After hearing Ryan Lochte explain to the world about how he and three swimmers were held up at gunpoint and robbed in the early morning hours after leaving a party. I wasn’t sure why, but my BS meter went off as I heard him tell his tale. My wife, Jane, and I were watching the interview. Immediately, I turned to Jane and said, “He’s lying.”
She asked how I knew – and I couldn’t tell her. Something had sent up a red flag. I remember just saying, “There’s a hint of . . . I’m not sure what but something makes me absolutely sure his story is bogus.” Lochte’s story was: “We got pulled over, in the taxi, and these guys came out with a badge, a police badge, no lights, no nothing just a police badge and they pulled us over. They pulled out their guns, they told the other swimmers to get down on the ground – they got down on the ground. I refused, I was like we didn’t do anything wrong, so – I’m not getting down on the ground.” He continued, “And then the guy pulled out his gun, he cocked it, put it to my forehead and he said, ‘Get down,’ and I put my hands up, I was like ‘whatever.’ He took our money, he took my wallet – he left my cell phone, he left my credentials.”
I recalled thinking, “Wow, how could anybody be so cool at that time? A gun was locked and loaded, leveled at his forehead and his reaction was, ‘Whatever.‘ Most people would be soiling their pants right about then.” Somehow there was a hint of deja vu in that scenario. Yet, I couldn’t come up with exactly what gave me that feeling. Was it that robbers would take money and wallets but not cell phones or credentials? I was stumped – but still certain Lochte’s explanation was pure fiction.
A couple nights later, I was on the internet and saw a related article about other athletes who fabricated stories to cover for transgressions – and I had my answer. As soon as I saw the name of one of the other athletes mentioned in the article, the riddle was solved. Josh Shaw – USC cornerback. If you’ve forgotten, allow me to refresh your memory – as mine was refreshed when I read it.
During the summer before his senior year, Shaw – whom his teammates had voted as one of their co-captains – suffered, not one, but two high ankle sprains that he incurred while jumping from the balcony of his sister’s apartment. Why would a guy with so much potential, in a sport that paid so well, jump off of a balcony? Well, he told the world, it was his only recourse when he saw that his nephew was drowning! Here he was, a college football player – and a damn fine one at that – risking his senior season at one of the most prestigious football colleges in the nation (one of the most prestigious colleges, period), and possibly a professional career as well, by reacting as, call it what it is, only a true superhero would have done.
Nearly everyone bought it – maybe because they wanted to buy it. What a great, feel-good story (except for his ankles). Few people thought it to be a lie. Shaw had begun his college career at Florida but transferred to USC – so he could be near to help his ailing grandfather and father with the family landscaping business. He was a leader, chosen by the SC athletics department to speak at the student-athlete graduation ceremony.
Similar to Lochte who is the second most decorated male Olympic swimmer (at one time, the first had his personal demons but he overcame them). People want to be their side. These guys stand for everything that’s good about athletics. Which is why fans don’t question cockamamie fables. They desperately want, no, need to believe their heroes.
Just as the real reason Ryan Lochte was detained by law enforcement was that he and his friends, basically, were drunk and disorderly, the real reason Josh Shaw jumped from a third story balcony was he was having an argument with his girlfriend, the neighbors had called the police and he knew he was about to be facing domestic violence issues.
“I would challenge somebody who doesn’t know me to seek those who have encountered me and find one person who has one bad thing to say about me,” Shaw said. “I’ve created this persona that I always do what’s right … and then, boom.” The truth was going to hurt his image, as it would have done to Lochte. They were fan favorites who, not thinking an embarrassing situation through and realizing that, in today’s world of social media, with everybody having a camera, that their getting exposed was pretty much a certainty. Coming clean would be the best strategy as well as elicit more sympathy from people. What these young guys failed to realize is that every one of us has screwed up at some time in our lives. Maybe not drunk and disorderly; maybe not domestic violence. But something of which we’re ashamed.
Shaw enlisted his sister to lie and say he’d jumped off her balcony to save his nephew who was drowning in the pool. Lochte got his teammates to buy into his version of what had really happened, too. And, in each case, as they usually do when the truth is being avoided, things began to unravel.
Whatever the reason, both Ryan Lochte and Josh Shaw found out what Buddha explained long ago:
“Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.“