Last week, America’s golden boy Michael Phelps took a dive in ratings when pictures of him taking hits from a bong surfaced on the Internet.
There seemed to be a huge blowout about this incident, covered by every station from ABC to CNN to Comedy Central.
Reporters across the country were crying out for Phelps to make a statement, pointing out the loss of role model status that Phelps would suffer. One Web site even stated Phelps should give up his eight Olympic gold medals.
Now, I’m not going to say anyone needs to be perfect.
I think if we look around at ourselves, we do things that would not necessarily please our parents, and we aren’t always great role models to our younger siblings.
Nor am I going to say Phelps should be excused for his actions because, well, there is no denying that he is looked up to by many young people who are highly influenced by sports stars’ actions.
What I will say is that Phelps proved something many of us too often forget when it comes to celebrities and sports stars – they are human too.
You would think with the way we plaster their faces all over magazines, television and newspapers, celebrities were next of kin to the gods.
You would also think that with all the coverage they get, the influence they have on the masses would cross their mind when they begin to jump into questionable, deviant activity.
However, who are we as a society to hold this magnifying glass of scrutiny over these people?
Most of them, most being the operative word here, are where they are today because of their talents (I say most because I, like many others out there, am still questioning what it is that got Miley Cyrus to celebrity status – she’s a terrible actress, not that great looking and has a washed-up musician dad).
They can’t help that they happen to be the best swimmer or the best singer or the best looking movie star out there.
These people are simply doing what most people try to do all their lives – achieve their dreams.
I’m not a celebrity myself, except in my own mind, but I can’t imagine there is a celebrity training course that teaches you how to act when you reach your stardom. Lord knows if there were, Britney would have known that you should either wear underwear or keep your legs together when getting out of a limo.
Like I said before, these people suffer from the same problem that we all suffer from on a daily basis – being human.
Mistakes are made, lessons are learned and we are better people for it. Stardom is not the cure to this “essence of humanity.”
That being said, those who are in the spotlight need to take a bit more caution in choosing what it is they do that could be seen in a negative light.
Now, in Phelps’ defense, he wasn’t walking down Rodeo Drive, he was at a private party. Phelps could not have known pictures of this were going to be leaked to the public.
But if we, as a society, have learned one thing from celebrities it’s that the paparazzi have their way of getting in and getting that dirt on the latest celebs.
I feel for Phelps considering he was basically a one-hit wonder and his media craze died off once the Olympics were over. At the same time, he has been such an inspiration to the millions that he has to know what he does is going to get national attention.
But don’t think that just because you don’t have a mansion in Los Angeles or eight Olympic gold medals hanging on your wall makes you any less of a role model to people.
Most of us have siblings or younger relatives who look up to us as college students for the path we are taking in life.
College athletes are the apples of most young kids’ eyes in college towns.
The actions you take in your daily life, publicly or privately, may have an unseen impact on someone.
Don’t let one moment of fun ruin a lifetime of inspiration.
Jeremy Behrens is a junior English secondary education and theatre performance major from Ottawa. He is the Scout features reporter.
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