August 21, 2016 by gregrabidoux2013
First, the obvious.
A famous, iconic Men’s swimmer not named Michael Phelps got drunk and did and later said some things that he regrets now. I mean, really, truly regrets. For lots of reasons.
By now, unless you’ve been living under a rock and only came up briefly to watch, say, the USWNT in basketball pound a gritty Spain for the Gold or the Women’s track team dominate nearly every event, you know what I know-
That Ryan Lochte, the “other” Golden Boy of US men’s swimming, he of 12 Gold Medals, screwed up. And unfortunately for him, his teammates, his family, friends and anyone else who’s been paying attention, he messed up on a world stage.
Okay. Here’s what we know at this point and it’s a lot clearer and more than we knew the last 3-4 days or so.
Ryan Lochte, Gunnnar Bentz, Jimmy Feigen and Jack Conger went out for a night “on the town” in Rio on the famed Copacabana strip to celebrate as all the swimming events had been completed for good earlier that day.
They partied. They laughed. They drank. Way too much of the latter.
About 4:30 in the morning on their way back they had their cab driver stop at a gas station so they could relieve themselves (as to why, see above statement about the way too much mojitos imbibed). At this point it seems they could not get into a locked bathroom or were denied access. So, at least two of the swimmers did what about anyone who has ever been to an outdoor concert does when the lines back up to the like, 2 porta-potties available do, they urinated in some bushes in an adjacent alley to the station. And, for good measure, it now seems that one of the swimmers, Ryan Lochte, pulled down a metal frame that held a poster and broke a soap dispenser and possibly (this one’s still disputed) a mirror in one of the bathrooms which apparently was opened at some point and at least Mr. Lochte went inside.
The swimmers are then confronted by at least one station manager who is none too thrilled about the vandalism. The swimmers, who appear and by their own admission, are intoxicated, brush by the employees and get back into their cab to return to the Olympic Village.
Shortly after and before the cab could depart, their cab is approached by security men armed with guns who at gunpoint, order the swimmers out of the car and instruct them to sit down at the curb. At least two of the athletes, Ryan and Jack raise their arms as if being captured or arrested.
After some heated words between at least on of the armed security guards and Lochte, the American swimmers, perhaps aided by a customer who spoke at least some English along with Portuguese, got the gist of what the guards were demanding-pay money for what you broke or (and this is where it again gets dicey) the cops will be called and things will get worse or things will get worse even if we don’t call the cops.
The Americans coughed up (okay bad choice of words when you are drunk), shelled out about $50 US dollars (a $20 dollar bill and 100 reals).
The armed guards then let them go.
And you probably know the rest.
Ryan Lochte tells NBC tv host Billy Bush that he and the other swimmers were robbed at gunpoint and they were “victims.
This sets of a firestorm of controversy and outrage, in no small part because of Rio’s well-deserved reputation for being an equal parts glamorous, cosmopolitan, seductive beach city on a grand global scale along with suffering rampant street crime, kidnapping and a degree of corruption that would shock most Americans silly.
Now, Ryan got out of Rio faster than even his best time in the men’s freestyle 100 meters. In other words, he was home safe watching the storm he set unfold while his teammates were taken off their return flight and one was detained after being a no-show to the Rio airport.
Lengthy interrogations ensued, a judge ordered them to surrender their passports and Ryan for the most part was sticking to his story while comforted by the safety of being at home in the good old US of A.
Now, finally, all 3 other swimmers are back stateside having provided statements that refuted Lochte’s initial claims. One, Jimmy Feigen “voluntariy” paid nearly $11,000 US dollars to an unnamed Rio charity to avoid any prosecution for making an allegedly false statement to Rio police previously. Lochte has now gone once again in front of NBC cameras, this time to that truth-seeking newshound Matt Lauer to “come clean.”
Lochte says he is deeply sorry regrets it all, asserts there are many ways once can look at the events that night and believes that given time and another chance he can and will redeem himself, repair damage to his legacy and reputation and not have this “one night define his life.”
Matt Lauer,who has been ducking questions lately about his own marital infidelities, insisted to Ryan that there was certainly no robbery and that the event really was just “a negotiation…striking a deal to pay for the damage they caused.”
At this point, and after what seemed like the 10th time Lochte apologized for his “over-exaggerations,” letting down children everywhere and his “immature behavior” I had seen and heard enough.
But not for why you think and not from whom you think.
I had seen and heard enough from Matt Lauer and Al Roker and the CNN commentator who said that Lochte “betrayed us all on an epic scale” and seemingly every one in the US media over the past week. They’ve all been so busy spanking, chiding and being ashamed of Ryan Lochte that they have failed to raise what I see are some other legitimate questions and issues-
Namely, am I the only one who is concerned and disturbed that armed security guys pointed guns at 4 intoxicated American athletes and demanded money on the spot for restitution?
Is this okay? Is this common practice in Rio?
I’ve not been in such a situation but it sure sounds like a forced shake-down to me.
Maybe the next time I get a fender-bender I’ll try that on the other driver and see if I can get some quick cash.
And what about the $11,000 “donation” by James Feigen in exchange for his passport and freedom? I understand that this is apparently lawful in Rio but if we are going to shame, chide, and “flog” these swimmers in American media for their behavior by our standards then it seems we should raise some eyebrows at least about this practice. Track that money Jimmy and I’ll bet you find it ain’t going to widows and orphans or the poor of Brazil. I hope I’m wrong on that count.
Look, I’m not condoning Lochte’s behavior or that of his teammates. Stupid, immature and in Ryan’s words “drunk frat boy” actions. No doubt.
Let’s all keep this in perspective. Tearing down a poster-frame, breaking a soap dispenser. Making a false claim. Exaggerating and lying about it to avoid stating the not so pleasant truth. Misdemeanor stuff. Bad, shameful, embarrassing stuff. But only to a point.
Another former athlete, a super bowl champ, Darren Sharper, was just sentenced to 18 years in prison for drugging and raping over a dozen women in several states. Felony stuff. Serious. And he was fully sober.
So, yeah, do I think Lochte is many of the things that so many on social media are accusing him of being, like privileged, spoiled, immature (especially for his age, c’mon, he’s 31!) a typical “rude American abroad”-yeah. At least for part of a drunken night and one early morning.
But enough. A serious criminal that we should shun forver and a day? No.
Held at gunpoint, forced out of a cab, and demanded money while a gun is pointed at you. And threatened with who knows what else in a language you don’t understand. With no cops in sight. With a busted soap dispenser in your wake.
Does anyone else not think there’s shameful if not illegal behavior on the “other side” as well?
Let’s be honest here. This is as much about a city desperate to repair its global image that has been taking a beating throughout these games due to crime, Zika disease, polluted water, green swimming pools and street crime as it is about the dumb, drunken behavior of 4 famous American athletes who picked the wrong time and place to act like the world is one big frat house. These games cost Brazil $12 billion it didn’t have, while its president Dilma Rousseff faces impeachment and its interim VP Michel Temer is so unpopular he’s skipping the closing ceremonies to avoid being booed lustily all the while its average per capita hovers under $8,000 a year.
So yeah, Lochte and his merry band of waterlogged swimmers hit a national nerve.
But Matt Lauer, sorry, one of the first things you learn in law school is there’s no lawful negotiation when the other guy is pointing a gun at you and making demands. That’s called armed extortion.
Time to turn the page and put the spotlight back where it should be-all the rest of the Olympic athletes and the wonderful performances and memories they’ve given us.
Bolt. Phelps. Biles. Jorgensen. Rupp. The two runners who helped each other up when both were knocked out of medal contention.
And the sooner NBC can do that the better I know I’ll start to feel. Lochte doesn’t deserve one moment more in the spotlight.
One last thing. There is still talk about Brazil wanting Lochte to be extradited to face “full prosecution.” Wow. That must be some super soap dispenser.
The only thing I want to see Lochte do now is cut a check for about $12,000 to his buddy Jimmy Feigen who proved himself to be one of the most loyal teammates in and especially out of the pool you’d ever want covering your own sorry behind.