Bong Water-Gate

February 02, 2009 |

I completely agree with many of the listeners and most of the bloggers here at WNST.net.

Michael Phelps is 23 years old and he smokes weed. That does not make him a bad person.

His main sponsors, Speedo and Omega, don’t seem to care. Why? Because his target demographic (i.e. people my age), don’t care either. In fact, I’ve heard some of my friends say that it’s pretty cool that Phelps is a toker. It makes him more approachable, more human, and less supernatural.

I’d be willing to wager that the vast majority of our listening/reading audience have smoked weed at least once in their life. I’d also be willing to bet that all of these people who are verbally crucifying Michael Phelps are not saints themselves. Don’t throw stones if you live in a glass house.

And a dirty little secret of the aquatic world, both in swimming and water polo at the high school, college, and national levels, is that these athletes party…hard.

As a captain of my team at Washington College, I had a conversation with one of my assistant coaches following a team incident that involved marijuana and alcohol. This assistant coach was also less than half a second away from making it to the 2004 Olympics, so he has certainly experienced all levels of the social aspect of the swimming world.

He told me that swimmers tend to “party harder” than other athletes because of the substantial need to blow off steam. I don’t want to take anything away from other sports, but swimmers and water polo players train anywhere from four to seven hours a day.

And let’s be honest…biologically, humans are not supposed to be in the water. Heavy bones and aerodynamic difficulties make moving through the water extremely difficult. It takes a lot more time to teach someone to swim than it does to teach them to walk. And most people learn how to swim when their brains are much more developed. Most kids take swim lessons when they are about 4 years old, long after they have been taught to walk.

Unless swimmers are tapering, they are training with an incredibly high heart rate for the entire 4-7 hour time span–two practices a day, six days a week. I’ve experienced it first hand. It takes a lot out of you.

It’s incredibly exhausting. If you want to see this for yourself, you don’t even need to attend a practice. Just watch a swimmer eat…we’ve all heard about the famous Michael Phelps diet (insert your “munchies” joke here).

I’ve read a lot of absurd comments on the message boards at ESPN.com and other media outlets, and I’m really shocked at what I’m reading. Many people are angry with Michael Phelps because he’s a “role model” for their children.

Well I’ve got news for you. If you’re allowing your children to make athletes their role models, you might want to take a long look in the mirror and re-evaluate your parenting skills.

I don’t want to send anyone the wrong message. I coach high school swimming. I certainly don’t approve of or condone this behavior. But I’m not stupid. I’m well aware of what goes on…I was in their shoes not too long ago.

I’m also “Facebook friends” with many of my swimmers, which has obviously opened my eyes to their social life. In fact, I’ve had to deal with several team social incidents because of Facebook.

Was it a bad decision on Michael’s part? Of course. When you’re a celebrity, you can’t afford to be caught in those situations. Like Casey Willett said this morning, that’s why TMZ and Dirty.com exist.

Is it sad? Yes. So is reality television. But, for whatever reason, people in our society eat this stuff up like its filet mignon. The society in which we live loves to see celebrities fail. And Bong Water-Gate is just another example.

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