DUI

Hey Los Angeles Times team: There was a purpose-driven ghost in your Phelps story

Hey Los Angeles Times team: There was a purpose-driven ghost in your Phelps story

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?

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Strange tea leaves (and silent lighthouse guns) in latest Baltimore Sun story about DUI bishop

Strange tea leaves (and silent lighthouse guns) in latest Baltimore Sun story about DUI bishop

The sad story of the DUI Bishop Heather Cook rolls on here in Charm City, even when appears that there are few if any concrete developments to report. But is the drama continuing behind the scenes at the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and in the national Episcopal Church?

Maybe. Thus, it should be noted that The Baltimore Sun published a rather strange, and thus interesting, feature story the other day that focused on the role that may or may not have been played in this story by U.S. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. The goal appears to be to place the Cook tragedy in the context of recent Episcopal warfare (while avoiding global angles and, at the same time, cutting the Anglican wars timeline very, very short).

But toward the end of this story there are some interesting moments of silence. I cannot tell if the Sun editors simply do not realize the implications of some of their own reporting.

This brings me, once again, to the parable of the old lighthouse keeper. Remember that one?

Once there was a man who lived in a lighthouse on the foggy Atlantic. This lighthouse had a gun that sounded a warning every hour. The keeper tended the beacon and kept enough shells in the gun so it could keep firing. After decades, he could sleep right through the now-routine blasts.
Then the inevitable happened. He forgot to load extra shells and, in the dead of night, the gun did not fire. This rare silence awoke the keeper, who lept from bed shouting, "What was that?"

Yes, readers may substitute the famous Sherlock Holmes image of the dog that didn't bark at this point. Either way, what is the loud silence in this story?

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Maryland drama: An Episcopal bishop, her DUI record, a dead cyclist and the 'above reproach' debates

Maryland drama: An Episcopal bishop, her DUI record, a dead cyclist and the 'above reproach' debates

Let's call it the "shoe on the other political foot" argument.

How many times have you heard media critics argue that a particular media outlet -- The New York Times is the villain of choice for the right and Fox News for the left -- might have covered a story or have covered said story more intensely if the sin or crime in question had been committed by a leader on the opposing side?

It's a popular argument, quite frankly, because it is often a valid argument. Why did so many newsroom feminists cut President Bill Clinton so much slack? Why do some conservatives still think Rush Limbaugh belongs in the choir of cultural conservatives?

The same thing happens with ecclesiastical shoes on the feet of powerful sinners. But this syndrome is not taking place, at the moment, in mainstream coverage of the tragic auto accident in which Episcopal Bishop Heather Elizabeth Cook of Maryland hit and killed 41-year-old cyclist Thomas Palermo, a father of two. Driven by powerful early coverage in The Baltimore Sun and follow-up work at The Washington Post, this story is now being pushed past the ugly details and into larger questions, both legal and theological.

The key questions: Was this a hit-and-run accident? What caused the bishop to hit a bike in such an open piece of road, with excellent sight lines? Should an earlier DUI -- involving alcohol and marijuana -- have prevented her selection as a bishop? Here is the gripping top section of the major Sun report:

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