substance from a marijuana pipe (commonly referred to as a “bong”).    Phelps has since admitted to inhaling marijuana, delivering the following statement:

"I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment," Phelps said in the statement released by one of his agents. "I'm 23 years old and despite the successes I've had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again.” 

While this apology left me very disappointed, I found even more disappointing the results of a poll from an article on Fox Sports.  The poll asked the question, “How do you feel about Michael Phelps smoking pot?”   The two answers to choose from were:

1) “I’m dismayed.  I can’t believe he would do that!”

2) “He’s 23 years old - can we all relax?”

As I am writing this, 149, 802 people have taken the poll.  Roughly 8 out of 10 (79% to 21% last I checked, down from 81% to 19% 20 earlier this afternoon) chose number 2 as their response.

I find the results to be very sad. Why?  Because it doesn’t seem to be bothering many people that Phelps did it…because of his youth.  The young part makes it all okay because we expect young people to behave in such a fashion; if it were someone older then we wouldn’t be so accepting of the situation. 

It’s bad enough that Phelps pulled the, “I’m young-so-give-me-a-break,” angle in his apology, but to have his sentiment verified by thousands upon thousands of people is much, much worse.  I already knew our culture has cripplingly low expectations for our young people, but every painful reminder (like this poll and Phelps’ apology) just makes it more painfully sad to me.  It only gets worse when you consider that many of the 20% percent disappointed in Phelps actions only expected more because he makes a bunch of money, not that he is an adult and should act like it regardless of his monetary worth.  

There are many factors contributing to the conditions of today’s irresponsible, reckless, dependant, free boating, shallow, ADD youth; our culture’s low expectations is one of the most significant reasons.  If there was one thing I could say to Michael Phelps I would say the same thing I say to any other of my peers…I expect better.   I don’t believe we should be respecters of persons in applying the proper standards.   We should expect the same sort of proper behavior from young people coming from low, income single parent homes that we expect from rich kids, athletic phenomena, or an average kid from an average middle income suburb.

I could start really ranting, but I’ll wind down instead.  To answer the question in my blog title, we have learned the myths of adolescence are just as strong today as they have ever been, if not stronger.   We have also learned that Michael Phelps should read the articles linked below, as should you, if you haven’t already. :-)     

The Myth of Adolescence Part 1

The Myth of Adolescence Part 2

Adolescence is Permanent

I don’t want to pile onto Phelps or sound like I am laying our culture’s problems at his feet.   Regardless of his mistake(s) he has achieved great and extraordinarily difficult things.   He has demonstrated dedication in driving towards a goal that I would love to demonstrate.   But, all that was done in pursuit of medals and endorsements.  The true test of every persons character comes when the limelight does not seem to be on them, and people aren’t pushing you forward.   As mentioned above, I don’t expect Phelps, Miley Cyrus, or Vanessa Hudgens to act exceptionally, only the way I expect any other young person to act…properly and maturely.   Let’s see how Phelps handles it from here on out.

God bless and veritas supra omnis!

P.S. Here is an update for the poll numbers given above.   With 153, 583 votes in (the last two minutes have yielded 500 votes) the percentages are holding steady at 79% for number 2 and 21% answering with number 1.


Hillary February 3, 2009 at 7:16 PM  

I am in 100% agreement with you, but the way we rake into our celebrity's has always made me mad. Part of the price you have to pay I guess, but why don't we make a bigger deal out of the same things that happen in America everyday? Just only when someone well known does it...

I am honestly more than a little put out at Michael P for hiding behind his youth,
I honestly read the “He’s 23 years old - can we all relax?” as he is old. --More of an "he is old enough to make his own choices, and he probably was doing it responsibly " rather than a " he is just a kid, and everyone knows that kids will be kids." :-P
His excuse enlightened me to the real context...

Something to think about for sure...(not that I did not have enough already):D

coffee February 4, 2009 at 10:32 AM  

i've gotta hand it to Phelps for being man enough to acknowledge his actions and apologize -- he's still a decent role model despite the hypocritical media storm

Alyssa C. February 11, 2009 at 6:43 AM  

I came across a Facebook group today--"I Bet I Can Find a Million People Who Don't Care Michael Phelps Smoked Weed" (http://www.facebook.com/groups.php?ref=sb#/group.php?gid=48809236491). The sad thing is, 38,000 people have already joined and the debate just goes on and on why people agree or disagree with him.

A group like this proves that people don't really care if what you're doing is illegal or not, and if it destroys a once-good image or not. To them, Michael Phelps may be a celebrity, but he's just a "kid" and so what if he smokes week?

Really, really sad.

John February 15, 2009 at 2:23 PM  

Thanks for the facebook group link im joining now. Go Michael Phelps!!!

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