The recent uproar over Michael Phelps, an eight-time American Gold Medalist, "posing" with a "marijuana pipe" at a University of South Carolina fraternity party, makes some wonder whether the sports media (myself included) that proclaimed Phelps an American hero this past summer at the Beijing Olympics hasn't gone up in smoke themselves.
Image what a party that must have been: You're playing a little beer pong, smoking a little weed, and hitting on a few college coeds. So far, it sounds like typical run-of-the-mill college party until...in walks Michael Phelps, who at 23 years old already has more gold medals than any other athlete in Olympic history, just looking to have a good ol' time.
Still, the media finds fault with Phelps, a man who served as its darling just six months ago, for simply experimenting with marijuana. How ungrateful is NBC, who admittedly has Phelps to thank for the huge ratings bump they witnessed every time they broadcast his swimming competitions.
Let's put this in context for a second: Phelps is a role model for millions of children around the world and he shouldn't have been smoking weed from a bong, especially in a public setting. But is he any worse than President Clinton who proclaimed "he didn't inhale"?
It's common knowledge that smoking weed is illegal in the United States, but perhaps Phelps was simply posing with paraphernalia and never actually inhaled. Props to Phelps for apologizing while subtly acknowledging that it was no big deal.
As a result of this photo, Phelps lost endorsement deals with Kellogg's Company.
Fortunately, for Phelps, he will not face any changes related to this case and still has plenty of other endorsement deals to fall back on. Regardless of your stance on the legality of marijuana or whether you believe Phelps inhaled, his youthful actions and poor decision-making only proves that he's human; like everyone else, he makes mistakes.
His biggest mistake was letting someone snap that photo. Remember this isn't the first time Phelps has had a run-in with the law. Back in 2004, he pleaded guilty to a DUI charge, which he chalked up to his immaturity.
Whether he's a dumb jock or professional stoner, Phelps is a cinch to win the 420 freestyle once he returns to action after serving a three-month suspension.
Maybe he should embrace his new pot-head image and appear on the cover of High Times. Phelps may be best thing to happen to weed since hydroponics.
If he can toke and still perform with superhuman ability inside a swimming pool, then there may be hope for us all and maybe, just maybe, smoking marijuana isn't that bad after all.
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