Michael Phelps is not a role model.
This shouldn't come as a revelation yet I'm sure there are those out there that still equate leaders and mentors to the number of gold medals or sponsorships an athlete has.
I'm not just saying this because Phelps was recently photographed taking a bong hit in some hotel room. I'm saying this because I don't think a 23-year-old playboy who just so happens to swim like a fish is a role model.
Maybe he is if you like your role models to drive under the influence, smoke weed, gamble heavily and hit on nightclub waitresses in Vegas, but my expectations are slightly higher. I've seen Phelps swim with the best in the pool and seen him swim with the sharks in Vegas, and he's no role model.
He's a Madison Avenue creation shaped to resemble what most imagine a wholesome Olympic hero to be. After all, if you win eight gold medals and capture the attention of the country you have to be a role model, right? You can't just be some 23-year-old kid who swims well but doesn't do much of anything else particularly well.
I like Phelps. There is no one else I would rather roll through Vegas with. I've seen him throw back shots at the Playboy Club with two Bunnies in each arm. I've seen him win and lose more money at the tables in the Palms than I could ever afford to put on the line. I've seen him attract a dozen bikini-clad women around his bungalow near the hotel's pool.
That doesn't mean I would want him giving life advice to a room full of kids. Not when I know what he's like when he's outside of the spotlight. Any life advice he had would have would come off as phony and choreographed as his apologies after he was arrested for DUI when he was 19 and photographed doing a bong hit in between training.
While Phelps became an American hero after his record breaking performance at the Summer Olympics, I look at him no differently, out of the pool, than I do Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears. He might not have made a sex tape, gone to rehab or had a meltdown (yet, anyway), but he is a young star who is under the spotlight and analyzed, scrutinized and criticized for acting his age. Every time he slips up, he can't get up without issuing a public apology.
Phelps shouldn't have to apologize for not being a role model. I don't know many 23-year-olds who are. Most of the 23-year-olds I know act exactly like Phelps, the only difference is they don't have 14 gold medals. Unfortunately, however, some still think those medals make a role model.