Phelps, pot and the media

Justin Horwath

Photo courtesy News of the World

As the Steelers and Cardinals clashed on field at Superbowl XLVII, Internet tabloids were busy broadcasting the gasps and heaves of the American media’s next scandal. An icon has misbehaved. No, not Tom Daschle. Not Timothy Geithner, either. We’re talking about swimming all-star Michael Phelps, who according to the Chicago Tribune, was “caught behaving badly – again.” To that alert, CNN injected culpability and remorse into the saga with “Phelps admits ‘bad judgment’ after marijuana-pipe photo.” That’s right. Michael Phelps, the twenty-three year-old with Olympic medals who was caught drunk driving has now been caught smoking pot. Gasp.

An incriminating photograph captured by one of Michael’s ‘bros’ shows the swimming phenom tokin’ from a bong apparently while relaxing in a college dorm room with some friends. Originally released by a London tabloid last weekend, the photo has circulated throughout the blogosphere. Local law enforcement have indicated that they may pursue criminal charges, but until then the implications remain moral and financial. The most common reaction in the media thus far has been one of disappointment, disgust and anger.

This train of thought holds that in winning eight medals at the Olympic Games this summer Michael Phelps came to embody a positive role model for children everywhere. His marijuana smoking constitutes an unacceptable betrayal of parents and children. Others have wondered what will become of Phelps’ financial future. But his sponsors are standing by their man. Speedo said the company does not condone Phelps’ behavior, but refers to the athlete as a great champion and a valued member of the Speedo team. Swiss watchmaker Omega calls Phelps’ actions a private matter and a non-issue. Omega and Speedo both have it right.

 Winning all that gold in Beijing was an incredible feat, but it was Phelps’ feat, not our own. No one ever gave Michael Phelps his medals, he earned them. Phelps never asked to be anything but an outrageously successful athlete. Who anointed this guy role model supreme, anyways? The media. Who is swarming him like piranhas for failing to live up to his ‘promise’? The media.

How dare this Phelps guy enjoy a toke of reefer, it’s not like he just won eight Olympic medals. To frame the accomplished swimmer as anything but suited to make his own decisions in this matter is beyond absurd, just as it is to put all the focus on Phelps. Who the media should really be ripping into is the dude who sold out his ‘brah’ to some cruddy British tabloid. The Chicago Tribune has criticized Phelps for not having the foresight to avoid a webcam. Are they serious? Webcam dude should be charged with treason: Michael Phelps is at least as fundamental to this nation as the Ninth Amendment. He sold the photo to a British tabloid! We’re in a recession and the dude sells a Phelps pot photo to the Brits? Disgusting.        

We would like to sincerely apologize to Phelps for intruding on the twisted semblance of privacy that, despite all our efforts, he still may enjoy. Beyond that, we’re obligated to add Phelps to the list of terribly irrelevant people who have admitted to or have been caught smoking pot: Cheech, Gertrude Bell, William F. Buckley, Bob Marley, Judd Apatow and Barack Obama. Finally, to show you that we do indeed hold Phelps to high standards, we call on him to show off his champion credentials by leading the charge for the end of the DEA’s wasteful anti-marijuana efforts. We’re in a recession. It’s time to cut spending and DEA agents are hired at $35,000-50,000 per year.