Friday, February 06, 2009

Kellogg's cares. So does the USA Swimming.

The online poll was a bit surprising but I'm willing to admit that I'm probably much more conservative than a lot of people. The MSN poll indicated that 466,994 people voted on question: How do you feel about Michael Phelps smoking a bong? 21% agreed with this response: "I'm dismayed, I can't believe he would do that." Remember the contents of that phrase. Dismayed. Disbelief.

ON the flip side, 79% agreed with this: "He's 23 years old - can we all relax?"

First of all, let me clarify something here. I'm relaxed. And the fact that Phelps is 23 years old doesn't indicate anything to me other than the fact that he may be older but he's no brighter than any completely ordinary teenager who makes the same wrong decision about smoking pot.

Secondly, these two statements in the poll are not parallel. If you agree with the first, you sound humorless, judgemental and "square." Agreeing with the second makes you sound like a now grown up Spicoli in Fast Times.

Turns out that Kellogg's would have probably weighed in with the 21% had they cast a vote. A report in Ad Age states that Phelps will no longer be affiliated with Kellogg's. According to a Kellogg's spokeswoman, "We originally built the relationship with Michael, as well as the other Olympic athletes, to support our association with the U.S. Olympic team. Michael's most recent behavior is not consistent with the image of Kellogg. His contract expires at the end of February and we have made a decision not to extend his contract."

On a related note, USA Swimming, the sport's governing body, has suspending Phelps from training for three months. He'll miss a competition in March and compete again starting in May.

Here's the deal. Phelps became a media darling because he represented an American kid who made good - dedicated himself to his sport, overcame some personal challenges and became the most successful Olympic swimmer in history. His onscreen and offscreen personality was sold to the viewers just as successfully as the products featured in the commericals on the NBC Olympic Games and for the most part, we all bought it. A major publisher "crashed" (rushed) his book full of "you can do it, too" motivational nonsense so he could scoop up sales during the first holiday season following the Games. Corporations scooped up Phelps and paid him handsomely to have him and his success associated with their brand names.

Now the truth is, he doesn't really owe his fans much more than a great performance in the pool so they can continue to cheer and he can continue to set world records. But in terms of engendering their good will - especially the good will of parents who still may be archaic and uptight enough to care about whether or not their children decide to smoke pot - I propose he also owes them some reasonable, admirable, non-controversial behavior. I suppose reasonable people can argue what is meant by the phrase "reasonable, admirable, non-controversial behavior." But I have a thought: could it mean law-abiding? Could it mean responsible? Could it mean reliable? Could that be it? Why is no one online or elsewhere talking about the fact that Phelps broke the law and there is a photograph which he does not dispute that proves it?

Why, exactly, are none of us supposed to care about this and, in fact, enjoin those who might to just "relax?"

Maybe there's an "inappropriate" line somewhere that he needs to cross. Cocaine? If he were snorting a line of cocaine in a photo, would the vote lean more like 40 % to 60%? Or shooting heroine. Maybe we'd be a little tougher on him then and the vote would fall into the 50 / 50 range. Freebasing. That might get him in trouble with more people.

I need someone to post the rules. Because although I have not spent one minute thinking about Michael Phelps since the summer games ended, he "disappointed" me. And I think if more people voted honestly, not according to the "cool way" to vote on this topic, that 21% would look more like 79%.


michael molovinsky said...

to many people smoking pot is akin to drinking during prohibition, illegal but not immoral. your two consecutive posts indicate you're not in sync with this wide spread perception. hope you didn't vote for bill clinton.

renee said...

Thank you for your comment Michael. Unfortunately, this story isn't about underage drinking (which is the closest parallel I can make to your prohibition example: "illegal not immoral." That would have been true if we were talking about Phelps' unsderage drinking and driving incident from a few years ago. He was sorry about that, too and planned to learn from that incident, too.) I guess it's hard for me to think of many examples of illegal behavior that is the moraly correct choice.

Maybe breaking the law to overthrow true evil is the moral thing to do (but who defines 'true evil' - another question that's debatable.)

I think the posts were prompted by many stories we read these days - about people who make a mistake - sorry! They're all so disappointed at having made it. And prompted more by our collective reaction to most of these stories - which pretty much amounts to little more than an unenthusiastic, "oh well."

True, we don't "deserve" better. But don't we want better?