This column is timed to the start of school, so all you students and teachers, looking for living lessons, realize the most fundamental ones are told daily right here on the sports pages.
Take swimmer Ryan Lochte’s story unraveling at the Rio Olympics. He went from a supposed robbery victim into an international clown defined by drunkenness, public urination, vandalism and sucking in teammates to his lie.
He was shamed everywhere. But every parent should say: Thank you, Ryan Lochte.
He became a classic, classroom role model in today’s chaotic world for a basic lesson in life: Be honest. Tell the truth. The full, uncomfortable truth. It’s always the best policy.
That’s one lesson. And here, boys and girls, are five more simple lessons culled from these very pages.
1. Be nice. When New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin fell in the Olympics’ 5,000-meter race, she tripped United States runner Abbey D’Agostino. D’Agostino helped Hamblin up. Then D’Agostino collapsed with a torn up knee. Hamblin stopped and helped D’Agostino across the finish line. They didn’t know each other. They lost the race. But the way they were cheered said they won, too.
2. Say you’re sorry – and mean it – when needed. The standard non-apology for athletes begins, “If I have offended anyone.” That’s weak sauce. Canadian announcer Elliotte Friedman showed how it’s done after misidentifying U.S. swimmer Michael Phelps during a race and saying he’d lost. “I’m sorry everyone,” he wrote on Twitter. “I blew it. No excuses.” He was praised for doing so. More importantly, he did right.
3. Words are powerful. Common sense, right? U.S. Olympic goalie Hope Solo said in losing to Sweden, “We played a bunch of cowards. The best team did not win today. I strongly, firmly, believe that.” That became her sorry legacy at the Olympics.
4. Dance like no one’s watching, but use social media like everyone is. Because they are. People like nothing better than to hoot at someone else’s misfortune. Ask Dolphins No. 1 draft pick Laremy Tunsil. He didn’t put the photo of him wearing a gas mask smoking pot in the Internet. But he had that picture on his phone. He had to answer for it once it was released. He became branded by it in a way everyone is by what goes out via social media, for better and worse.
5. Nothing lasts forever. Not good times (yes, kids, the Dolphins once were a winning franchise) or bad times (these years shall pass, Dolphins fans). Not youth. Not careers. Prepare accordingly.
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