Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dear Various and Assorted Handwringers:

Michael Phelps took a bong hit. There are pictures of it on the Internets. I know this has caused untold amounts of consternation, and even one oblique tie-in to the Mexican drug cartel. But for a second, let's forget the "Just Say No" vs. Woody Harrelson statistics and medical reports and such that throw into doubt exactly what kind of life-wrecker - or scotch on the rocks on a Friday night - marijuana is. Everyone feels they have equally compelling arguments for and against, and it's not really the reason all the brouhaha was stirred up to begin with. Let's address another issue - all these people talking about how he's a role model. OK. His feats this summer were amazing. But he's also 24-years-old, and due for a few mistakes. I would think parents - at least the kind that think about it for a second - would see this as a teaching moment. I would also think that we'd all rather have a fallible role model that admits his mistakes and deals with them honorably and gracefully than the alternative. The very definition of role model implies it's someone you can emulate, someone you can follow. Who here can actually be perfect - or even wants to be? So why do we expect our role models to be perfect? But more importantly, I submit this for your consideration: If your child starts smoking marijuana because Michael Phelps did it, is the problem Phelps is a bad role model, or that you're a bad parent?