Dear Ryan Lochte,
On behalf of all Americans, I offer my sincere congratulations for accomplishing what none of us thought possible – catapulting over Donald and Hillary to become the most hated person in the USA. You’re the best thing that’s happened to the world’s perception of Americans as spoiled brats since the Kardashians. And, as you have so many times in the pool, you accomplished this in record time. You acted recklessly (haven’t we all?) then concocted a whopper of a lie and left your teammates behind to face the samba music. For this, we are awarding you the gold medal of selfishness and a silver for stupidity. How ironic that you are drowning in your self-made pool of lies.
Has the world overreacted? Maybe. For a country with such alarming murder statistics, Brazil seems awfully touchy when it comes to world-class athletes lying to the cops. At this one moment in time, however, you must accept that you are chum in a sea of sharks.
But there is hope for you, and the rest of us. Americans love humility, are quick to forgive and crave comeback stories. Before crawling out of this hole, however, you need to dig a little deeper. Here is my unsolicited advice:
1. Admit you were wrong. Now. There’s no time to waste.
2. Apologize. Now. Tell “your people” to call a press conference, if only to give us a glimpse of a scene from Rio where the stands are not half empty. Don’t issue a statement, look the world in the eye and apologize.
3. Speak. This problem is not going to be solved by an Instagram post. Anyone brave enough to stand on the world stage in a speedo should be able to handle a press conference. Hang up your swimsuit, put on a real suit, look the world in the eye and talk. Don’t take questions but be there. “I stand before you here today to admit I made some very bad decisions this past week. I made up a story about getting robbed at gunpoint after a night out of partying. I behaved very badly that night, then continued to lie about it to the Brazilian authorities. I was wrong. This incident never occurred, and I am here today to accept responsibility for my actions and to say I’m sorry. I would like to apologize to the wonderful people of Brazil who worked incredibly hard in less-than-ideal conditions and a struggling economy to host these Olympic Games. I apologize to the Brazilian authorities to whom I lied. I apologize to Team USA and, in fact, to all of America for letting you down. To my family, friends, Gator Nation and everyone who looked up to me as a hero I say I’m incredibly sorry. I realize I was a role model and I squandered this opportunity; I hope you will give me a second chance.”
4. Go away. Get out of our sight. Avoid the temptation of seeking more fame via the Fallon-Kimmel-Colbert-Ellen circuit. This is the wrong kind of fame. Dive in to a deep pool of self-reflection, prayer, meditation, whatever it takes. Get over yourself. Shave off the bleached hair that makes you look like a punk and start over. Make regrowing your natural hair a metaphor for your life.
5. Set a goal of representing the USA in Tokyo in 2020 and get to work. Your age is no excuse; you are, in fact, out of excuses. At age 36, you would be five years younger than your fellow Gator Dara Torres, who made the Olympic team when she was 41. You’re one of the most talented athletes of all time and have made more money just because you know how to swim than the rest of us have made in a lifetime of working multiple jobs to support the simple pleasures in life, such as watching you on TV and cheering you on. Train harder. Paint a picture of Michael Phelps on the bottom of your pool if this is what it takes to motivate you. Choose to do what you know best rather than heading down a road to self-destruction. You’ve let us down once, don’t do it again.
6. Re-surface in a few years. Polish your physical appearance and get some coaching on how to speak without looking like an idiot. You need it. You have a degree that I assume was free from one of the best public universities in the country so I’m guessing are smart although, frankly, at times nothing seems farther from the truth. Train as hard in public speaking as you do on the backstroke. Then it’s okay to make the Fallon-Kimmel-Colbert-Ellen circuit. This is the right kind of fame.
7. Come back. Make the Olympic team. Reflect on 2012 and channel all this negative energy into every stroke, breath and turn you take. Touch the wall, pump your fist in the air. Stand atop the medal stand with your hand over your heart and sing every word of the Star Spangled Banner while Old Glory is hoisted. Cry, and we will cry with you, for you will have made us proud again.
Until then, dear Ryan Lochte, you’ll be drowning in the deep end.
Swim for your life.