Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Buyers' Remorse?

From Ann Killion's column in the San Jose Mercury News:

They don't make cultural icons like they used to. Last year's golden boy morphed from an in-demand superstar to the butt of jokes overnight. All because someone took a picture of him inhaling out of a bong and sold the photo to a British tabloid.

But spare me the "Oh, he's only 23" excuse.

Phelps wants to use that excuse. In his public statement — after he fled Tampa in the wake of the embarrassing photo revelation — he apologized. But he qualified his words by noting that he's 23 and "acted in a youthful and inappropriate way."

I'm not the pot police, though marijuana is on the Olympic list of banned substances so it's a very bad look for "the Greatest Olympian of All Time."

I have sympathy with kids who make mistakes. As the mother of teenagers, I know full well that the concept of consequences is a purely theoretical idea for many young people.

But I have a problem with Phelps trying to pass off his blunder as a youthful indiscretion. Because 23-year-olds know better than anyone — certainly better than anyone my age — that there is no such thing as privacy. Members of his generation live their lives publicly: on their phones, on Facebook. They know exactly what damage can be done with a tiny cell phone at a crowded party.

I also have a problem with excusing Phelps because he's a normal 23-year-old. There's nothing normal about Phelps and hasn't been for years. I spent much of my summer watching Phelps, though I usually couldn't see him. That's because there was a crowd of reporters 15 to 20 deep every time he dripped his way past the interview area in Beijing. Because his news conferences were standing-room only. Because he was mobbed and observed everywhere he went.

He's not some stoner kid, lounging on the couch, pondering why Homer Simpson is such a great actor. He is a superstar in the spotlight. He set a mind-blowing goal of eight gold medals, he met it and he cashed in big time.

Among the rewards: a hefty contract from Speedo plus a million-dollar bonus that he planned to use for a foundation "to encourage children to lead healthy, active lives." A new deal with Mazda. A contract with Omega watches. Endorsement deals with McDonald's and Kellogg's Frosted Flakes (those make sense). He appeared on Oprah, the Tonight Show and David Letterman. He got a book deal. He was named Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year. His mom even cashed in with an endorsement.

Omega, Speedo and Mazda say they are standing behind Phelps. My calls to Get Motivated went unreturned Monday. I wanted to find out if Phelps is still scheduled to tell paying customers how to "establish and maintain the competitive advantage."

Phelps already has gotten one free pass. Already a star from the Athens Games, he was arrested for driving under the influence in 2004. But in Beijing, the word was that he had matured. That he was ready to accept the responsibility that came with the spotlight. He talked about being a role model for young athletes: his words, not a label the media tried to hang on him. He's the one who said after winning his eighth gold medal that his main goal was to raise the profile of swimming as "high as I can get it."

Insert your own joke here.

Since returning from Beijing, Phelps has had to deal with embarrassing photos of him in a Las Vegas strip club. He said last fall that he had lost his privacy.
"There's nothing I can do," he told the Baltimore Sun. "Every part of my life is out there, pretty much."

The rumors about his partying followed him to Beijing and back. These days it's too easy to get tangible, digital evidence to back up a rumor. And no one knows that better than a 23-year-old.

The issue isn't his age. It's his IQ.


Dear Ms Killion

You end your column by saying, "The issue isn't his age. It is his I.Q.".

I beg to differ. It is our collective I.Q. that's the problem. We idolize our athletes. We call them "heroes". We expect them to be paragons of virtue, and when they behave badly and disappoint us, we feel betrayed. Michael Phelps has been swimming competitively since he was in grade school. He never asked to be a role model. We, not he, decided that being a role model came with the territory, and that's why his sponsors paid him the big bucks.

Out of the pool, Phelps is no different than any of his pot smoking peers -- just a lot more famous and a lot richer.

Swimming faster than the next guy doesn't make you a hero or a role model. Nor should it. What makes someone a hero has nothing to do with athletic prowess.

We Americans need to grow up. Need a hero? I nominate Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger.


Connie Bryson


If he said he wanted to be a role model, it was because he had to say it.

The whole world was watching. He was, briefly, the biggest celebrity on the planet, and mllions of dollars in endorsement deals were at stake.

Did you expect Phelps to say no?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Headline Howler of the Day

From For Your Health eNewsletter:

CoQ10 Found to Benefit Prenatal Women

By Dr. Allen S. Josephs Co-Founder & Chairman, Vitacost.com

I just received this online newsletter from vitacost.com, and frankly, I'm astonished. Unborn adults! Who knew?

For the sake of the mothers-to-be, I hope these prenatal women don't spend decades in the womb and then emerge fully grown.