Wednesday, February 04, 2009

The puff - and tax returns - heard round the world

Let me try to understand this.

In November, Olympic swimming sensation and all-time gold medal winner Michael Phelps attended a party at the University of South Carolina. At the house party, someone snapped a picture of him smoking pot - or at least in a position that very much indicated that taking a hit would be his next move - and the photo was published in a British tabloid last week.

If you read the stories about this revelation, you read a lot of apologies, a lot about disappointment, and platitudes like learning from your mistakes. You also read what this means to the Olympic committee and to swimming's governing body (I'll save you the time: nothing) and what the companies who have sponsored Phelps and hired him as a spokesperson have to say about the disturbing image (I'll save you that time, too: not much.)

Turns out that no matter what kind of splash (you should pardon the expression) you make during the Olympic games, the IOC can say absolutely nothing about the state of an athlete's body while not competing nor can they apply their code of conduct once the games conclude.

So, here's what we have: an athlete who was apparently not using any sort of illicit or illegal substances while he was completing and making a worldwide reputation for himself as some kind of phenomenon. Fast forward about four months and he's partying with friends, smoking pot, and then he offers us this, once he is exposed by a tabloid: "I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment," Phelps said in the statement released by one of his agents. "I'm 23 years old and despite the successes I've had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public it will not happen again."

And this: "It's something I am going to have to live with and something I'll have to grow from," Phelps said. "I know with all of the mistakes I made, I learned from them and that is what I expect to do from this. By no means it is [sic] fun for me, by no means is it easy."

Let's take a look at his statements, shall we?

His act was regrettable and exhibited bad judgement.
Regrettable? Bad judgement? How about: stupid? And given his high profile, moronic?

He's a 23 year old star swimmer and he acted like a kid, and inappropriately.
...all this despite his success in the pool?
Being a good swimmer - being a world class champion swimmer in fact - has nothing to do with what you may choose to do at a party in South Carolina. And 23 years old doesn't exactly make him a hot-headed teenager.

...not the behavior people expect from him.
What do people expect from him?
Quite honestly, we expect him to win swimming competitions. Expecting anything else, based on his past behavior, is ill-advised at best.

He's sorry..won't happen again.
Uh-huh. Keep reading.

He'll have to live with it; he'll grow from it.
Yes, he will. That's very nice for him. Somehow, I don't think he's quite bereft.

He's learned from his mistakes in the past. He expects he'll learn from this one.
I'm wondering what exactly he's learned from his mistakes in the past. One of those mistakes was probably his underage drinking and drunk driving arrest after the Athens Olympic games in 2004. He apologized then, too.

It's weird that according to the quote I read, he misspoke and said " is fun for me..."

My favorite quote from the stories this week comes from the USOC: "We are confident that, going forward, Michael will consistently set the type of example we all expect from a great Olympic champion," the group said.

Boy, everyone's really apologetic and confident aren't they? Based on what?

I'm so weary of reading about people who get caught in situations that are less than admirable and "regretting" them and exhibiting "bad judgement." If anyone felt like being honest for just one second, they would skip all the polished statements that PR professionals get paid very handsomely to craft and simply issue a statement like this instead: "I thought I'd get away with it. I didn't. This is entirely my fault and my the blame rests with me. I don't deserve any more leniency or understanding than anyone else would get for the same actions."

No one will make that statement, though. Michael Phelps won't. Tom Daschle won't. Neither will Nancy Killefer nor Timothy Geithner. But that simple statement is the truth. They all thought they'd get away with it. Some did - for some time. And now it's all "regrettable." And they're all "disappointed."

Please. We're disappointed. They're pathetic.

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