When you dye your hair steel-grey, as American star swimmer Ryan Lochte did for the 2016 Rio Olympics, people might wonder where you got those big blue eyes and that little tiny mind.
And then there was the sequel: the drunken escapade, the petty vandalism, the robbed-at-gunpoint claim, the proven lie, the non-apology apology, the loss of all those lucrative sponsorships.
It struck me hard. Not that I particularly care about Lochte, but I worry about the American male, and shudder at the renaissance of the idiot-hero that the noteworthy success of a mature, controlled Michael Phelps seemed to have vanquished.
Struck hard, but not without hope and a cunning plan:
Elsewhere in the Olympics, an American woman — Abbey D’Agostino — showed that being a world-class athlete does not exclude being a world-class human being.
You may recall that, in a heat for the 5,000 meter race, D’Agostino was tripped up when the runner in front of her — New Zealander Nikki Hamblin — stumbled. The two stopped to help each other and hugged before they proceeded to the finish, Hamblin across the line uninjured, D’Agostino, hobbling to dead last and collapsing into a wheelchair. They hugged again and, the following day, D’Agostino, in the crowd, cheered her former rival.
D’Agostino could teach Lochte a thing or two (assuming he is teachable). She should focus on hugging, in which, by my unofficial count, our women took 85% of the American team’s golds, more or less mirroring their official count of almost 60% of the actual American gold haul.
You might think that, even with the best teachers, guys simply don’t have the hormonal wherewithal to be gold-medal huggers. You might believe that hugging is the culmination, not the beginning, of grueling, lifelong empathy-training.
You might, but you’d be wrong. Guys, if you’ve ever engaged a friend, or even a rival, in a genuine hug, you know the endorphin rush it produces, one that no manly handshake can ever equal. From hugging can come empathy. Call it reverse-engineering, but it works.
And there’s more than mere emotional gratification in being a gold-medal hugger. There’s also victory. Consider the contrast between the American women’s gold-medal victory, and the men’s humiliating disqualification, in their respective 4×100 meter relays.
Both teams had amazingly gifted athletes, with the best training. The sliver of difference may have been a crucial empathy deficit among the men. I can only speculate, but there clearly was a disconnect between the last two runners that might, if they had been in mental/emotional synch, have been avoided and at least have allowed them to finish the race, and almost certainly win at least the bronze that was stripped from them.
It isn’t ESP and it isn’t magic. Even Ryan Lochte may be teachable. Who better than Abbey D’Agostino to convince him that a hug is better than a shrug?!