In August of 2008, one man completely took over our country. But it wasn't any of the candidates running for the upcoming presidential office, or some sort of philanthropist making waves on another front. It was a swimmer.
If you were an American and you had a television, your evenings were spent watching Michael Phelps chase history. LeBron James and a lot of the USA Olympic team would head over to the National Aquatic Center to watch him compete. He was, for a short period of time, our hero.
That was short lived. After the Olympics, Phelps' reputation hit this skids. He was videoed drinking a Corona at a Ravens game. He made enormous news with his bong photos and just recently has been targeted in some sexual threesome scandal.
So, my question is this: Are we supposed to hate Michael Phelps because of these incidents?
Let me first bring you this scenario. Everyone has something they are better than most at. It might be painting or singing or horseback riding or swimming. You, sitting at your desk job, have a talent that is probably better than most people sitting around you in the office. So, imagine you're exceptional at this. You've trained long and hard for years and years and people have said you might actually have a shot at showcasing this talent. You're paintings might go up the Tate Modern. Your latest demo is being seriously considered for a contract. You could ride in the Kentucky Derby.
Now, consider this. Something you've worked so hard at all your life is finally being appreciated; not by your parents or your friends, but the entire world. Phelps was the most famous person in the world for two weeks in August. He made everyone giddy to watch swimming (well, everyone except Mark Spitz). Is that not enough? The guy got to a level at something that we would wish to be at our respective talents. With me, it would be winning the Masters. With my friend Kevin, it might be hitting a jumper to win the NBA Championship. With others, it might be killing it on American Idol.
On top of all that, he's 23. He is 23 and he smoked pot and had sex. And he, if the reports are true, had sex with more than one woman at the same time. Is this news? We are supposed to dog him for this? Sure, drugs aren't good, but you name me a famous person in this world and I'm sure I can find some dirt on them in the past. You can find dirt on anyone.
My point is I just think that we are treating this kid the wrong way. He seems a little socially awkward, the kind of kid that without all the hoopla might just be another dork who might be waiting in line to see the new "Wolverine" movie. He excelled in something that we all loved for a bit and now is paying the consequences for enjoying his success. Should he smoke pot and get photographed doing it? Absolutely not. But should he have to deal with women admitting to some website that her and a friend had a threesome with him? I don't think so.
Our media world now is as critical as ever. Any and all websites will print any and all things to get a few page views and a little exposure. Michael Phelps is probably the career case to show how much this sucks.