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'Young and Stupid'

"I was young and stupid." That's pretty much the takeaway of some athlete role models recently.

Start with baseball star Alexander Rodriguez talking to the media earlier this week: "I was 24; I was 25. I was young initially. I was curious." He called his cousin, who injected him with drugs, and himself ignorant, saying they were "two guys doing an immature thing."

Go back to the end of January, when photos of Michael Phelps emerged showing the swimming star smoking marijuana from a bong. On Feb. 1, Phelps posted the following apology on his Facebook fan page:

"I engaged in behavior which was regrettable and demonstrated bad judgment. I’m 23-years-old, and despite the successes I have had in the pool, I acted in a youthful and inappropriate way, not in a manner that people have come to expect from me. For this, I am sorry. I promise my fans and the public – it will not happen again."

And then, more than two weeks later: "...But there are also some important lessons that I’ve learned. For me, it’s all about recognizing that I used bad judgment and it’s a mistake I won’t make again. For young people especially – be careful about the decisions you make. One bad decision can really hurt you and the people you care about."

Again, young and stupid, just put a different way. Compare those apologies to R&B star Chris Brown's for his alleged abuse of Rihanna. "Words cannot begin to express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired," he wrote. "I am seeking the counseling of my pastor, my mother and other loved ones and I am committed, with God's help, to emerging a better person."

Watching A-Rod's apology, husband chimed in that he's glad that we haven't encouraged our boys to be baseball fans. And while each of these incidents serve as teachable moments to address drug use and physical abuse with kids of all ages, they also can be lessons in how to apologize.

Apology is not about placing blame on your age, your circumstance or your emotional state. It's not about saving your career. And it's not about the person making the apology. Apologies, as I tell my boys over and over and over again, are about feeling truly bad about what you've done to someone else and making everything as right as you can. When you've done something wrong to someone, you simply look them in the eye and tell them so.

What lessons have your families gleaned from fallen stars such as these? What conversations have they sparked in your households?

By Stacey Garfinkle |  February 20, 2009; 9:50 AM ET  | Category:  Newsmakers
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The only thing that these "fallen stars" are sorry for is the embarrasement of getting caught, which is half the stupidity of their predicament. Their attitudes are not unlike those of a child whose parents force them to apologize for an offense of which they are not sorry, but will go through the act to avoid more severe retribution. There is really no point to their apology, however, it does reflect how today's society values political correctness over truth.

And yes, I do think it is important to teach kids to say the right thing rather than be honest with their feelings. Who wants to know the truth anyway? Most people would rather have their ears tickled. Say it ain't so.

Posted by: WhackyWeasel | February 20, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

You seem to suggest that A-Rod and Phelps did a poorer job apologizing than Brown. But did Brown actually apologize to the person he hurt? and whom exactly did Phelps and A-rod hurt? To imply that taking drugs is on the same level as physical abuse of ANOTHER PERSON is way off.

In addition to failing to personally and specifically apologise to Rihanna, I'm not impressed with Brown briinging his religion into it. It's just as transparent as using age as an excuse.

since none of the three provided appropriate apologies, the next test is how do they redeem themselves? This is what really matters to me. I'm fascinated by what makes or breaks an acceptable (in the eyes of society) redemption. I'm praying for all of them that they will find away out of the holes they have dug themselves into.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | February 20, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

But Whacky, have you ever known a kid who was actually sorry about what he did, instead of just sorry he got caught? :-) I don't have much problem with the "young and stupid" apology in general. Everyone's been there; I was just lucky enough not to have my Glaring Moments of Doofusness captured forever on film or video.

What I do have a problem with is when it's not really about being young and stupid. Like, say, taking performance-enhancing drugs well after everyone knows what they are and what they do. You really expect me to buy that you were just "curious" -- and not, say, hoping they'd help you land a quarter billion dollar contract?

But Chris Brown actually hit my favorite, favorite non-apology (umm, no pun intended): the passive non-apology, designed to minimize the offense instead of accept responsibility. "Words cannot express how sorry and saddened I am over what transpired"? First off, "transpired"? Seriously? No one talks like that -- well, no one except people who want to minimize what they actually did. And then the "I'm sad over what transpired" -- as if he couldn't possibly have had anything to do with it. What, it just fell outta the sky? He was possessed by aliens? It was his evil twin Skippy? Bleh.

"I'm sorry I beat the crap out of my girlfriend" gets traction with me. "I feel really bad about what transpired" gets put in the totally insincere, "please don't kill my career" category.

Posted by: laura33 | February 20, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Here is something to glean from these events -- teach your children to aspire to be good people and use the people around you (family, friends, neighbors) as examples since you know more about their lifestyles. If you want your kid to stick to a sport or another challenging endeavor, use Michael Phelps as an example of perseverance. If you want to teach your kid that cheaters get caught, use ARod. If you want your kid to learn how to dance, use Chris Brown. Not everyone can be everything to everyone else. Surround yourself with good people and you will not need to use people you have never met, with extraordinary circumstances, as examples for your children.

Posted by: courtney4 | February 20, 2009 12:11 PM | Report abuse

I agree that each of these apologies is inadequate, and I especially dislike the "young and stupid" explanation because it sends a message that you might be able to get a pass for bad behavior or judgment just because of youth and/or stupidity. Youth and judgment lapses are a fact of life. They are not special circumstances that excuse bad behavior. All of these apologies are, of course, the work of handlers and spin doctors and very likely have no relationship at all to what the celebrity thought at the time of the bad action/judgment or what he thinks now. (But I would agree that they all are thinking they are sorry they got caught!) As far as conversations at home, we so far have only talked about the Phelps episode and, among other things, talked about how it is important to be careful about photos and images that might be used in ways you do not intend. We have a middle school son and a younger son, and we have emphasized our preference for people to keep their lives private - they don't need to photo and video every waking moment and post it publicly and should be careful about what their friends are snapping and filming.

Posted by: CharmCityMom | February 20, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

I personally think it's ridiculous that some people think that Phelps owes them an apology for smoking pot. Yes, it's illegal. He shouldn't have done it. But that's between him and his local law enforcement agency. I don't see him as a model of perfection for anyone. He is a fantastic swimmer who won a lot of medals. He is not perfect nor do I expect him to be. He is probably in many ways as immature as any other 23 year old, and I hold him to no higher standards than I would any other 23 year old (except that I do expect him to be a better swimmer than other 23 year olds). So as far as I am concerned, he does not owe me or my family an apology.

Posted by: emily8 | February 20, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

I'm praying for all of them that they will find away out of the holes they have dug themselves into.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | February 20, 2009 11:29 AM | Report abuse

I don't give a rat's a$s about any of these celebs.......

Posted by: jezebel3 | February 20, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

Several issues with these "apologies":

1. A-Rod - "young and stupid?" Stupid yes, young no. If you believe his current story (and many people don't given that all his previous stories were lies) he was 25/26 when he started juicing and 28 or so when he stopped. As professional athletes go that's not "young" it's mid-career or later. Also, he claims he didn't do it to get the $252 million contract; he ALREADY HAD THE CONTRACT and did it because he felt pressure to live up to it. He quit after winning his first MVP award because he had proven himself in his own mind and no longer had to justify his contract to himself.

Yeah, right - not buying any of it.

2. Phelps - less concern here; he didn't really "cheat" anybody. A-Rod "cheated" his opponents by not playing fairly, and he cheated the fans who directly or indirectly paid to see a form of entertainment in which athletes compete fairly under a set of defined rules. Phelps broke the law; that's between him and law enforcement.

You want to use athletes as role models for your kids? Pick somebody like Dr. Dot Richardson. Then google "Darius McNeal" and "Johntell Franklin" and let your kids read the Milwaukee Journal article that pops up.

3. Chris Brown - what Laura said.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | February 20, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I don't think our kids know about these celebrities unless they have heard about it in school. That said... we don't usually force our kids to apologize. We suggest it when we think it is appropriate and usually the child does it. Occasionally, it is more than a suggestion for more grievous acts.

On at least one occasion, I have said to my stepson. Apologizing and then turning around and doing it again is lying. My attitude is that if you have no intention of trying to make it right... then don't bother with the apology. It is just empty words that mean nothing and nobody needs to hear lying on top of whatever you are apologizing for. That is the main reason why I don't force the kids to apologize. If they aren't sincere, it has no meaning to anyone involved.

Posted by: Billie_R | February 20, 2009 1:29 PM | Report abuse

The Chris Brown "apology" was the worst of the lot. Instead of the "young and stupid" trope, he used the "not close enough to God" excuse--as though that's what caused him to be abusive. Also, Phelps didn't hurt anyone or cheat by smoking pot, and, while A-Rod did cheat, he didn't hurt anyone either (I suppose you can argue he hurt the game, but no individuals were hurt, not in the way Rihanna was hurt). It doesn't take a close relationship to anyone or anything to know that abuse is never right.

Posted by: dkp01 | February 20, 2009 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Stupid oughtta hurt.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | February 20, 2009 2:31 PM | Report abuse

What is it that John Wayne used to say?

Life is hard. It's harder if you're stupid.

Posted by: emily8 | February 20, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Ron White: "But let me tell you something, folks: You can't fix stupid. There's not a pill you can take; there's not a class you can go to. Stupid is forever."

Dean Wormer: "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son."

Why yes, it IS after 4 pm on a Friday. :-)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | February 20, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

LOL, Emily!! I love that. And AB, Ron White's quote is great, too.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | February 20, 2009 4:11 PM | Report abuse

My child is still in the womb, but if he were of age, A-Rod's case as it continues to unravel is the perfect example of why you don't lie..... The punishment is far worse and extended now than if he just told the truth in the first place and that is what I would be telling my child.

Posted by: annwhite1 | February 20, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

Phelps - low level. Stupid in that he jeopardized millions in endorsements, but worth categorizing as foolish.

A-Rod - Deliberately injecting steroids was an act designed to cheat. Whether for himself or for his team, it was cheating. Too late to do anything about it now, but he's earned his asterisk.

Chris Brown - Harming another. Throw the book at him.


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 20, 2009 10:06 PM | Report abuse

BB - Good distinctions.

Posted by: CharmCityMom | February 21, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

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