Michael Phelps Taken to the Woodshed by Columinst Michael Wilbon? Can He Vent About Anything Else in Society?

Again, can we get over this. In comparison to what goes on in sports, why some columnists have decided on hop on their high horse is beyond me.

Case in point: The Washington Post’s Michael Wilbon.

While I always appreciate his candor, knowledge and insight, I think he’s gone way too in criticizing Phelps’s current problems. I mean as if smoking marijuana is the worst thing that takes place in sports. Seriously, in 2008, do we expect our athletes or much less anyone who has celebrity to seriously think that their public life is the same as their personal?

Even people who don’t have a squeaky-clean image have consequences to pay for certain acts. My dear friend Charles Barkley, as you might have noticed, has disappeared (I hope temporarily) from TNT after being arrested for drunk driving. I love Barkley. He’s helped my career and bank account by making me editor of his last two books. I’d do almost anything for him. But he doesn’t get a pass for drinking and driving.

There should be zero tolerance for that, and Phelps doesn’t get a pass for that, nor for his bong hit. The latter, in and of itself, certainly isn’t heinous. But it is stupid, given what’s at stake. And everybody excusing it, Sally, doesn’t help Phelps get the message that he’d better be careful and vigilant. Being granted a pass at every turn usually breeds a sense of being bulletproof, as we saw in the much more serious case of Michael Vick, who actually squandered $100 million or more. And Phelps isn’t cast in the role of bad boy or tough guy. His marketing representatives have set him up to be the guy who walks the straight-and-narrow.

I have no idea if News of the World is a legit news organization or not, but the British tabloid also reported that Phelps’s handlers offered all kinds of perks to the outlet if it didn’t publish the photo of Phelps taking a bong hit. I wonder if Phelps’s camp, in addition to all the sharpies, includes anybody with enough guts (and job security) to sit him down and get in his face, which is what most 23-year-olds need. Is there anybody in that camp who’s going to tell Phelps that he’s one more strike from ruining all the years of hard work? Are any of the embarrassed sponsors on Phelps’s roster going to tell him, “Michael, this isn’t the image we signed on for”?

Who cares? He’s a pitchman, and an athlete, not some mystical hero.

At this point, I’m sure Michael Phelps has learned the hard way that he has to be careful what he does in public; I’m sure the person who sent the photo the tabloids, must feel good about himself about selling out someone for personal or financial gain.

However, for the columnists who feel the need to use sports as some moral compass and get on their sports box, take a look at the conditions in pretty much every metropolitain city in America.

Or at what’s going on with the economy? Or why fat cat CEO’s walk away with millions while lower level employees face layoffs? Crime. Murder. Why teenage pregnancy is so high?

I don’t think the Phelps case is so much about his drug use, it’s about yet another hero who has let down the public and a lot of people feel deceived or let down. If some people feel that outraged about a man they don’t know, they need to look into themselves and out their own window.

And really, why is this crime being investigated by some sheriff down in South Carolina? I’m sure there’s something more serious out there to investigate than some swimmer who lit up in some room on a college campus.

This is crazy.