Six months ago, Michael Phelps had the world by the tail. Eight gold metals, millions in the banks, and just enough speculation about super powers to make a man feel good about himself. Yes sir… never before in the hystory of the world has a slacked jawed piece of Baltimore white trash done so much with so little.
But the funny thing about being an American icon these days. You get built up as high as you can go… but just because the media (and the people who watch it, which is all of us) want nothing more than to watch the mighty fall that comes from it.
February 1st, the internet became flooded with pictures found on the UK publication The Sun which featured a picture of the American golden boy taking a hit from the bong. Within 24 hours, Phelps was on the scene, telling the world that he was sorry about the youthful indiscression (which reportedly was photographed in 2004 on the University of South Carolina) and vowed that it would never happen again. He had hoped that the promptness of the apology, combined with a healthy dose of public goodwill he has in his war chest, would fend off the public and corporate fall out of the picture.
Within the week, major sponsor Kellogg’s walked away from Phelps, the US swimming team suspended him for three months (disqualifying him from the world championships in Rome sometime in July), and some Barney Fife South Carolina sheriff was beginning to kick down doors and bring down the kingpin Michael Phelps. Over pot.Over fucking pot.And not even being busted with pot or failing drug test.Just a picture of the swimming demigod holding a glass water pipe up to his lips.And the wild part about all of this is that almost no regard from the public.
Now, granted, it could be because no one really cared a lick about Michael Phelps when he is not wearing a Speedo and paddling for gold. It could be that the last grains of sand fell from the hourglass of his fifteen minutes and this picture was Fate’s way of ushering him into obscurity. Talk radio was busy laughing at the moron’s inability to kick the dick out of the room who had the camera phone. And the people were laughing at his blatant stupidity. Taking a picture of you smoking an illegal substance (or doing anything illegal for that matter) is not the brightest thing to do. And allowing himself to be photographed (or putting himself in the position to be photographed) only proved to the world that he might be the stupidest man ever.But it is just fucking pot.
A recent CBS/New York Times poll claims that 41% of Americans favor the legalization/decriminalization of marijuana. And while that is not a majority it is enough to get you elected president (Bill Clinton garnered 43% of the vote in 1992). And while that does not mean that he should get heaped with praise for taking rippers on film, it probably buys him some grace for his error. At the end of it all, he is young. And more important, he plays in a game where he comes around only once every four years. Instead of saying he is sorry and standing in front of cameras looking like the big grinning dope he is, he should lay low, keep his mouth shut, and just be glad it wasn’t a picture of a dead hooker in his trunk.