Fins? Yes. But still dust.
So you probably remember that Michael Phelps sat next to me on the Acela from NYC back in December. He played on-line poker, I wrote a sermon. Before he got off in Baltimore, he gave me a nod.
So we’re pretty tight.
Michael Phelps Suspension | WUSA9.com | Washington, DC |.
This week Michael was suspended from competition for three months by USA swimming for pics of him smoking marijuana. There will be many who disagree with his suspension, saying he’s a swimmer, not a role model. Let him do whatever he wants with his own time.
It pricks a question that cuts a wide swath across our culture. What kind of character do we expect from those who are ‘public leaders’? USA Swimming said they issued the suspension because they ‘decided to send a strong message to Michael because he disappointed so many people, particularly the hundreds of thousands of USA Swimming member kids who look up to him as a role model and a hero.”
A role model of what? How to swim really fast? Can anyone realistically ascribe to doing what he did? He has once in a generation physical gifts for which he doesn’t even acknowledge his Maker. Why does being a public leader carry with it the requisite of having role-model like character? Who decides what is role-model character? We seem to think (or want) that because someone can do something else well– kick a ball, ride a bike, lead a country, run a company, sing, dance, or rap– that they should also have character. We find ourselves admiring their physical, intellectual, and musical accomplishments and we hope (wish) that they had character commensurate to their calling.
How do we elevate to public leadership those who have true character? How do we get these role models in front of our kids? What do we do when those whom we scream for, cheer for, and celebrate let us down?
Who cares for Michael’s dusty soul?
February 6, 2009 @ 2:21 pm
Phelps’ decision to engage in underage driving under the influence soon after the Athens games was also a disappointment. Most of us probably acknowledge that we overly celebrate our top athletes in this society and attempt to make them into something they are not. Wasn’t it Charles Barkley who said “I’m not your kid’s role model”? Here’s an article from Newsweek that was written after he made that famous comment: http://www.newsweek.com/id/121115
February 9, 2009 @ 7:41 am
Good post David. Maybe this is wrong; but who cares that Phelps was smoking pot? Whether you agree or disagree with weed is irrelevant…he’s a 23 year old guy who makes mistakes. I’m not sure why it’s even my right to know he smoked pot? I think it’s lame how blown out of proportion it is.
February 9, 2009 @ 8:52 am
Josh, I think you get to the heart of the question. Is it fair to ask someone who happens to swim fast to also have character in proportion to his physical gifting? it is allegedly ‘blown out of proportion’ because he is the greatest Olympian ever. If he wasn’t, people wouldn’t care. So my questions: how do we prepare people for success? Those who are public leaders (including athletes, politicians, entertainers) are critiqued more stridently. In many ways, they are revered so highly because we all want to live vicariously through them. We want our kids to be successful like them. And so when they fall short, that vicarious drug– which feels great to the public leader if they are doing well– becomes a vicious venom: we’re angry that you let us down because we wanted to believe you were someone you are not. Because we want to believe we are someone we are not.