For the most part, Echo Boomers have grown out of the typical definition of the term “role model.” The word simply does not apply to us in the way that it use to. We no longer look to actors, athletes, and astronauts to set a precedent for us - we look to them to set the bar.
As high schoolers are hitting the pool, they aren’t looking to be like Phelps - they’re looking to be better. They aren’t looking at his bong; they’re looking at the pounds of Beijing gold hanging from his neck - and they want it. They are looking at his $100M in endorsements and thinking to themselves that they too want to be paid to prance around in a Speedo and eat PowerBars.
I don’t think of Phelps any less for smoking - it's not my place to judge. In fact, it almost makes the fact that he won 14 golds just that more impressive, considering how much smoking anything affects your lungs. The only possible way for it to have helped him, is if it aided in his insane, 12,000 calorie/day intake in order to have enough energy to burn in the pool.
The whole situation reminds me of a quote from Robin Williams:
“The poor Canadian snowboarder, in the 1998 Olympics, they took away his medal because he tested positive for marijuana, which is kinda redundant number one, number two, they said that marijuana was a "performance-enhancing drug.” [buzzer sound] Marijuana enhances many things, colors, flavors, sensations, but you are certainly not f****** empowered. When you're stoned, you're lucky if you can find your own god**** feet. The only way it's a performance-enhancing drug is if there's a big f****** Hershey bar at the end of the run.”
The whole thing comes down to Phelps setting the bar in business and life. He set out to be the best, and he is. He is the top in his sport and commands one of the most lucrative endorsement contracts in the world. Gen-Y will not look at him and think “stoner,” they’ll think of his accomplishments - and then try and be better.
I’m curious to hear other people’s opinions on the subject!