Two stories you can't escape of late are Michael Phelps' late 2008 bong rip, and A-Rod's steroid use. They're both athletes, but you don't have to follow sports at all to have read endless criticisms of both. Honestly, I shouldn't even weigh in because I'm just perpetuating the bs. So it goes.
I'll start with A-Rod for alphabetical purposes (um, first name instead of last, right). I was never an A-Rod fan, especially when he went to the Yankees, a team I have long despised, but I can separate the player from the man, and he is a stat machine. The revelation that he used steroids, which is hardly a revelation if you are as cynical about drug use in sports as I am, doesn't actually change that all that much for me. Maybe now all sorts of impressionable youngsters or, hell, other professional athletes, are going to feel now as if they need to use performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) to compete but, then again, I have a hunch a lot of them felt that way anyway. And without entering long discussion, I'll simply say that I don't condone A-Rod's steroid use but, since it's one of the popular topics, I think he belongs in the Hall of Fame regardless. When two players are exceptional, it seems logical to assume that the one using steroids has the edge, except that who knows that the other player was not doing the same? I find baseball games a bit too long to capture my attention span these days anyway, but I'll be content in the knowledge that, with all the drug enhancements a contract as lucrative as A-Rod's can buy, I still would not be half the player he is. So it's a little sad, but you move on or, if you are a sports writer, you write hundreds or thousands of words on it and, for at least one writer, I'm sure they will attempt to craft a book.
Far sillier in my eyes is the hullabaloo over Michael Phelps apparent marijuana usage, so silly that I used the word "hullabaloo." The first thing is that it is a reminder how shitty it can be to be a celebrity. If I was at that University of South Carolina party, you can be damn sure no one would have given two shits if I was taking a bong rip. But of course, some asshole takes a picture with his camera phone and opts to sell it. Now, why exactly it took so long to surface is the same question I ask with the Christian Bale angry sound byte. Both took place a while back, especially Bale's incident, but they have only come to light now. It's an interesting game the media plays on when they release information.
As with A-Rod, I am not a Phelps fan. My allegiance and dislike of athletes and other celebrities bears no logical explanation, as I am sure would be the case for a lot of people. Still, guy is an amazing athlete, and I was rooting for him every time he dove into the Bubble and chased a gold. I wanted to see him perform his best. Even when I root for a person or team to lose, I really just want their opponent to outplay them, I'm not asking for my object of disaffection to shit the bed.
So right, again it comes in with Phelps being a role model, and this is where it gets oh-so-very dicey. What if instead of or, in addition to, labeling Phelps a poor role model, we teach kids different things. We all want that great athlete to be a great person too, but wait, all he did was smoke marijuana, right? The same marijuana that can be legally obtained in many states for medicinal purposes. Maybe Michael Phelps is a complete asshole in real life. It wouldn't surprise me if he was or he wasn't. Maybe I'm an asshole in real life too. Maybe I'm an asshole in this blog. And you know, maybe it's just a dose of reality. Do kids get over it when they find out Santa isn't real (sorry kids if you're reading)? Maybe not all of them. Will every kid with swimming or any other type of athletic aspirations go out to grab the nearest bong now? Maybe. Maybe they would anyway. That's a whole lot of maybe.
I'm just saying things happen, and if we're blaming Michael Phelps and A-Rod for shattering dreams, then we should go ahead and take responsibility for creating them in the first place. What if NBC came out and apologized for all the hype and the human interest around Phelps? Or what if Kellogg's came out and said, "Well, we thought long and hard, and we realized that, after a good bong rip, somebody might just want themselves a bowl, or a box, of Frosted Flakes...theeeeeeeyyyyyy're great."