Michael Phelps Should Learn From His Mistakes

David SingletonCorrespondent IFebruary 2, 2009

Michael Phelps has had a much, much worse incident in his past, you know.

Remember back after he wowed the world by winning six gold medals in Athens? He was 19-years old and charged with drunken driving.

In this writer's opinion, that was a much stupider act than toking up from a bong at a party. Because—worst case scenario—he could have killed someone by getting behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol. I think we all know that drunk driving can kill.

In this instance, there is no accusation of his getting behind the wheel while stoned. So that's good, at least.

The worst Phelps can be charged with in this instance is naivete.

In today's society, with 24-hour coverage of everything, and fame coming to folks for the simplest (and sometimes stupidest) reasons, anyone who has something to lose has to be extra vigilant about their image. This is especially true when there are endorsement dollars on the table.

Whether you're Matt Leinart hosting a party in the offseason and getting photographed with a beer bong and some nubile 20-somethings, or Vince Young heading back to Austin and getting caught shirtless at a party holding a fifth of liquor, it's hard to be a young athlete in today's society. So many people are looking to cash in on you and your fame, or looking for a way to tear you down, that you just have to build a wall around yourself.

I'm not talking about having a posse following your every move (because that really doesn't work, does it Pacman?), but rather making sure that if you're out at a party that contains anybody that you don't know, you'd better make sure that you do nothing but smile, greet everyone warmly and drink nothing but water or soda from a can all evening.

Yes, it's hard for some people to feel sorry for athletes because they're famous and rich. Nonetheless, I know I would not want to live life constantly looking over my shoulder to see if someone has a camera or a cell phone out, documenting every move.

Was Phelps dumb? Yeah, he probably was. He should have learned by now that he can't just blend into the background anymore.

At the end of the day, every up-and-coming athlete, hopefully, is paying attention to this. Take heed and take note—once you start getting attention, you'd better make sure you never wind up in a situation like this.

Hopefully, Phelps has truly learned his lesson this time. The next transgression could be his last.