Stories From A Life

Been there. Done that. Writing about it.

Sally Swift

Sally Swift
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
June 14
VP, Repartee
Swift Retorts
sally: a journey, a venture, an expression of feeling, an outburst, a quip, a wisecrack ... me


Editor’s Pick
FEBRUARY 1, 2009 8:17PM

Who Got The Big Bong Story On Michael Phelps?

Rate: 37 Flag
phelps tab cover 

Michael Phelps might be in trouble, but he's in pretty high end company, scandal-wise. The reporter who broke the Big Bong Story is Georgina Dickinson, the US Editor of the English tabloid News of the World. She's the scandal-monger who brought us Sarah Palin in a hot red swimsuit, comparing her to Pamela Anderson and hit us with the latest dirt on Amy Winehouse.

How she got the smoky exclusive on Gold Medal Mike, however, isn't really a mystery. All you have to do is read the vitriolic frat boy quotes in her article to know the photos and story came from disgruntled students at the University of South Carolina, where Phelps went to visit a girl and party hearty. They snapped a few good shots of Phelps and then shopped them around to the highest bidder on the Internet.

It's easier than you'd imagine, especially for today's Internet savvy kids. And the tabloids make it super easy. There it is, right at the top of NOTW home page: SELL A STORY. Click on that and you get this:  SELL YOUR STORY | News | News Of The World

sell story 

Based on the information, the Phelps story had to mean serious cash for the students who sold it and the damning photo to NOTW online. Then Georgina Dickinson went to work here in the States, being all blonde and sweet and understanding as she got them to spill their smarmy, jealous guts into juicy quotes.

The story, such as it is, presented under Dickinson's byline is little more than a recap of Phelps' Olympic victories and some bits of descriptive narrative bracketing a pastiche of cranky quotes from "sources" about the swimmer's behavior during a visit to the university.

“Michael came to visit Jordan but ended up just getting wasted every night."

“He was out of control from the moment he got there."

“He didn't know many people so you'd think he'd be a little shy. But he was loud, obnoxious and slamming beers from the get-go."

“You could tell Michael had smoked before. He grabbed the bong and a lighter and knew exactly what to do."

“Like the night before he was holding court, throwing back shots two at a time and pouring drinks to every cute girl.”
Hero worship? Guess not, Mike. At least not from some of the guys who skulked in your shadow long enough to take a few pics. And collect some major bucks.

Who are these guys? A source of mine says one of them is a junior whose girlfriend paid too much attention to Phelps. He took the photo on his iPhone. The paper and it's US editor aren't talking. Must protect their confidentiality, dontcha know.

And what about Phelps' right to privacy? Hey, "he's a public figger [sic], endorsing products, you know, fair game now."


Such fair game moves Georgina Dickinson (isn't she just so LA?) up the food chain. Her promotion came on the heels (or the backs?) of a series of scoops on Lindsay Lohan in 2007 plus kiss and tell revelations about Robbie Williams and Bruce Willis. 

Dickinson has been based in LA as the paper's showbiz reporter since 2005, having previously worked as its "northern correspondent," whatever that means. Can't seem to find much on her, though. Unlike the paper's many scandal columnists based in London, Dickinson's bona fides--and whereabouts--are buttoned up tight.

News of the World, bizarrely enough, is owned by a conglomerate called News International, which publishes, among other things, the venerable Times of London and longtime British tabloid The Sun, online and off. Apparently the snooty Times needs scumbag news to pay the bills.

But wait, there's more! Follow the trail and you find News International is a subsidiary of News Corporation, a sweet little company which brings us, among other outstanding media, Fox News. Oh yeah, and has a chairman named Rupert Murdoch, Doesn't it just figure?

This isn't the first publicly embarrassing episode for Phelps. In 2004, at age 19, after an Olympic triumph in Athens Phelps was arrested on a drunken driving charge. Guess whose crack team broke that story too? Phelps pleaded guilty and apologized for his mistake.

In his book "No Limits: The Will to Succeed," Phelps recounted how his first phone call was to his agent, and not his mother or coach Bob Bowman, because he knew they would yell at him. That's not the only reason. Phelps isn't a total idiot. He called his agency this time too.

NOTW said Phelps' representatives "went into a panic over our story and offered us a raft of extraordinary incentives not to run the bong picture." The incentives are bizarre, read the end of the story. There's likely never been an offer like it.

I wonder how the parents of the boys who sold out Phelps for a pound of flesh are feeling now. Proud their little weasels became underground entrepreneurs? We'll probably never know who they are. Although they're such asses they might feel the need to brag about their valiant sellout some day soon.

And for sure, Georgina Dickinson or some other Dirt Diva will be right there to pooper scoop the story. Or maybe not. They'd have to be draped over a wasted Lindsay or Britney or Amy to really get NOTW's attention.

Bottom line: people do dumb, thoughtless things all the time. Kids act like kids. It doesn't matter if they're celebrated for their abilities, talents and fame, or if they're as anonymous as you and I. People do stupid things. Especially young people.

The tabloid carrion will feed on them as long as we buy the papers, watch the celeb shows or click on the scandalous photos and vids online. Because we're feeding on them too.

I don't know about you, but my stomach hurts.

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I have pictures of Freaky next to a supermarket ONLY TWO BLOCKS AWAY from a head shop. I wonder what that's worth?
Smarmy. She reeks of smarmy. So he wanted to blow off (or suck in) a little steam. He's worked hard. It will probably hurt his endorsements if it's true, but it shouldn't. Kids his age (and me when I was his age) did it and so did the corporate suits who make these decisions. Hypocrisy rules. There are no more heroes, when will parents learn that THEY are their kids heroes, if they try hard enough.

Good scoop Sally.
funny catatmite. very funny.
I feel like suddenly my Lexus entry should have been about how the camera phone has changed things--and not for the better. If I'd had a Lexus entry.
She looks like Ann Coulter's kid sister.
the downside of the cult of celebrity strikes again....
After this, I sort of understand why a lot of celebrities want to hang out the in the VIP room and not mingle with “regular” people. This terrible urge to build people up to god-like levels and then tear them down is very disturbing.

It makes me glad (not for the first time) that I am not a celebrity, and also glad that my young and dumb years were before camera phones and the internet…

Thanks for the scoop, Sally.
Cat, I just plain love you.

Greg, you're right on target. I especially like this: "when will parents learn that THEY are their kids heroes, if they try hard enough."

Mrs. Michaels, you are TOO funny!

OE, Ann's kid sister in smarmatude too. More gums on her though. (I had to be catty, this bitch really's got me steamed).

Brian, bizackly.

Sue, VIP room makes perfect sense. But what a shame for a kid like Phelps who should be able to be a kid. You're so right on the build up/tear down, it's a bad culture. I'm glad no camera phones in my salad days either.
FanTABulous sleuthing. A really great job, in no time, Sally. Most impressed.
Thanks, Lea, and all while halfheartedly watching the Super Bowl. No Eagles. (sigh)
Hey, if you guys want to get rich quick, I generate approximately a scandal a day with various and sundry activities that get little to no notice. Come to the Jersey shore with your camera in hand and let's make some money, shall we? I mean, this week's been a little sluggish but I feel a real bad streak coming over me Monday, latest Tuesday.
"NOTW said Phelps' representatives "went into a panic over our story and offered us a raft of extraordinary incentives not to run the bong picture." The incentives are bizarre, read the end of the story. There's likely never been an offer like it."

Funny....this story reminds me of a movie I just saw the night before last, "Sweet Smell of Success."
Beth, you're a Jersey Girl??? I'm just a drive away up the AC Expy to Philly! Did we know that? And the scandals just keep on comin in my house too.

Ann24, you are SO on target. Did you read what Phelps' agency offerend NOTW? Everybody should read it, unbelievably desperate.

Geoff, if you're talking to me, thanks. If not, thanks anyway.
To answer your question: Yes! Phelps' publicist saw the $$$$ going down the drain (no pun intended). That's what made me think of the movie. And as in the movie, there are really no "good guys" in this story.
Back when I was a mild-mannered newspaper reporter, I received an inquiry to do a story and get some pics from one of these outfits. The first story they wanted, I gave them -- a guy broke out of prison and hid in the basement of a nearby house - a house belonging to the local sheriff. I was glad to get the extra money.

The next request was for story and pics about a local grocer in his 70's who had been shot and killed by two thugs because he couldn't hobble around on his crutches fast enough to suit them. I never even got to the pictures. His wife said, "I still have to work behind this counter, and I can't get the blood stains out of the floor. And there's his crutches still over in the corner."

I said "I'm so sorry" and lit out like a scalded dog, and that was the end of my career writing for "enquiring" minds. Moral of the story? If you want to write for scandal sheets, be sure to have you heart removed first.
Good reporting, Sally. thank you.
Turns out Phelps admitted to its truth. I guess that's better than deny, deny, deny, like we're so used to hearing...Own up to your mistakes and try and learn. I wonder if THAT will get any coverage?
Wow Sally, you're quick! Nice work. This whole incident confirms that I would rather be rich than famous. Your life is not your own once you're in the public eye. There's always someone waiting to profit off of you.

Does anyone remember Michael Phelps having a drunk-driving incident after the previous Olympics? In my opinion, that's way worse but it blew over quickly.
Sally ... did you really say "HIGH end company" ... you and the quck joke ... hahahahaha~~~

Urrrrrrgggh. It gacks me that people salivate for these tabloids. I feel slimed just thinking about someone like Georgina Dickinson.

I was going to say more, but, my stomach hurts too and I gotta stop.
Unfortunate for Phelps. Hate to see accomplishment marred by this sort of sniping. One conclusion seems inescapable to me: If you can bring home Olympic gold in eight events, and break all sorts of world records, and generate millions in endorsements, and you also smoke marijuana, then clearly marijuana is not such a terrible and destructive thing.
Well it just proves that he is normal/human/sociable. As far as heroes. He probably is to some still. It's all so subjective. IMHO there are still alot of heroes out there, many of them are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Semper Fidelis!
I'd contact that disreputable "jounalist" right away!

Seriously, this makes me sick. I just love this young man. Special ed and he is just the greatest guy. This is a generational thing and such crap.
We live in a small world. At anytime anything you you do can be caught on an cell phone and be broadcast around the world in minutes. Good or bad.

Celebrities know the score, and in the case of Phelps it could cost him millions. Advertisers are willing to give millions of dollars to athletes who can give a positive image to their products. If the athlete decides to screw up that image, then to bad. If they want the money then they accept the restraints of not doing things that will destroy their careers.

I feel no pity for him. What if you or I were hitting the bong and someone showed the picture to your boss? You could be without a job. Well Phelps' boss is ultimately the public and he may find himself being fired.

Few of us have the ability to make multiple lifetimes of salary in a few years. If I was given the opportunity to do the same, I would done a little more to protect it. But, celebrities are not known for being smart. Don't worry Michael summer is coming and the local pools need lifeguards.
" the downside of the cult of celebrity strikes again...."
Brian B

Remind me again what the upside is?
She also has advanced gum disease....will lose her teeth eventually.

I don't care what Phelps does during his off-time. No one should.

Great analysis, Sally.
Can you imagine if any one of us becomes famous what might get pulled out of our comment histories or posts......? The other disturbing thing is, why do we care?
You're not going to get me to feel sorry for a kid who is an American hero, a talk show darling, a multi-millionaire and someone who by all accounts should have known better (see previous DUI).

The hypocrisy makes me want to hurl. How is Phelps any different than Michael Vick? Both are/were beloved athletes; both had rap sheets but were given second chances; both are/were loved because they excelled in their sport in ways that no one else ever has.

Both committed crimes and were 'sold out' by supposed friends--but both committed crimes that had no adverse affect on any other living, breathing human being. I would even wager significant money on the idea that the drug trade kills at least 5,000 times more people per year than the pit bull trade.

Now step back and look how we've treated these two different men.
Sally, this is very interesting insight into how the scandal machine works. Thanks.
Edgar, are you trying to play devil's advocate? You do realize that Michael Vick was running a dog fighting establishment? And that dogs were killed? And that dog fighting is illegal?
Tom, see, I knew you had a kind heart. OTOH, how do you know that widow hadn't spent a lifetime beating her kids? Just saying, what people do in private should stay in private, but heartless "reporters" won't let that happen.

Bob, Greg, Bees, it's all so unfortunate and scummy. What bothers me is how well underground the reporter makes sure to stay.

Lisa, I'm with you, DUI is much worse. But he was 19, the age range that happens most.

Ann, you are the ONLY person who got it.. or at least gave me props for it, thank you!

honton, Texas, o'steph, your comments highlight the various takes on all aspects of this.

M Todd, your comment tells me you've got a stick up your butt for rich celebs. If you have kids, especially a 20-something male kid, you should know Phelps behavior couldn't be more typical, not of a celeb, but of a kid feeling his oats. You never did that?

And I don't agree that the public is his "boss." Speedo, maybe, but it's not a judgement we get to make.. except not to buy Speedos. And really, who wears those things besides athletes? Ew.

iron fish, Persephone, Kaysong, three to-the-point points.

cart, we better all be careful what we say here, eh? Too late.

Edgar, you'd compare Michael Phelps to Michael VICK??? Oh please. Vick committed a serious, grotesque crime for big bucks. Phelps smoked some weed at a college party. I don't know who sold out Vick, but Phelps was sold out by jealous strangers.

So now you're putting Phelps into "the drug trade" and saying that pit bull fighting is less heinous than pot smoking? Jeez. What're You smoking?

overworked, you're welcome. Going to wash my hands now.
It slays me that any of it is seen as shocking. Please. He's a young guy. He drinks! He smokes weed! He flirts with girls! What? Call the presses!

I don't get it.
Sally not at all,

If you can make millions because of your celebrity image I am all for it. I am for a free market society. And ultimately the public is the boss. Speedo wants someone who will sell product. If they do something that will negatively impact that, Speedo will drop them because they no longer are an asset but a liability.

Now if hitting the bong appeals to a market, and someone is selling to that market then he has value companies will pay.

Phelps is a kid, and kids do foolish things. He screwed up. So who should pay for his screw up? The people paying him millions to enhance their brand? The person who saw a news worthy item for the press? Or the press for printing something that will sell papers? Or is Michael responsible for his own image.

Most 20 year old young adults are lucky to get a job at Starbucks and could compromise their career if photographed doing illegal drugs. Here is a 20 year old who could make a lifetime of earnings in a year. His employer gives him those millions for projecting an image if he destroys that image he alone will pay the price, just like everyone else.

They are not paying him millions because he swims faster than everyone else, they pay him millions because he has value to sell product because he is famous and people like the idea of a winner. No value no check.

I will say this, I don't matter to me if Phelps hits the bong all day long. Nor does it take away from his accomplishments in my book. When I buy something the celebrity endorsing the product has zero influence on my reasoning for buying.

Maybe NORML will hire him. If anything his actions fly in the face of the idea that marijuana is only smoked by losers. And to be honest, Speedo would probably sell more suits because most youth would identify more with a kid who is successful in his accomplishments and smokes pot.
Almost anyone who uses illegal drugs is supporting the illicit drug trade. Of course, I'm going out on a limb here and assuming that Phelps didn't grow that bong's contents in the family garden strictly for his own personal use.

As far as I'm concerned, fighting dogs and smoking pot are both crimes that have zero effect on other human beings. That is the bottom line. In this regard, they are morally on the same plane.

Pot may be accepted by a certain segment of society, but so is dog fighting--although the latter is a different, less white and less mainstream segment.

Phelps was a role model who is now anything but. Just like Vick. But Phelps gets the pillow treatment around here while I'd guess that the people standing up for Phelps in the face of those dastardly college kids "who sold out Phelps for a pound of flesh" are the very same people who rolled Vick under the bus.

What really is the difference between the two? (I'll bet you can guess)
OMG!!!!! A BONG!!!! HE HAD A BONG!!!!!

Wow, it's not like he killed someone, or raped someone. Jeez, what next? He forget to zip up his fly and they HANG HIM??

People need to grow up and stop buying these shitty tabloids. When the market dries up, the scuzzy journalists will too.

Edgar - I can't believe you went there. You probably never had a hit off a joint, did you? Or had a drink of anything before you were legal. Those things are markedly different, HUGELY so, than what Michael Vick did. I suppose it's ok that Vick was ONLY abusing dogs.

Thumbed - good job once again, Sally. You should get a column already. :-D
Those quotes regarding Phelps from the kids at the party just sounded like the quotes you'd hear about anyone who attended a party. They were offered with the worst intentions, but in fact just make Phelps seem like a regular guy. If he had declined a bong, or a beer, there would have been other, equally disparaging remarks about his "snobbery" or his "holier than thou" attitude. That over-used expression, "Get a life!" really needs to be directed to Georgina and the kids that took advantage of Phelp's good nature.
Annoir, do you realize that dogs are animals, just like the chickens, cows and pigs that we eat? Do you realize that animals are legally and cruelly used for sports like dog racing, horse racing and bullfighting?

Do you realize that smoking pot is a crime? That the drug trade kills thousands across the planet every year? That American drug use is the primary reason why some are calling Mexico a 'failed state?'

I am not being a 'devil's advocate.' I'm expressing things how I see them.
As far as I'm concerned, fighting dogs and smoking pot are both crimes that have zero effect on other human beings. That is the bottom line. In this regard, they are morally on the same plane.

Sorry, Edgar. You must have been replying as I was, I didn't see this. I have to say, you're fuckin' kidding right?

One crime is ingesting a substance that the government says you cannot ingest.

One crime results typically in the taking of a life.

Can you PLEASE explain how that is on the same moral plane?

In the town near where I live, the police have used the night vision toys they got from "homeland security" funds to spy on folks (and not just those evil musicians) who spark one outside the bars. Wars against abstract nouns. Wars against victimless crimes. War as a rhetorical flourish to sometimes worthwhile efforts. Geesh! The demand for pot does not respond to prohibition so, in the name of innocent civilians both here and in transiting countries, it's time to go further than chastising this bimbo (though I applaud you for it). It's time to join libertarians and liberals who have advocated the de-criminalization of possession and use, but not resultant behaviors, regardless of our personal habits in that regard.
To further clarify my point here, I'm reposting this comment I originally posted on Kerry's blog on this subject:

This is a big deal and it should be, thanks to the 2,000 pound Gorilla in the room.

When athletes admit to pot use (or get busted), the media goes wild. Talk show hosts call athletes "thugs," (media/society's favorite racist code word for "young black males") accuse them of "falling down as role models" and drag their reputation through the mud. Of course, this usually happens to young black athletes.

The two most recent pot fiascoes in my memory were the Josh Howard (of the Dallas Mavericks) radio interview and the (pre-dogfighting) Mike Vick airport bust/non-bust. The media killed those guys. They have to do the same with Phelps or we'll all be exposed to the racism in our media and our (sometimes subconscious) racist reactions to the news that the media feeds us.

Now, that being said, the proof is already in the pudding. The Vick/Phelps comparison I have already laid out pretty much says it all.

Phelps needs to lose his endorsements and hang his head in shame. At least that's what happens when young black athletes go afoul.

(and Sally, Vick didn't commit his crimes for 'big bucks.' Records show he lost great sums of money in his dogfighting ventures. He trained and fought pit bulls for the same reason Phelps smoked pot: to have fun. Both Phelps and Vick were participating in illegal activities that are sometimes fostered and even encouraged in the societies that they grew up in. Neither directly harmed another human being with their crimes.)
Edgar, these are direct quotes from you about Michael Vick and Michael Phelps.

First you said,

"both committed crimes that had no adverse affect on any other living, breathing human being. "

But now you say,

"Annoir, do you realize that dogs are animals, just like the chickens, cows and pigs that we eat? Do you realize that animals are legally and cruelly used for sports like dog racing, horse racing and bullfighting?"

You are trolling. Simple as that. I love these forums even when I read something that I don't agree with. But you are deliberately being provocative and not even doing it consistently. That is not what we are about here. Go check out a youtube comments section, there you will find your kind.
Bill, in the world I live in, people and animals are on different planes. People eat animals. People legally use and abuse animals to have a good time (greyhound tracks, horse racing, rodeo, bull fighting). Some forms of animal abuse are illegal, but accepted by certain elements of society. (see: rural African Americans and dog fighting or Hawaiians and cock fighting).

Drugs are illegal and they kill PEOPLE, not animals. Even pot kills--not the user, but through the people who use violence and killings to control the drug trade.

Perhaps you're a PETA member or something. I don't know. But to me, a human life is always more valuable than an animal one.
My first thought was "cool, one more point towards pot being pretty benign." I hope more people take this for the amazing thing is it. If he can smoke pot and still break all those records, I'm super impressed. I'm disappointed that there is likely going to have to be some sort of major public apology because I don't think he did anything wrong. I'm much more pissed off about the drunk driving. These kinds of lapses in judgment happen when kids are expected to be mature before their years because they happen to get famous for being good at something.
It seems the evidence is in! Using a bong to enjoy the worlds safest drug will help to avoid the health risks attributed to smoke inhalation. Thank you Michael for detaching yourself from the propaganda network brainwashing while proving to all that lung power does survive even if you imbibe!
annoir, if exposing what I see as racism and hypocrisy is trolling, then I'll 'troll' all day. I've been a member of this online community for a long time and I think people around here realize that. I don't start fights or stir up controversy for controversy's sake.

My point is that the way people around here are reacting to the Phelps pictures shows the double standard in our society for black and white athletes.
Good digging! You only missed the explanation for this:

"News of the World, bizarrely enough, is owned by a conglomerate called News International, which publishes, among other things, the venerable Times of London and longtime British tabloid The Sun, online and off. Apparently the snooty Times needs scumbag news to pay the bills."

News International is Rupert Murdoch's company. Nuff said.

(He now owns the Wall St Journal, too)
Hit post too soon....Murdoch made his money with tabloid papers and now is buying up "the institutions" like the London Times and WSJ.
I like Phelps much better now.
We should all pause to feel the pain in our stomachs cause by ingesting such poor food as this. It's high time we stopped condoning this kind of gossip's masquerading as news.
Sally, Sorry for the repeat here, but, Mr. Alverson seems to be of the opinion that breeding vicious doggs for the purpose of competeing in a death sport of unfathomable cruelty is analogous to taking a bong hit. I would agree that the public became aware of both being foolish through the actions of so-called friends. To say that Mike Vick is no different than Phelps is ludicrous. Perhaps no other person was hurt by eithers actions. The brutally abused dogs are living things and held in high regard by many. If Phelps is charged it will be no different, I would note that the punishment and severity of the punishment for the crimes is widely disparate. Even the courts see Vicks crimes as more deserving of strong punishment. These are S.C.'s current marijauna statutes for under one ounce: 1 oz or less (first offense)* misdemeanor 30 days $100 - $200
1 oz or less (subsequent offense) misdemeanor 1 year $200 - $1,000
More than 1 oz see Sale or Trafficking
*Conditional discharges possible for first offense.
Here are the statutes for Vicks crimes:Aggravated Cruelty to Animals (felony charge): A person commits the offense of aggravated cruelty to animals when he or she knowingly and maliciously causes death or physical harm to an animal by rendering a part of such animal's body useless or by seriously disfiguringsuch animal…[paraphrased] except for conduct otherwise permitted under state or federal law. O.C.G.A. §16-12-4

Dog Fighting: A person commits the offense of dog fighting when he/she causes or allows a dog to fight another dog for sport or gaming purposes or maintains or operates any event at which dogs are allowed or encouraged to fight one another. O.C.G.A. §16-12
Note that one is a midemeanor and the other is a felony. In Georgia, a felony is most commonly defined as a crime punishable by imprisonment for more than twelve months. It can also mean a crime punishable by death or by life in prison.
See the difference?
Notice that Edgar refuses to address his own contradictory quotes that were pointed out to him and just chooses to respond to the troll statement.

There are plenty of examples of racism in this country. This ain't one of them.
Bill, in the world I live in, people and animals are on different planes. People eat animals. People legally use and abuse animals to have a good time (greyhound tracks, horse racing, rodeo, bull fighting). Some forms of animal abuse are illegal, but accepted by certain elements of society. (see: rural African Americans and dog fighting or Hawaiians and cock fighting).

Drugs are illegal and they kill PEOPLE, not animals. Even pot kills--not the user, but through the people who use violence and killings to control the drug trade.

Perhaps you're a PETA member or something. I don't know. But to me, a human life is always more valuable than an animal one.

No, Edgar, I don't belong to PETA nor do I agree with half the asinine crap they spout. Just as I don't agree with you. Yes, animals and humans are not equal. We can establish that fact easily. However, that does not mean that the wanton killing of an animal (we're talking KILLING here, Edgar - not RACING) simply for sport is acceptable. Sorry, I don't care where you live. In America (where Michael Phelps lives, where Michael Vick lives), it's a crime. Smoking pot is not on the same plane in terms of criminal activity, as shoplifting isn't and other so-called "victimless" crimes.
Michael Vick caused the deaths of animals with intent and with malice; THAT is a crime. Michael Phelps smoked a bong and drank some beer. A crime as well, but nowhere near the severity.

Get over it, fella. This is just a strawman argument on your part and you know it.
just think what would happen if phelps were caught naked playing frisbee on a beach.

in a tube top.

with a troll.

I knew it had to be an iPhone.

You can easily take fairly high resolution pictures with it - and completely in secret. The tiny, barely visible lens of the iPhone is on the back , so if you're looking at the screen and holding it up you can take a picture while appearing to be doing just about anything else that one might do on an iPhone.
Well, first of all, God Bless Lonnie!

Now, even though this is my little post-forum, I'm not going to moderate, just state my POV in response to a few comments. (Edgar, I deleted One duplicate of the same comment, which I assume was the typical glitch).

Odette, Coyote, that's the bigger point here, thought some are sure enjoying a good reason for a marijuana debate. Hey, it's part of the equation, why not?

M Todd, thanks for the clarification. All you say makes perfect sense and it's clear I misunderstood your point.

Stacey, I'm with you, enough already with the "rack up our record" pot busts. It's not a gateway drug, it does no more harm--actually less--than tobacco unless laced with something and if it were legally grown we'd have some safeguards against that.

katina, sterowas, bobbot, you're on the bandwagon with Stacey, me and many others.

Silkstone, Murdock is in there. WAIT! I just reread, I left out that sentence! I hit "post" too soon also, duh. I'll go back and update shortly. Thanks for pointing out a big error.. the risk of self-editing.

Kalvin, has anybody ever mentioned your uncanny resemblance to Greg Thomas?

Cherie, ain't technology great? Next, Apple will be taking credit.

Bill, annoir and bobbot are doing just fine with Edgar, who does have a right to his opinions. Though I too disagree totally with him.

Edgar, you've made this into a racial issue and a PETA issue. It is neither. It's not a constitutional issue either, though many are using it to make the argument that smoking pot shouldn't be a crime. (I think it should be on a par with alcohol, legal at 21 re my remarks to Stacey above).

But really, a bunch of college kids are supporting the drug industry by smoking pot? The drug industry is concentrated on cocaine, heroin, crack.. where the money is.

What's your position on professional doping, I wonder. Even the USOC has stayed out of this one because it happened off season and out of their purview. And btw, I haven't heard of anyone being arrested as a result of this incident, so at the moment, it isn't even a crime.

I have a feeling even Michael Vick would laugh at the comparison of himself and his crimes to Michael Phelps smoking pot. Gambling, guns, animal cruelty, conspiracy by a grown man compared to a kid smoking pot. Give me a break.
Sally, my faith is restored! I had a hard time believing you didn't know that was Murdoch's company. ;)
Silkstone, thanks for the push. I found even more errors, had used the third draft instead of the last! You saved the day (after the piece ran on salondotcom), yeesh. Noone to blame but myowndumbself. :)
Not that pot is particularly "performance enhancing" but I believe it is far less harmful than say tobacco or rum. We all need to sign onto the Drug Policy Foundation site and get real about the laws. Telling young people its a NO No because it is against the law sends the message to many that it's the the law that's stupid since they observe a relative harmlessness in the drug.
My point here is that there is a double standard for white and black athletes. If we look back at how the media and blogging communities tried to completely destroy the reputation of Josh Howard (forward for the Dallas Mavericks) when he admitted to occasionally smoking pot (no pictures or statements involved) compared to this overwhelming show of support for Phelps, it reveals something damning--at least in my view.

I guess I'm not going to win over any converts with the Vick dogfighting comparison (because dogs are, well, dogs)--but I still think the point is valid. Some people don't think smoking pot is a big deal. Some here advocate the legalization of it. Yet still, it's against the law. The same can be said with dog fighting. Even though the people here aren't part of such a group in American society, there are people in our country who grew up around dog fighting--people who see it as a legal gray area, much like recreational light drug use.

I happen to personally think that Vick was over punished for a relatively light crime, even if that is not the prevailing sentiment here. I would personally rather catch wind of my own child attending a dog fight than hear about him using recreational drugs. That's just me.

But it still remains that successful athletes are role models. People with millions of kids looking up to them should not be doing drugs at parties or fighting dogs or even talking about occasional pot use to a radio host (like Josh Howard). These athletes get our love and accolades when they succeed, but at the same time we rightfully hold them to a higher standard. I would be furious about this if I had a kid at home with a Michael Phelps poster on his wall. Phelps knew better. He's even made a mistake like this before (with the DUI)!

Now Phelps is no better than Vick or Howard or Charles Barkley or Mark McGwire or Roger Clemens in my mind. He's failed. And he will have a long road ahead to redeem himself.

I also imagine that these Phelps pictures anger the countless other athletes who do take their responsibilities as role models seriously.

Even as the captain of my high school track team and as an NCAA athlete and later as a naval officer I understood that I was in a position of higher scrutiny--that I had a moral responsibility to those who looked up to me and served alongside me in both the military and sport to maintain much higher standards of personal conduct.

The reason I jumped into this argument is because it angers me that so many here are eager to defend and play down Phelps' colossal moral failure. And I think that if Phelps were a young black man with dreadlocks and tattoos, people around here would be hurling mud on him with reckless abandon--just like what happened with Mike Vick, Josh Howard and others.
There is NO OTHER SALLY!!! ANYWHERE!!!! This is great.
there are people in our country who grew up around dog fighting--people who see it as a legal gray area, much like recreational light drug use.

Comparing egregious animal abuse employed for gambling purposes to recreational marijuana use. Yeah...tight argument there, Edgar. You definitely convinced me.
Edgar, at least compare apples to apples. The apt comparison would be Ricky Williams, not Michael Vick. I recall Williams being tolerated by teams he played for and the NFL, until his habit interfered with his performance and he got cut by the Dolphins.

So far as anyone can tell, one bong hit does not seem to have impaired Phelps' performance at all. Now, if you want to argue that pot should not be legalized, and that regulations against it more strictly enforced, fine. But pot smoking is neither the legal nor moral equivalent of fighting animals in blood sports.
Jon, it's not acceptable to you because you didn't grow up around it. I still don't think dog fighting is as bad as people made it out to be surrounding the Vick thing, but that is not the point here.

Austin, you're right, Ricky Williams might be a better comparison, but even that one is a bit off. Ricky was a drug addict. I think the best example is comparing Josh Howard's summer radio interview (as I mentioned previously) to this Michael Phelps story.

Again, my point with all of this is that there is a double standard. We should rightfully be raking Michael Phelps over the coals for this. Where is the outcry?? Not one commenter on this thread has said that Phelps has let us all down and set a terrible example for the millions of kids who look up to him.

I think that if it were say LeBron James in that picture instead of Phelps, there would be talk around here of a role model committing a serious moral failure with justified and severe consequences.

Instead people are going after the kids who snapped the picture of Phelps?? seriously?? There would be no picture if Phelps hadn't been illegally doing drugs!

I think Phelps is being treated with kid gloves because he's the goofy white kid who won America's heart this summer in the pools of China.

You can easily take umbrage with my Vick comparisons and all that, but would somebody please counter me on what I really arguing here:

1. Phelps is at fault here (not the tabloids or college kids with camera phones) and he has done something completely reprehensible given his status as an American hero and icon for youth around the world.

2. He deserves very little pity because this is strike two (the DUI)

3. People would be handling this differently (as in more critically) if Phelps was a young black male athlete with a 'black' accent and tattoos.
AI have to say this about Josh Howard. Who? I had to go look up this "controversy" about him that you speak of. Early last year, he admitted smoking weed during the off-season. If the articles and blog entries at ESPN are any indication, Howard was mostly supported pretty much like what is happening here with Phelps.

Your insistence to comparing what Michael Vick did to Michael Phelps sucking on a bong is non-sensical. You have changed your thesis so many times, I don't know what you are saying now.

But the fact that you would rather see your child attend a violent bloody event where living breathing animals are mauled to death, than take a toke on a big fat doobie, tells me all I need to know about you.
It was sleezy. On the other hand, Olympic athletes are expected to be squeaky clean. Maybe it's a good thing like presidents admitting getting high, but there is the issue of children and role models. It's bad enough football, baseball and basketball players are getting busted for drugs, rape, domestic violence and everything else under the sun, but now even Olympic athletes are joining the party? What's next, Mary Lou Henner doing donkey porn? Is our culture just on the verge of complete collapse from it's own demented hednoism? I know, it was only pot. Safer than booze. But are there no more role models for kids? Any who are not stoned adulterous whackjobs? I'm still wondering when Britney Spears is going to join Nine Inch Nails.
Celebrities are people not Gods. We should neither worship or demonize them and worst of all we should not take actions that would deny them their ability to earn a living. If for some reason there is a criminal conviction, after the person serves their time we should accept them back into the fold. I am not a hypocrite. Even folks that are convicted of crimes that are not so palatable should have a second chance...even Michael Vick. Let he who is without sin .....
Once. Just once I would like to see a public figure not apologize or go on an apology tour for something that's their own business. I would love for Michael Phelps to shrug and say "No comment" or blurt out "Yes, I smoked a doobie, problem?" Just once, please.
Sports fans who regularly listen to sports radio or watch espn know and remember Josh Howard getting torn to shreds over his admission to pot use. An investigation was threatened by league sources. The pundits brought out the typical "thug" label and such.

$20 says no one is calling Phelps a "thug."

But your "Josh who?" is right on the money. This Phelps thing is WAY bigger because of his stature.

My 'thesis' has not changed. Phelps messed up big time. We're all losers for it and THERE IS A DOUBLE STANDARD FOR WHITE AND BLACK ATHLETES.

If you came from a family with a history of addiction and you'd lost loved ones to drugs, you'd rather your kid get into drugs than watch animals fight each other? One seems much more dangerous than the other to me. But, that all has to do with perspective--which again reaches back around to my unchanging central argument that there is a double standard at play here.
And Velina, you're right, Phelps should be given a chance to redeem himself.
And Velina, you're right, Phelps should be given a chance to redeem himself.
Particularly in the sports arena, the only color that seems to matter is green.

Of course Phelps misbehaved, that's not the point. He did it in a typical, normal way. What wasn't typical or normal is how this kid worked his ass off for years to win those gold medals. He didn't do it for money, he did it for competition. I'm married to a former competitive athlete, our son was one too, believe me for most young people at this stage it's about COMPETITION.

He's a made-up hero now because that's what our culture does. If they want to throw money at him, what, he's gonna turn it down? And he's using his hero status to give back to the community. Laudable at his age.

But he has a responsibility to himself and his contract. And he still hasn't been charged with a crime. Except by you.

Glade I could clarify. Don't get me wrong the spying on celebs is out of control. Phelps is a kid, who may have screwed up his big chance. Of course he can do the whole I am sorry, go into rehab, and hope he comes out a fallen hero restored (the public loves that), and next time he tokes up check everyone for cell phones.
While all of you may think it's terrible that some shitheads sold pictures of Phelps smoking, your thinking that Phelps is somehow not culpable for his actions is digusting. Sally, sorry, but you didn't report anything. The only question to ask is if the story was inaccurate. Apparently it wasn't because Phelps has already apologized in a very public manner just as he did when he was arrested for drunk driving.

Phelps is a public figure, which is a legal term, kiddies. If he chooses to take millions to endorse products from companies that probably shy away from pot smoking as an image builder, then he must be prepared for the consequences of losing that business. If a preacher gets caught fucking a parishioner, then he's out, right?

If Phelps wants to smoke dope, fine! But you just can't do it and be a public figure at the same time without consequences. I guarantee you if those pictures had been offered to the LA Times or the New York Times, they would have run the fucking story.
I'm surprised Edgar's point was so misunderstood in this thread. It seemed clear to me that he was setting aside the animal cruelty issue for a moment to look at the differential treatment of black and white athletes. He's right that most of us eat meat and wear leather and so on without really investigating the humane practices behind our consumerism, so there's that hypocrisy too. (I'm including myself here, too, so please don't think that I'm exactly calling anyone hypocrites. That is, the whole dog fighting thing was a total turnoff to me and continues to feel horribly wrong in spite of the fact that the Chinese eat dog and our own farmers are notoriously cruel to the animals we eat and so on, without those practices inciting the same revulsion.)

As I see it, Edgar is making two arguments: (1) drugs should largely be legalized (so he's not really all that interested in crucifying Phelps as much as crucifying those who would treat him more gently than black athletes), and (2) On the animal issue, consider the cultural context before piling on and consider our own hypocrisy as well. Unless we're going to object to the inhumane practices going on all around us, it's kind of like cherry picking to go after the one in particular.

Where I potentially differ with Edgar--emphasis on potentially because I'm truly not sure what I believe in this arena--is on his blanket statement that people are more valuable than animals (paraphrasing). I think one could easily make the argument that we are all just animals trying to survive and humans have no inherent value over other species. Which makes me sound like an avid PETA member, which I am not. I'm just feeling particularly philosophical tonight and I'm avoiding writing a paper, two things that get me going on topics I don't care nearly as much about as it would appear given the length of my comment. (Thanks for the opportunity, Sally :)
Lainey, Edgar said that Michael V. was vilified and we are forgiving of Michael P and this is an example of black and white athletes being treated differently based on race.

Being caught running a dog fighting business is just not even in the same room as smoking a doobie so the comparison didn't stand.

So when you set aside that animal cruelty, what argument is he putting forth that we are treating Michael P. differently than a black athelete in the same position?

He uses Josh Howard, but even a quick search showed that his admission to using weed met mixed reactions.

The reason this bugs me is that there is true, harmful, hurtful racism happening in this world. I do believe black and white atheletes are treated differently. But it is offensive to me to throw the charge of racism around carelessly. I think Edgar is bringing up this facet needlessly. I do not think it is relevant to this discussion.
Perhaps you're right annoir--that using this dog fighting example doesn't help Edgar's argument, given its inflammatory animal cruelty aspect. But Edgar's been around a while, and he is thoughtful and smart; I like to reconsider my own knee-jerk thinking when someone I "know" presents a different angle. He's got more track record here than you do; I hope you start posting and I can get to know you as well.
My point here is that there is a double standard for white and black athletes.

Edgar, if you had started there and ended there, I'd not disagree with you. For that matter, why is there a double standard for athletes and non-athletes?

I think THAT would be a better question - don't you?
Your condemnation of supermarket tabloids is well deserved. I wish I could say I don't read the headlines but I do. They are usually so bizarre they are funny. You always need a good laugh waiting in line.

As to Michael actions I have to say it is nobody's business. I grew up in the little rowhouse neighborhood Roger's Forge that Michael did. Heck he may even lived in my old house. The point is that the people in Rodger's Forge that I know that smoked pot are just like Michael. They went on to live normal productive lives. I'm 55 and can't count on one hand the number of people I know who didn't or don't smoke. Why, because you can't count zero on your hand, well unless you hold up a fist I guess.
Might just be me but I consider something that appears to be a pattern of double standards quite harmful if only in perception. After a while that perception is crystal clear. The point people are trying to make is when Black athletes are guilty of even very similar offenses the hammer comes down much harder. Throwing in an extreme like Michael Vick detracts from the message and gives Phelps apologists an easy out.
I've been seeing this issue handed off and passed like a hot potato all over the "blogiverse." Who exactly gets to decide what hurts another group and what validity they need to express outrage or disappointment? If that was left in the hands of the majority we'd still have ironclad Jim crow laws insread of the de facto ones we have now. I have seen very few Black people admonish Phelps for hitting a bong. Some of you need to truly get it through your heads that many Black people,and others are just damn tired of certain people having their asses nailed to the wall while others get a mere scolding. Again i'm talking about similar offenses so leave your standbys of O.J. and Vick out of this. The code words and 21st century new-nigger euphemisms of t.h.u.g ,animal,monster and other derogatory slurs are rarely heaped upon the White counterparts of these Black athletes who run afoul of the law.
Unfortunately I feel too many have this idea of cross burners and neo-nazis when discusing White supremacy. Perhaps it's simply being so entirely blinded by a myopic viewpoint that is nullifies your ability to detect your own bias?
Phelps little blunder would have cost just about any Black athlete not only a sizable portion of future earnings but also the burden of not being judged as an equal human being. So come with "the race card" accusations. The term is becoming outdated as it mostly seems an efficiently redundant tool to stifle any real discussion concerning all the nuances of racial inequality in America,as well as the world over. I would feel better if the ones seething under their political correctness would just flatly admit they could care less about how any Black athlete is treated as they don't warrant their respect or consideration due to being BLACK. It's replete on the drippingly venemous posts all over the net concerning this subject. There isn't a person with even an average I.Q. who reads endlessly that isn't aware of the disparities across racial lines concerning media and average Joe/Jane criticism of public figures who stumble. Michael Phelps did not stand down a communist tank,or give his life fighting for freedom of others. He is not a god. he is a human being who performed one of the greatest feats in Olympic history. I give him his due for that. That does not excuse what he did. I will not submit to the culture of apologists who seem to want to give this man a pass because he looks like you,or your son,or your neighbors kid.
I don't feel he should be broken by this mistake. I just wish he would have been made to undertake a similar endurance test of humiliation as others who have been caught with or admitted to kissing Mary Jane. Is no one listening? While to some of you this may be pleasant dinner conversation or tabloid fodder,to others it's about being constantly reminded that many people feel you are "less than."
And I will submit the same reply to you, schmoobalistic, that I did to Edgar.

The fact that Michael P. is a white boy is not why he gets a pass. It's just fricking pot he was smoking. In a fricking college dorm room. It was a fricking stoopid boneheaded move.

There is real cause to be concerned about racism and the different treatment of black and white athletes. I don't think anyone here disagrees with that.

But you are picking the wrong incident to hang your analysis on. It's unfair for you to say that those who want to give Phelps a pass must therefore see black athletes as "less than" or that they don't warrant our respect. I am just not getting that vibe from this story.

I can feel yours and Edgar's rage about the inequality and it's understandable. But why does Michael Phelps have to pay for the injustices that have been done in the past to black athletes?
I wouldn't politicize this. Murdock made his fortune in tabloids. In London tabloid journalism is worse than here, with the Royal Family the first targets. A lot of this is business as usuall. Murdock is no prude. They are selling magazines.
I don't think it has as much to do with race as the type of sport. The press here probably doesnt know WHAT to do about this. The guy is an American hero, bring home 8 gold. He's not playing for a sports team, he is an international representative. On the one hand, who the hell cares, he likes bong hits. On the other, the most decorated Olympic athlete in this generation just got busted. I feel sorry for him. He is expected to lead a Leave it To Beaver life, when we kind of owe him. So like I said, it is not the same as a Point Guard. The press here can go off on him. Phelps went to China with our colors on his back, brought home a shitload of medals, and now we are in the position to pass judgement on him. It's akward. Do we let it slide? Make a big deal out of it? After 8 years of a cokehead running things? The irony.
To James Poyner, who said, "Sally, sorry, but you didn't report anything." and anybody else interested, Kerry started it! What I really mean is he made the first Phelps post Olympic Inhale. I commented that I wondered who took--and sold--the picture.

Kerry replied: Sally: THAT is the story I want to someone do -- profiles of the people of sell these photos, what they get for them and how they rationalize it afterward.

As Freaky would say, anything for Zerry, as long as there's cake. So, as a former journalist--and in the middle of the Super Bowl I might add--I managed to get a few tidbits of info to answer Kerry's call.

Pulitzer? No, of course not. Salon and Open Salon? You bet. And proud of it.

But Zerry: still no CAKE?
Good reporting, freshly done. Kudos!
Congrats to Phelps for admitting and not denying a story showing photos of his activity; what a class act! I mean that takes real guts to do; you could make an easy argument that it's another person in that shot. And yes, we definitely shouldn't care what he does during his off time; we shouldn't even care what he does during his on time; and we definitely shouldn't care about anyone doing drugs; driving afterward; or maybe some doctor getting cranked on his off time; we really shouldn't care about any illegal activity; well we can't do that, so let's pick and choose which illegal activiety matters and which doesn't. What those who shamelessly blew open this story should have done was keep it quiet and to themselves and 60 years later finally release all the dirty details. We clearly need to find more ways to blame the reporter and everyone but poor Phelps. I mean, he's not Bruce Kimble or anything.
Thank God none of the media of any shape or form regardless of political affiliation resorts to paying for exclusives, or paying to keep a story quiet; well if they do, it's ONLY for first-class stories, or ones that lean to the left if it happens to be a bit dirty; I mean, then of course it's okay. Yes, all my media is squeeky clean and completely free of bias; well as long as you don't expect me to uphold a standard I would expect of someone else.
We'll I bet he could hold that hit in a long time, with that swimmer's ability to hold his breath.
You call yourself a Journalist but seem pretty naive about how the media works. If it makes you feel better to make personal comments about reporters then you've got a problem. If you dont like it don't read it. Phelps is the one who did something wrong here - you can't blame a reporter for making a story of it. If it was n't true then you would be justified to complain but i don't see a problem in reporting something that is correct. Why post links to the NOTW website if you hate them so much. Everytime someone clicks the links it only bumps up their ad revenue..... Good luck in your future career. I think you'll need it.