Another day, another news report about an American at the Olympics, another chance to spot an important religion ghost.
Actually, this particular Los Angeles Times story was about the ultimate Olympian in the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro -- as in Michael Phelps, the superstar swimmer who has 21 gold medals and counting, as of last night.
It's crucial to know that the goal of this story was to describe how Phelps turned his life around and made it back to his fifth Olympics, after a series of private-life disasters that suggested he was all washed up. But here is the angle for GetReligion readers: When Phelps tells the story of his comeback, was there a faith-based -- maybe "purpose driven" -- hook in there somewhere? Hold that thought.
First, here is the solid, punch Times description of the pit that Phelps dug for himself:
Four years ago, Phelps didn’t want to swim. He wasn’t training diligently. He wasn’t happy in the pool. He tried to fake it. Phelps managed to win four gold medals and two silvers in London, still performing at a different level than the rest of the world even when he didn’t care. ... He finally had enough.
Phelps retired for 18 months and wanted nothing more to do with swimming. Longtime rival and 11-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte predicted it wouldn’t last. He was right. Phelps couldn’t resist the lure of the pool and returned in April 2014. He gradually started to fall in love with the sport again. ...
The pivotal moment, however, came when he was cited for driving under the influence after leaving a Maryland casino in September 2014. Phelps, who pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months of probation, enrolled in a 45-day treatment program in Arizona. This wasn’t his first run-in with trouble outside of the pool. Ten years earlier, Phelps was arrested for DUI and a tabloid published a photo of him in 2009 inhaling from a marijuana pipe.
So what happened to Phelps?