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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Olympics, Part VIII: What a bunch of morons

The full story on Lochte and company seems to have emerged now. They went to a party, got drunk, had to pee, and went to a gas station (at 6AM), but the bathroom door was locked. One of them broke open the door, and was subsequently accosted by a security guard. The guard and the store owner demanded payment from the four swimmers, and the four swimmers paid up.

That would have been the end of the story (which we would likely never have heard about), except that the 32-year-old Lochte then felt obliged to lie to his mother about what had happened, and concocted a story about how they had been robbed at gunpoint. Lochte's mother then told the press about it, and Lochte ran with the lie. (What sort of 32-year-old needs to lie to his mother about why he's been out late?) And then the other three swimmers felt obliged to support Lochte's tale.

Maybe the worst part of the story was that Lochte claimed that when the men first pulled guns, the other three swimmers immediately got facedown on the ground but that he, knowing he had done nothing wrong, refused. It was only when someone held a gun to his head that he acquiesced. (How brave!)

Even non-swimming fans already had a vague sense of Lochte's personality. But even as a swimming fan, I had very little sense of the other three. I had read a Q and A with Jimmy Feigen on Reddit a week ago, and was surprised at how commonsensical and smart he sounded. My very superficial impression of Jack Conger was that he was reserved and modest. Gunnar Bentz I knew absolutely nothing about.

Lochte has always come across like an amiable dunce -- but not a liar. He had reputation -- unlike Michael Phelps -- for being willing to stick around at meets for hours afterward signing autographs for the kids. (In fairness to Phelps, I've heard that he can't go anywhere without everyone wanting selfies with and autographs from him.)

Lochte's taste in music, which runs to rap, and in clothes, which run to senselessly loud, speak for themselves. But not having a high IQ is not a crime. Until this incident, Lochte's worst sin had been to be 32-going-on-15.

The problem is, most 15-year-olds have no sense of the larger picture. And the eternal teenager has now set off an international incident, something he never intended. It's going to be made worse because there is no group of people more sensitive about their national reputation than Brazilians, as I wrote about here and here. All Brazilians will take Lochte's lie as a personal slight. From now on when Lochte, Feigen, Conger, and Bentz compete internationally, the Brazilian contingent will undoubtedly boo them.

The four swimmers were simply in search of a fun night, not thinking of themselves as four ambassadors of goodwill from the USA, which as Olympic athletes they effectively were. They're certainly going to need all of their diplomatic skills now. They'd better get on their knees now and bow and scrape and then bow even deeper.

You have to feel a little bad for Conger and Bentz, both of whom just went along with what the older superstar wanted. Their choice was either to publicly call Lochte a liar, or back him up. They went with team loyalty, misguided as it might have been this case, and they will pay the price for that for a long time. (Feigen, 26, I'm less sure about.)

As for Lochte, he'll be remembered for the lie which didn't have to be told, which he told anyway.


jova said...

It is unfortunate that Lochte embellished the story. But in America if a security guard pulls out a gun and demands money he would face prosecution for robbery. I have read some reports that there was no damage to the bathroom.

These swimmers were intoxicated , being yelled at in a foreign language by men with guns. Thus I give them some leeway. Being drunk impairs ones judgement and can distort their recollections. Nevertheless Lochte does deserve much of the blame for this story getting out of hand. But if he had nothing to do with breaking into the bathroom , as an innocent bystander to the shenanigans , it would be comparable to armed robbery. One issue for the confusion is the language barrier and being in Brazil he may have heard stories of criminals using false badges to rob people. He must have realized they were not police officers, thus when they pulled a gun on him I could understand him thinking they were criminals robbing them. In most countries it would be very unusual for a security guard to be armed and pull out his weapon to demand cash.

if you were with friends who went into a locked bathroom to urinate and then men dressed as security guards pulled out guns and demanded cash from you would you consider this to be a robbery ?

John Craig said...

Jova --
The story still seems to be a little hazy. The version I heard is that there definitely was some damage to the bathroom: they broke the door, broke the soap dispenser, and smashed a mirror. Also, I heard that the security guard (singular) never pulled his gun, only indicated that he had it. (There is a qualitative difference there.) No question, this has been made into a bigger deal than it should have been. But there's also no question that Lochte was the one who was mostly to blame as he was the one who embellished the story and ran with it.

You're right, there is a lot of crime in Rio, and the police there are not saints.

to answer the question in your lat paragraph, yes, that would definitely be robbery. But I don't get the impression that's exactly what happened with Lochte and his teammates.

Anonymous said...

I certainly don't trust the police in Brazil...saw a tv reporter went to the gas station and saw no damage to the bathroom. Seems like a typical third world shakedown, which is never experienced in first world nations.

Anonymous said...

off topic, but mother and daughter sociopath story. mother faked daughters illnesses and grifted off it. daughter killed her. its a crazy crazy story.

John Craig said...

Jova (?) --
I saw that picture of the bathroom since I wrote my last reply to you, and yes, it looks suspiciously untouched. It's possible it was fixed in the meantime, but who knows. I suspect that Feigen et al will be more talkative once they're back in the States. The early details on a lot of stories turn out to be wrong. Just think of the UVA farmhouse rape case, or the Michael Brown hands up-don't shoot-shot six times in the back story.

Just read the mother-daughter case. Yes, Munchausen's-by-proxy. Some people really should be kept from reproducing, at least it looks as if this line will stop with the daughter.