There would be something intensely ironic, naive, and shortsighted about a site like SbB complaining about a free press exercising its First Amendment rights. That they are able to make their own editorial choices and cover whatever story they see fit is a strength of America and other open democracies. That said, sometimes they make bad choices, and it’s usually when every other news agency is making the exact same choice. Like, say, the media firestorm over a certain picture.
That’s Michael Phelps, as you well know by now, and whenever the biggest Olympic star in the history of the Olympics is caught using illegal drugs, it tends to attract attention. A lot of attention. So much attention that, according to the BALTIMORE SUN, he might skip the 2012 Olympics:
In his first interview since a photo surfaced showing him smoking from a marijuana pipe, Michael Phelps said yesterday that the intense public scrutiny has him contemplating whether he will swim in the 2012 Olympics.
[…] Pursuit of Phelps’ first public comments has been fierce. “I’ve been waking up to guys yelling into megaphones outside my window at 7 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “I’ve been through just about everything you can go through. I’ve had paparazzi people following me from my house to my mom’s house. People knocking on the door. It’s crazy.”
Megaphones? Very classy. Way to represent the dogged pursuit of the truth, guys, seriously. That’s not harassment for the sake of sensationalism at all. We’re a little curious what the Sun did to actually grab that first interview, but at the same time, maybe we’re all better off not knowing. We digress.
Phelps’ statements about his future in swimming are a little confusing, mainly because right after he tells the Sun that the scrutiny is making him reconsider his Olympic campaign, he goes and directly contradicts himself in spectacular fashion:
“Yeah, there are still goals that I have in the pool, 100 percent. But I’m not going to let anything stand in my way. If I decide to walk away, I’ll decide to walk away on my own terms. If it’s now, if it’s four years, who knows. But it is something I need to think about and decide what I want to do.”
So Phelps still has goals in swimming, and nothing’s going to stand in his way… then why’s he bringing up questions about his retirement in the face of intense scrutiny? If he’s still got goals “in the pool, 100 percent” (and let’s be clear, that means the Olympics; here’s an exhaustive list of all people who make a living by swimming professionally for money: [ERROR: Null set]), then what on earth except for creepy media stalking could possibly be keeping him from that? And doesn’t that count as, y’know, “standing in his way?”
Look, we get why Phelps is making these statements. He’s got sponsors paying the bills, and while none of them have dropped him yet, that’s a pretty big Y-E-T at the end, especially if there were some clauses about, oh I don’t know, taking the world’s most massive bong rips. He has sponsors because they think his image of a fiercely driven merman half-dolphin superhero helps them sell things. Even if what he really wants to do is step his smoke game up with Justin Fargas and Yukmouth and spend a few months in outer space with six tons of hash, if he ever admits that, his money is all gone. Say what you will about the value of honesty, but that’s the ultimate example of when keeping it real goes wrong.