More Phelps Phall-Out …..

February 02, 2009 |

Okay, so I was gonna title this blog “Up In Smoke” ….. until I read Drew’s piece.  And, I’m challenged to bring a new twist or perspective to this salacious incident.  But, this is the task for the writer who gets the 2nd bite of the proverbial apple.


We actually covered “King Bong” on the SUNDAY MORNING BLITZ.  As some might expect, we had callers questioning Michael Phelps’ credibility as a role model.  But, we also had his loyalists calling in from the greater Towson area.


Although, Michael Phelps is only 23 years old, he now has a history of subsequent actions of poor judgement, when it comes to substance abuse.  Is there plenty of time to recover and rebuild from the damage – if there even is any?  Sure.


While I don’t think Phelps is going to be keeping integrity-based company with Roger Clemens, PacMan Jones or even Sidney Ponson, anytime soon ….. I wouldn’t be surprised if the comparisons to Cal Ripken and Tiger Woods finally taper off.


Why?  It’s simple – Michael is a risk and he’s proving to be pretty immature, when it comes to life-impacting decisions.  As Drew has suggested, I don’t think he’s a threat to society ….. so long as he doesn’t get behind a steering wheel – the next time a desire to get stoned or drunk pops into his mind.


By all accounts, I’d say it’s appropriate to assume Phelps is actually sorry the photo and details of his trip to Gamecock country have been made public.  That’s right, this smoking gun tells me the conflicted swimmer isn’t really sorry for his irresponsible – and illegal conduct.


Remember, he stood in a Wicomico County courtroom, just a few short years ago and professed his sorrow and regret for criminal behavior and poor decisions regarding substance abuse.  He promised not to make such “mistakes,” again ….. while acknowledging he is a role model.


In truth, I don’t really care what Michael Phelps does in his personal life.  He can live as responsible or irresponsible, as he desires.  However, since the masses throw parades in his honor, and he EMBRACES every bit of it, I’ll question his conduct when it doesn’t befit positive personal character.


Now, if I’m a bigwig with Speedo, HSBC, Mastercard or Activision, I’ve gotta really think about a future relationship with Phelps.  After all, he’s exhibited a propensity for bad judgement – at equally bad times.  He’s what they call a “3am phone call kinda guy,” in the law enforcement world.


In all fairness to Michael Phelps, he’s a young man who has been showered with fame and fortune, in a very brief amount of time.  He has been lifted upon a pedestal by millions and millions of people who will never meet him.  And, many of them will be the very ones to knock him down.  Welcome to American celebrity …..


I can say with 100% certainty that my intentions are not related to the “Phelps Phenomenon.”  He has never received much attention from me and I’ve always thought his celebrity was overdriven.  I guess you could say I’ve thought he would be the perfect candidate for 30 minutes of fame.


Perhaps, he was never gonna live up to public perceptions, anyway.  Over the past few months, I’ve been sorta bewildered by Phelps’ choice of attire and mannerisms, whenever a camera finds him at a sporting event or in celeb-circles.  Is he ‘Lil Mike ???  Or better yet, Vanilla Mike …..


I’m not suggesting Michael Phelps doesn’t “own his life.”  Indeed, he does ….. and he’s married to his reputation, standing and character – for better or worse.  Regardless of his age and any references to youthful misgivings, the spotlight is on his every transgression.


But, he’s the guy who sold his image to numerous marketers.  He’s the guy who pranced around Baltimore, with Anderson Cooper and the 60 Minutes crew.  He’s the guy who shows up at numerous public events looking like a 14 year-old wannabe rapper.  And, he’s the guy who starred in the “Bong Show” at a frat party, in early November.


Over the next few weeks, I’m expecting the most creative spin efforts and orchestrated public repair initiatives to kickoff, as Phelps is surely gonna try to patch-up this latest crack in his renovated image.  Yep, the parties in Vegas will be swapped for instructional seminars with youth swimmers. 


And, the impromptu Ludacris rap video scenes from the luxury boxes at M&T Bank Stadium will be replaced by some worthwhile public service announcements.  That’s how it works, right?  Think about it ….. this couldn’t come at a better time …..


Rewind back to the Ravens/Redskins game, a couple months ago.  Was that Michael Phelps – a corporate pitchman and image-conscious custodian OR just some role-playing extra from HBO’s “The Wire” ….. hanging out in the suites?


There will come a time – and that time appears to be RIGHT NOW – when Michael Phelps needs to decide if he’s gonna employ the same discipline to his life outside a pool, as he does to his world inside a pool.  This is a prudent consideration.


For my role, I know I’ve never played any part in building up the Michael Phelps machine.  And, I’ll play no part in tearing it down.  I’m simply calling things, as I see them. 


To be blunt, I think I’ve pegged Michael Phelps accurately, all along.  He’s simply a dominant Olympic athlete.  He’s probably nothing more ….. and nothing less, when it comes to social standing.  He doesn’t have the CRED of those he’s mentioned alongside, and I don’t think it’s entirely his fault.


But, the truth is the truth …..


Michael Phelps is NOT Cal Ripken …..


Michael Phelps is NOT Tiger Woods …..


Michael Phelps is NOT Jeff Gordon …..


Michael Phelps is simply a young man who really just hasn’t grown up, yet.  And, he’s proving money can’t buy such qualities, either …..