Monday, February 02, 2009
Phelps makes SC hospitality look bad
Michael Phelps won eight gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, more than any Olympian had ever won in one set of games. As a result, Phelps was a national hero and the cliched toast of the town wherever he went. When he was in Columbia, SC, visiting the University of South Carolina, Phelps was honored at the football game against Arkansas, and apparently with a party thrown by students.
It is that party that is making the Olympic great and South Carolina look bad. The British newspaper, News of the World, published an article about Phelps's partying in Columbia and a picture of the champion with a pipe used for smoking marijuana. The story has been picked up my major news outlets, such as the Drudge Report and the AP.
Phelps did not deny the event, instead he issued a statement saying how he regretted events in Columbia. Wow.
While Phelps is not the first great athlete to party too hard, the fact that the greatest Olympian in history has a scandalous story about his partying in South Carolina hurts South Carolina. South Carolina and the University of South Carolina have a hard enough time trying to show it is a place where people with some sense live and work without the headline of the day being how the greatest Olympian of all time came to Columbia and got high with Carolina students.
One can imagine how people around the country and world will now view our state and its flagship university. South Carolina's tourism motto of "Smiling faces and beautiful places," will be met with sneers about what makes those faces smile.
Sports commentators and news commentators will likely opine away about Phelps in the coming days. Frankly, the entire crackerjack staff of VUI does not care about him. What we do care about is how our state and its flagship university are portrayed. The Phelps story is just another blow to the reputation of South Carolina and nothing short of an embarrassment. What a way for the world to learn about South Carolina.