I’m sure you’ve seen the picture by now. Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps taking a huge hit from a marijuana filled bong at a party with other like-minded young people. Obviously eight gold medals and worldwide acclaim do not guarantee wisdom and common sense. But does Phelps’ marijuana misstep deserve widespread condemnation? Is this really a legitimate fall from grace? I don’t think so. Maybe that’s just me.

When I was much younger I too took a few massive hits from some ingeniously designed bongs. But then again I wasn’t famous and I didn’t have to bear the enormous weight of expectations of millions of hypocritical fans. Yes, technically what Phelps was doing was illegal. And yes, it wasn’t the best way to promote his status as America’s Top Role Model. Still it seems too many of us would rather castigate people like Michael Phelps than do our own part to insure that our own vulnerable kids don’t take the wrong path. We’d rather blame schools, TV shows, movies, and celebrities for the problems our kids face.

Years ago NBA superstar and now chastened drunk, Charles Barkley, obviously ahead of his time declared “I am not a role model.”
Barkley made that statement in a controversial Nike commercial. Back then he was roundly criticized for daring to utter that athletes and other famous people should not serve as primary life examples for impressionable youngsters. Suggesting instead that parents and family reassume that responsibility.

We love to bring down the famous. And yes many of the famous often make it very easy. But I ask you to look at the infamous Phelps picture again. What do you really see? I simply see a famous kid making a public mistake. The same mistake many of our own kids make. No more, no less.

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