Sometimes, I feel like we can’t decide if teenagers are adults or children. We talk about them in ways that assume they have no idea what they are doing and no actual skills to offer the world. Doctors say that our brains aren’t fully formed until age 25 or something. Young adults, in general, are rarely assumed to know what’s going on in the world around them. At the same time, we expect teenagers to have some sense of control, because one wrong move can completely alter your entire life.
Let me say this first, I am not condoning, supporting, excusing or in any way justifying the actions of the young man I’m about to discuss. I know very little about him, aside from what’s been reported in the news. And I’m making some assumptions here that might not be true. After having typed all that, I still think that I’m going to anger a couple people. So here we go.
Last week, the world was pretty outraged about an 18 year old Olympic hopeful who allegedly peed on a young girl during a red-eye flight. I say “allegedly” because the family of the girl released a statement this week clarifying that the Robert Vietze peed on the floor next to the girl, not directly onto her leg. To be fair, there’s a big difference between witnessing a man pee and having him pee on you, so I’m glad they cleared up that point. And I’m even happier that the situation was marginally less horrible for the young girl involved than originally believed.
Robert “Sandy” Vietze is a Vermont teenager who had hopes of making the Olympic ski team. He had been at the Portland, Oregon training facility and was on the shortlist to represent the US in the 2014 Winter Games. After the story of his indecent behavior, Vietze was kicked off the team for conduct violations. Obviously, being arrested is a no-no.
I’m not saying this young man should be representing our country. And I’m not saying that he shouldn’t be punished for his actions. However, when I read this story, I didn’t feel rage or anger bubbling up inside of me at the privileged jerk who whizzed in front of a tween-aged girl. I read this story and thought, “My God, think of all the years of dedication and hard work, only to be thrown away because you got drunk and made a fool of yourself.”
The headlines for this story all refer to Robert Vietze as a “drunken man” and he was. Technically, he’s a legal adult, though not old enough to be drinking. But I have seen a lot of college-aged kids make stupid mistakes after eight drinks, the amount that Vietze admitted to drinking before hopping on the red-eye flight. One can assume that he went out partying on his last night before heading home from an Olympic training camp. He was excited about his opportunity, hopeful for the future and he decided to drink with his friends to celebrate. Then, all that happiness came crashing down around him after one idiotically drunken mistake on the way home.
Vietze made a serious mistake. The person who deserves pity in this story is the 11 year old girl who had to witness it. But what a cautionary tale that this young man makes. He went from living his dreams to being a tabloid dirtbag, all from a few too many drinks and an eight-hour flight. Teenagers aren’t adults yet, but Robert Vietze just learned that their actions can still greatly impact their adult life. It’s enough to make every parent of a teenager perpetually afraid of what stupid mistake they might make next and how much it will cost them.
(Photo: NY Post)