I've had it. That's it. I'm done.
To borrow a phrase from one of my favourite blogsters, Chez from Deus Ex Malcontent, just get out the guillotine for those who are attacking Michael Phelps. Or find some industrial strength twine and sew up their mouths. In Obama's World, morons across America (and Canada) need a collective, very hard kick in the ass.
It's not news anymore that eight-time Beijing Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was caught with a bong. I won't go into the pros or cons of pot smoking, or whether this was simply misplaced youth having too much fun during an age of omnipresent digital cameras and viral news stories.
It's more likely that Phelps – a man-child of epic proportions who has been one of the very few bright spots for America on the world stage as of late – was simply careless or naïve enough to not realize how careful an international celebrity like him has to be when it comes to letting loose. After all, this is America we’re talking about: A country that loves to tear them down as fast as they rise up.
One false move, one ill-advised photo and it’s over. Human nature dictates we're more likely to remember one single bad thing than a thousand (or in this case, 14, counting Phelps' six golds in Athens in 2004) good things a person has done.
Unfortunately for Phelps, he’s caught in the perfect storm of a) being an alleged role model, although it’s highly debatable if athletes have any obligation whatsoever at being role models simply because they’re athletes; b) a very successful Olympian, and c) caught smoking weed.
Of course, none of this is about morality, in spite of what shrill Ann Coulter-wannabe Elizabeth Hasselbeck (full disclosure: if I were Keith Olbermann, she’d be on my personal list of Worst People in The World everyday) thinks. Her bully pulpit on The View notwithstanding, she and the reactionary forces at work in the Richland County (S.C.) Sheriff’s Office seem in a time warp when it comes to pot use.
Pot use in North America is rising, not declining. Walk-of-life folk openly support and watch corporately made stoner comedies such as Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, Knocked Up or Pineapple Express.
Most people with even a modicum of common sense aren’t going to get too wrapped up over a guy toking up when they might do it themselves (if Phelps was caught, say, doing a bump or shooting up, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, would we?). Hell, it’s even arguable that pot smoking is hardly a behaviour that should be condemned in comparison to the incredibly unhealthy behaviour of Phelps eating McDonalds' every day (funny how McDonalds is also a major Olympic sponsor, of course).
Naturally, this has everything to do with money.
Phelps is perhaps the single most influential brand mover – to borrow marketing lingo – in global sports today, aside from David Beckham, Ronaldo and possibly Derek Jeter. He has global reach with his supported brands – especially in, of all places, China (hey, the Chinese really took to Phelps even while he crushing the mostly Chinese competitors, strangely enough).
Sure, Phelps’ corporate image is no longer squeaky clean or predictably dull (only Corporate America could possibly think predictably dull is a sure-fire approach to business). But this isn't a bad thing for Phelps. He’s humanized himself beyond the superhuman feats he accomplished in Beijing. He’s more real now than he’s ever been before.
So far, Phelps’ sponsors like VISA are sticking by him. Sensible, intelligent sponsors will see this for what it is: a young guy who let loose for the right reasons at the wrong time.