Friday, August 19, 2016

World: Please Don't Judge the USA by Ryan Lochte

By Ubcwwong (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

As many people know, I'm a ridiculous sports fan. Give this girl the option of a facial or a ball game, dresses or hockey jerseys, Kardashians or the Super Bowl and I'm choosing the later every single time. 

Every two years when the Olympics rolls around I act like an addict...I cannot be stopped. I'll watch table tennis, water polo, ice dancing, curling, rowing. I'll watch any competition, and dammit, I'll enjoy it.

Yet I do have one favorite sport in the summer Olympics and that's swimming. I became addicted back in Beijing when Michael Phelps was setting records for gold medals, but the reason I'm still addicted to this day is the stories.

What stories? Just in the short two weeks of the Rio Olympics we've seen Simone Manuel be the first African-American swimmer ever to win an individual swimming medal, and that medal was gold. We've seen a Crohn's disease patient, Kathleen Baker, kick ass (butt pun intended) to come away with a silver medal against all odds. We saw Katie Ledecky, a girl who snapped a picture with Michael Phelps as a child, shatter world records and evolve into one of the most dominant swimmers ever. That is just a FEW of the swimmers.

Aside from a gold medal-winning relay, swimmer/reality star Ryan Lochte seemed to be under-performing and therefore, outside despite his ridiculous blue hair, the media was paying little attention to him. Lochte, who was billed as Michael Phelps's competition, the man who would win the challenge Phelps for the medals he needed to become the most decorated Olympian ever, wasn't an important story anymore.

Lochte wasn't the first, nor the last, to be outperformed by Phelps. There's no shame in that. (I am convinced the man is part dolphin.) However, what he should be ashamed of is his performance in Rio outside of the pool. 

The city of Rio de Janeiro and the country of Brazil faced sharp criticism, some justified and some mean-spirited, about the preparation of the Olympic village, the safety of the athletes, the rapidly spreading Zika virus, the security of the venues, and so on. I believe the games have been wonderful so far. There have been incidents, but when Lochte said to the Today show on national television that he and three other swimmers were robbed by men posing as police officers, with one putting a gun against his head, I was truly horrified. 

Then Ryan Lochte's world began to unravel. First Olympic officials denied that the swimmers had been robbed at all. A cover up, I thought, perhaps, to make Rio appear safer than it appears? 

Lochte's interview seemed a little cavalier, too. He stood up to the gun yielding officers while his teammates sprawled out on the ground. I somehow doubted this heroic story was the exact truth. And by the way, where were those other swimmers and why is Lochte their spokesperson? 

Then there was surveillance video of them returning back to Olympic village and going through security, joking around and smiling. This was not exactly the image of people who just saw their lives flash before them. Oh, and the items they put in the bins to go through security seemed to be the same items they claimed were stollen during the hold up. 

Lochte's story began to "soften," as Matt Lauer described it. He was absolutely robbed. The gun wasn't on his head, it was pointed in his direction. They weren't pulled over, they were at a gas station. 

Then video surfaces of the swimmers vandalizing the gas station, breaking down doors and apparently urinating in public. When apprehended they got into an altercation with security. Apparently the "hold up" was the business owner demanding money to pay for the damage. 

Perhaps the story is a mix between the two. As you know, the truth sometimes falls in the middle of two conflicting stories. 

Regardless, Lochte should have never been in that position in the first place. 

You are in Rio for one purpose and one purpose only: to represent the United States of America. Your role on the team was one that I'm sure many coveted and trained their whole lives for and came up short. You took this for granted. 

Instead you once again made Americans appear like selfish, spoiled brats. I felt the same way when Team USA hockey destroyed rooms in Nagano in 1998, and I was a huge fan of all of those players. 

You had the option to go watch the other athletes compete like the NBA basketball players and countless others have done or head home to contemplate your next career path. Instead you went out, partied like an inexperienced 18 year old, did something incredibly stupid, and concocted a ridiculous story to cover it up. Does that sound like a 32 year old man or a child? 

To make the situation even worse, when the Rio authorities came to question you, you were already home tweeting about your hair color, while your teammates had to face questioning and shame. 

So world, on behalf of all Americans who feel disgusted by all of this, I'm sorry that we both created Ryan Lochte and unleashed him onto the world. We know we are asking a lot if we ask you to not judge us for this, considering we have a bad track record. I assure you, we aren't all like this. 

I also wanted to share one more reminder (if anyone is still with me at this point) that I'm fully aware that Ryan Lochte is a human who is entitled to make mistakes. I have made my own throughout my lifetime. Michael Phelps has made his own at well, though not while representing his country. Nobody is perfect. 

If what he's saying in his "apology" below is true, he may have been scared. Yet, it was his actions after the fact that were most disappointing...and the fact he left his fellow teammates hung out to dry while he got out of dodge. He was supposed to be the older, wiser person in the situation. Instead, he was the fool.

What is the moral of the story? Don't judge a place by it's lowest common denominator. World - please don't judge the US by self-absorbed jerks like Ryan Lochte.


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