I don’t like marijuana. Not because it offends my morality but because I can’t stand the smell of it. I once told a friend of mine that I’d never quite understood the term “sweet smell of decay” until I went to college and all the potheads came crawling out of the couches. Phew!
Besides, the one time I tried it, I didn’t get buzzed nor did it make me feel good or relaxed or any of those things weed is supposed to do for you. All it did was give me the munchies – for that applesauce in a hot pocket that McDonald’s calls apple pies – and given I lived right above a McDonald’s that stayed open late and actually delivered… high or no high, it didn’t take me more than a couple of seconds to realize my very Indian butt didn’t need help of that sort, thanks muchly.
But in all fairness, I must admit that while marijuana-users frequently made me wrinkle my nose when they, er, wafted too close and I have been guilty on occasion of speculating on their personal hygiene standards, that whole slacker on the verge of a downward spiral image has never rung true for me. The potheads I know are pretty much the same as all the other people I know: they’re mostly articulate, curious, have hardly ever experimented with hard drugs, pull down good grades / are successful at their chosen careers, and are generally pleasant people (because the other kind annoy me). They just, you know, have an interesting aroma around them sometimes.
So when the Michael Phelps story hit the headlines, I waited for someone to say: “Hey, isn’t that guy the fastest man in water? The most amazing swimmer on the planet? Didn’t he set a world record for the greatest number of gold medals ever won by a single individual at the Olympics? Huh, he sure doesn’t look like one of those slackers they keep telling me about.”
But nope. I’ve read all about how this is so natural for a 23 year old and how funny it all is, speculation whether his lung capacity means he gets high faster than everyday potheads, the possibility that he could be charged by the police, about Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s imminent breakdown, and most interestingly (even Ramesh Ponnuru agrees this is an interesting way to look at it, is how interesting this particular POV is), how his great sin was not that he smoked an illegal substance but that smoking weed is against his very profitable image. In fact, his endorsement deals appear to be an overwhelming consideration to a lot of people, from the looks of a cursory Google search.
Bizarrely, Hasselbeck might be the one who’s come closest to my own feelings on the issue – even if she’s approaching it from the opposite end of the spectrum. Because think about it: how can you demonize weed when “The Greatest Olympian Ever” (remember those headlines? Who’s sorry now?) can smoke it and still win crazy numbers of medals and have a body like that?
It’s one thing to sneer at the likes of Brad Pitt (really, what has he ever done, the silly Hollywood man with the pretty, pretty face?) and the rest of the Ocean‘s gang but what are you going to do when someone like Phelps does it? Especially when you’ve probably spent the past few months extolling his virtues to the brats?
We’re a long way from any parents telling their kid that they too can grow up to be like Phelps if they can get their hands on some good quality grass a la Wheaties, but from the sound of it, not only does is marijuana not a deterrent to a successful career in sports, but a standard part of it. In fact, it seems to be rather common amongst successful people in general even if Dr. Sanjay Gupta is against it. So if somebody did want to make the argument that smoking weed is good for you…
By the way, remember all those stories about Phelps eating eleventy million calories a day? Munchies!