Phelps Finds Himself Drowning In a Sea Of Over-Reaction

Matt PicchiettiContributor IFebruary 2, 2009

Is this really news-worthy? Michael Phelps busted with drug paraphernalia? Michael Phelps caught with marijuana? Personally, I’m more bothered by his 2004 DUI. Drinking and getting behind the wheel has predictably bad results and innocent people could be hurt or killed as a result of that stupidity. But this...who cares?

So long as he is not selling to kids; so long as no one else is getting hurt by his asinine decisions, I know that I don’t.  If anything, that he may occasionally partake in casual drug use makes his athletic feats even more impressive. I’m sure his competition, if he really had any, would prefer that he smoke more often and perhaps include tranquilizers or Nyquil to his casual use.

Then, at least, someone might stand a chance of beating him.  Alas, he has no competition and is proving to be his own worst enemy.

Now, I’m not saying that drug use is okay, nor am I, in any way, suggesting that marijuana should be legalized.  But regardless of his almost iconic status as an American and Olympic athlete, he is still just a 23 year old kid.

Let’s cut him just a little slack.

Every second of his life is organized and regimented from what he eats to his time in the pool. He’s done what no one else has ever done and he’s been a good ambassador for amateur sports.  Regardless of all of that, he’s still human and, shockingly, he’s going to make mistakes.

Other people in much more significant roles in society than Phelps have done much worse.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving claim that members of Congress escape DWI/DUI arrests by invoking their congressional privilege of immunity granted by Article one, Section 6. Section 6 states:  “The Senators and Representatives… shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”

This may or may not be true but it is believable. Ted Kennedy’s drinking and driving habits are well-known…or at least theorized about. In July of 1969, his drunken driving, allegedly, killed Mary Jo Kopechne. Worse yet, there was a pattern of behavior to show that this was not a huge surprise.

“Senator Kennedy's driver's license had expired ...driving with an expired license was only a misdemeanor, it did provide the evidence of negligenceneeded to prove a manslaughter charge in the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.

The license problem was "fixed" by officials at the Registry of Motor Vehicles…before the legal proceedings began.”[1]

Prior to this, Kennedy had a record of serious traffic violations:

June, 1958 conviction for "reckless driving."

March 14, 1958 an Oldsmobile convertible ran a red light, sped off, then cut its tail lights to elude pursuit. A license check revealed the car belonged to Edward M. Kennedy, a 26-year-old law student attending the University of Virginia.

A week later, “He [Kennedy] raced through the same red light, cut his lights when he got to the corner and made the right turn." Whitten gave chase. He found the car in a driveway, apparently unoccupied. Looking inside, he discovered the driver, Teddy Kennedy, stretched out on the front seat and hiding. [He was] issued a ticket for "reckless driving; racing with an officer to avoid arrest; and operating a motor vehicle without an operator's license.”[2]

A local reporter discovered five warrants in Kennedy's name in a court cash drawer.

Had it been revealed at the inquest, the Senator's history of negligence and reckless driving would have been further evidence to support a charge of manslaughter in the Chappaquiddick accident.[3]

Oh, there’s more.

George W. Bush has a DUI arrest and he became president. He made decisions concerning war and taxes and public offices. Most importantly, and this is the fun part, this was bought to the voters’ attentions before the 2000 election and it did not matter. Ninty-one percent of voters knew about the arrest and they still voted for him.[4]

Let’s stop pretending that this is earth-shatteringly important. Let’s, for a second, put things in perspective.  Law makers breaking laws is a big deal; take a look at what’s happening in Illinois right now for a prime example.

Michael Phelps trying pot is not something people need to get their ire up about.  I’d be more concerned about the drug habits of a bus driver or an airline pilot; not some guy who swims laps for a living.

I’m sure people will disagree. Some will say that it is Phelps’ responsibility to project a good image, be a role model, yadda-yadda-yadda. Give that a rest. This guy has had as abnormal a life as a person can have for the past eight years. He’s carried the weight of a country’s expectations on his back. He owes no one a damn thing. I can’t blame the guy for wanting to cut loose before he gets back to training.

I wonder who Phelps is hanging out with. You never saw pictures of Jordan in compromising positions and the rumors about him are less than complimentary. What kinds of friends take and publish these kinds of pictures? What kinds of friends allow any bystanders to take such pictures? Real friends would have made sure, by any means necessary, that this kind of thing would not make the tabloids.

Or perhaps, because of his schedule, Phelps may not have any real friends, which would be sad; sad enough to drive a kid to smoke pot once in a while. Enough with the after-school-special material; the bottom line is that Phelps needs to choose his friends better.

And, Phelps needs to make better decisions, but so do most of us. My next decision is to find a better cause than this to waste my energy on…and you should too.