A Thank You Note to Ryan Lochte

Dear Ryan,

You’ve taught us a lot of lessons this week; not the least of which is that it’s almost impossible to hide anything when you’re wearing a Speedo.

And while you’ve had your critics, you’re far from the only one who’s suffered a shameful incident in a gas station restroom — or felt the need to call your mother immediately after using one.

For these reasons alone, I’d argue that too many of us are being too hard on you, and I for one totally forgave your indiscretions the minute you pointed to your chest and said, “Me sorry?”

I choose to focus on the positives. First, no one ever remembers who comes in second place. But thanks to you, no one will ever forget who came in fifth. Second, Ryan Lochte was the one Olympic event not tape delayed on the West Coast. And third, you taught your teammates the answer to a couple important questions:

  1. How do I get to the Olympics? … Practice.
  2. How do I get home from the Olympics? … $11,000.

But here’s what I really want to thank you for: The story. For the past couple months, I’ve been syndicating a weekly best-of version of my NextDraft newsletter to Wired. I deliver my copy on Thursday afternoon, they publish Friday. It should be simple, but it hasn’t been. On almost every Friday morning in recent memory, I’ve gotten an email from my Wired editor asking me to add (or add more to) one item. And every week, it’s been a major, and majorly terrible, story that can sadly be identified by its city: Orlando, Nice, Dallas.

So I was worried this morning when I got one of those emails from the Wired editor asking me for more work. When I opened the email, however, I was pleasantly surprised to see he just wanted the latest on your Rio story. And I realized that during the course of this week, you’ve given the world a tremendous gift (beyond the green hair).

We’re so used to being inundated by upsetting stories (even our coverage of America’s public restrooms has been pretty depressing in 2016). And you’ve turned the tables in a way that Usain Bolt, Simone Biles, and the guy who got his dick caught on the Pole Vault crossbar just couldn’t seem to do.

Your story had it all: International intrigue, drunkenness, vandalism, people being removed from international flights about to take off, public urination. And, like all great comedy, it tapped into something real and personal for so many of us (as a lifelong sufferer of IBS, I’ve kicked down more public restroom doors in a panicked rage than I care to remember).

You not only gave us a break from the usual bad news, you also gave our dinner parties a break from the endless conversations about Trump and the presidential election. I walked into my sister’s house the other night and someone said, “Oh my god, is that Ryan Lochte an idiot or what?”

And I said, “Yes! I love that guy!”

And for what you’ve done for me this week, I really do.

Dave Pell writes NextDraft. You should read it.