So Michael Phelps is retiring as the most decorated and over-exposed athlete in Olympic history. I love swimming, but I’m long tired of the Phelps media coverage, which for two consecutive Olympics has crowded out other swimmers and other sports. However, he’s chosen to go out on top, a goal I wish more Olympians would aim for, and he’s due some extended time away from staring at a black lane line for hours a day.
What’s he going to do with his time now? He will probably cash in on his golds with more lucrative endorsements, though his retirement probably dims the deals a bit.
Here’s an idea. Make more waves than ever before – joining in the fight to legalize weed! It will outrage the world and sustain enough publicity to bury that fucking Ryan Lochte underneath an avalanche of headlines and interviews. I know how to keep that star machine running.
First up, we need to remember that Rupert Murdoch’s now disgraced, shuttered News of the World broke the story of Phelps’ weed use with a scandalous photo of him smoking a bong, a model that is reportedly as world class as the athlete putting it to the test with the most powerful set of lungs it will probably ever entertain. The swimmer faced a three-month suspension from swimming and a very temporary hit to his image – then it was back to business.
I think only Kellogg’s dropped him. How many multi-million-dollar endorsements does he actually need?
Phelps didn’t match his Beijing performance in London, which was not possible, though he did manage to become the most medalled Olympian in history, while simultaneously passing a figurative torch to Chad Le Clos, who beat him in the 200 fly. Phelps can be a good loser, even if he had to learn losing anew in London.
London was hardly a disappointment, and the tabloid story on his pot picture barely gets a mention as he ascends to a throne that no one is likely to oust him from in the foreseeable future.
How to stay in the limelight? Time to share it! And diffuse it! With Willie Nelson and the fight for legalization of marijuana!
This is the pairing the world has been waiting for but never expecting. Michael Phelps could eschew the pleas of hip-hop stars sending him Tweets that get shared poolside after swims, one of my least favorite aspects of NBC coverage, and that means I really, really hate it. Fuck that Twitter noise! Besides, Lil Wayne is gonna wanna get high if he ever runs into the Olympians that he tweets, especially Phelps.
Get on the tour bus with Willie! He will love it. Willie can be the mentor and father that Michael never had. And let’s face it, Michael – and the rest of us – can do with some time away from his mother.
Michael stumbling red-eyed, giggling, and hungry off the bus with 79-year-old Nelson would create a delightful commotion as well as a fabulous fuck-you to the anti-cannabis crowd. Phelps is the ideal counter-balance to the parade of ads showing potheads sitting on the sofa, literally melting into 2-D flats of themselves from inactivity. Phelps smokes weed and he’s the most decorated athlete in history.
And if we want to talk longevity, let’s look to Willie Nelson. God willing, he will turn 80 next year, and his popularity and artistic integrity have not faded with time – or decade after decade of shameless potsmoking. And he still sings gospel. Put all that together in a package – and then shake it all over the U.S. like a bag of bud.
But it’s not all toking and pizza for Phelps. Willie has to work, and so does Michael. I suggest taking up the cause of fellow U.S. athlete Nicholas Delpopolo, who was kicked out of the Olympics for testing positive for marijuana, which he claims he ingested “inadvertently” after eating something with weed baked in. He didn’t medal, but now he doesn’t even get to keep his seventh place.*
*Are there ribbons after bronze? That’s what we used to get from my childhood swim team. I think seventh place was brown.
According to the BBC, Belgrade-born Nick Delpopolo was adopted from a shitty orphanage after the chaos of the dissolution of Yugoslavia, and felt extremely grateful to the U.S., hoping to represent both his adoptive nation and Montenegro, which has has visited and still holds a connection to. It’s a story that tugs at the heart. Do we really want to fuck over his dream of showing gratitude and connection to two different countries?
And after all, Phelps, Delpopolo, and Nelson share the misfortune of a fondness for an illegal substance. Phelps got a three-month suspension, Delpopolo was ejected from the Olympics, and Willie took the fall for his band for his busted tour bus.
Michael Phelps can take to Willie’s stage and to the morning talk shows keeping a focus on Delpopolo’s plight, long after the Olympics have ended and people are focused on the World Series, the Superbowl, and March Madness, reminding Americans that there are more than three sports (okay soccer and hockey and maybe tennis are contenders in the U.S.) and that marijuana doesn’t seem to affect world class athleticism. (Let’s agree that it doesn’t help it, so why ban it?)
Michael Phelps has to move fast on this. Whether he knows it or not, he’s already a key figure in the mobilization to legalize marijuana use. He can get a kick-start by lending a hand to a fellow Olympian stoner. Phelps has had a career that few can dream of. Now he can have a second career that few will conceive of.