The Rise and Fall of Heroes

If you know me, you know I don’t tend to make big deals out of little ones.


That being said, much has been written in the past few days about Michael Phelps, America’s golden boy, and his recently-surfaced pictures- pictures of him doing drugs.

It is quite interesting to see people’s/companies’/the media’s responses to what has occured. Kelloggs immediately dropped him off their support, while Subway said “Like most Americans, and like Michael Phelps himself, we were disappointed in his behavior.” … “Also like most Americans, we accept his apology. Moving forward, he remains in our plans.” Here we can see Kelloggs standing on moral grounds while Subway plans on keeping its cashcow.

The media seems to be split, whether or not to assail America’s hero or to let it slide, as in the case 4 1/2 years ago when he was arrested for drunk driving.

Michael Phelps refuses to outrightly admit he was wrong. He is quoted as having said “Obviously, for a mistake you should get punished” and “It was bad and stupid judgment, and something I’ll always live with.” We’re so caught up in these blame-reduction buzzwords… This wasn’t just a bad judgment or mistake. It was a clear decision to do something illegal and wrong. He has now started playing the victim, as evidenced by he response, “I’m taking it step by step, day by day. There’s still a long way between now and then, but I’m back here, I’m training for who knows what yet. But I’m back in the water, doing the thing I love.”

Most people I’ve talked to about this don’t even really care, and for good reason. It’s hard to see someone that we’ve looked up to fall.

This quarter I’ve been taking a “Heroes in Literature and Film” class. I’ve really gotten some insight into what we consider heroes now versus what they used to be. We idolize those who have a single great physical ability: singing, athleticism, etc, but being a true “hero” is more than just that. Our idea of the term has even perverted one of the greatest hero tales of all-time, Beowulf. In the book, there is no great fall of the man. He takes pride in what he accomplishes and does these amazing feats that no one could imagine. There is no successful seduction of a temptress, there is no greed for power or wealth. He did what he did because it was his duty and felt the obligation to his friends and family.

Yes, heroes have flaws, but the “hero” that does something solely for the act of bettering himself and for his own glory is no hero at all. A hero is bound by the rules and laws that bind the rest of us. There should be forgiveness, yes, but there should not be this idolization because, ultimately, we’ll be left disappointed.

7 thoughts on “The Rise and Fall of Heroes”

  1. Just wanted to say thanks for stopping by.. I’ll touch on some of your points because there are a few things I want to point out in what you said.

    You see.. the wonderful thing about this country (at least in theory) is if you don’t like a law and have a legitimate reason for that dislike and follow the guidelines to have it changed instead of being defiant, you have a real chance at having that law changed.

    You may call me self righteous and all that.. well you might as well include the vast majority of Americans.. your average citizen, law makers, judges, etc. The very fact that its illegal is reason enough to stay away from it- at that point it becomes a rejection of authority, etc, etc.

    We’ve come to a point in society, however, that science tells us that pot is less addictive, less harmful, etc than both tobacco and alcohol. Pop culture has trained us to think of lung cancer when we hear about tobacco and alcoholism/liver damage/DWI when we hear alcohol… but when we think of pot, what pops into mind is the long-haired 16-year-old down the street.

    Mine’s not to question what’s worse or two what degree things should be taken… I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, none of that stuff. I wasn’t condemning Michael Phelps to eternal damnation, I was tying it in with one of my courses and how this tragic flaw in heroes is something to be expected. Obviously I don’t need to rehash all of it, since its just a few scroll-wheel movements up, but I hope you see my point.

    As for the “carputer” (horrible name, I know), I have to say that I love it. Yes its impractical, no I can’t write at it, yes its huge, but it was a blast to build and actually relatively useful. Call it what you will, but it was a fun, constructive summer project.

    Dan’s last blog post.. Rejecting Conformity

  2. What? More of this? Is it “wrong” to drink alcohol? Is it “wrong” to consume caffeine, Taurine, or B12?

    What’s wrong (no quotes) is ANYONE getting prosecuted for MJ use, while beer and soda are advertised on prime-time TV while the kids are still up. What’s wrong is the media and the press making a mountain out of a molehill. If that were a picture of Mr. Phelps with a beer, we’d all be talking about something substantial right now.

    Sure, if he were blood doping, or using steroids, that’s newsworthy. That’s cheating. I doubt anyone is going to argue that MJ is a performance enhancing drug.

    ” but the “hero” that does something solely for the act of bettering himself and for his own glory is no hero at all. ”

    Bettering himself? Do people drink beer or coffee to “better themselves”? Are people out there getting sloshed in bars for the “glory”?

    Geez, self-righteous much?

    I linked through to this malarky from your “carputer,” or as I like to call it “impractically huge and slanty desk, complete with FailOS Vista.”

    Just think about this. Each and every one of the hypocrites that’s berating a good man for enjoying his leisure time in the way he sees fit, hurting no one except perhaps himself, is going to go out and have a fucking drink tonight. If you don’t see the hypocrisy there, this nation is a lost cause.

  3. There is a definite double standard throughout America. Whether it’s Michael Phelps not getting prosecuted for Marijuana use or it’s [Timothy Geithner/Tom Daschle/Nancy Killefer/Charles Rangel] failing to pay their taxes.

    HT’s last blog post.. What is a tax cut?

  4. I’m glad Phelps was penalized at least a little bit, but I’d say the consequences are definitely disproportionate to what he did. I try to drill the “your actions determine the consequences” thing into my students. And we wonder why they don’t seem to buy into it…

  5. Just as an addendum to the post, I fully believe that both he and any other athlete should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law concerning illegal substances. His case should be no different than any other. Unfortunately, I don’t see that ever happening.

    Dan’s last blog post.. The Rise and Fall of Heroes

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