The Alternate Reality of Ryan Lochte

by Casey Barrett

Who’s missing from the less than real life of “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” Only most of the folks responsible for his success as a swimmer… 

Did you watch the premier? If so, I’m betting you tuned in with a similar mix of dread and curious amusement and perhaps some smug schadenfreude. That seemed to be the general consensus going in. With that cringe-worthy promo and the viral video of those Fox news anchors cracking up at Lochte’s expense post-interview… Which isn’t to say that interview wasn’t funny, in a sweet-Jesus-where-is-his-media-coach? sort of way. But by the time the show actually aired last night, it seems safe to say the swimming world was ready for an uncomfortable train wreck.

But was it? I can’t name a single reality show I’ve ever watched with any interest or regularity, so I’m the wrong person to rate it. Maybe it will catch with an inexplicable Kardashian-ness, or maybe it will produce a collective yawn from viewers needing more than Lochte’s frequently shirtless torso and ever twinkling eyes. All I can say is that I watched a show starring a sweet and simple man who will always do right by his friends and family. I don’t find that particularly compelling, but then watching that entire reality genre has always felt like leeches were attached to my scalp, sucking away brain cells in soulless swallows.

Yet, from a swimmer’s perspective, there was something very interesting about the show: who was missing. In a show reputedly about Lochte’s orbit of play hard, train hard priorities, there are some glaring discrepancies. Maybe all of Lochte’s play pals signed up to star alongside their famous friend, but the inner circle behind his training – the ones really responsible for making him successful enough for his own show, they’re nowhere to be seen.

You won’t find Coach Gregg Troy anywhere on this show. Despite the fact that, outside of Locthe’s parents, he’s been the most influential reality in Ryan’s life for the last decade. You won’t find Coach Troy’s wise lieutenants, Martyn Wilby and Anthony Nesty, on any episode either. Two coaches who’ve been on hand every step of the way in Lochte’s rise. The “coach” you will find on this show is identified only as “Mike” – a young not exactly authoritative looking coach on deck. Who the hell was that? According to a Gators source, that was a (soon-to-be ex) volunteer assistant with Florida.

So, yeah, the actual swimming side of  “What Would Ryan Lochte Do?” could not be less real – or apparently, less of a priority. Fair enough, I guess; who wants to watch a swimmer, any swimmer, slog through the monotony of training that is every elite athlete’s actual life?

Here’s someone else who was missing from the premier: Ryan’s father, Steve Lochte, the man who also coached his son through high school in Daytona. No telling if he will appear in future episodes, or if the Lochte family story line will be limited just to his mom and two sisters, but for swimmers, cutting out his coach dad feels like another glaring omission. One of my principle memories of the 2008 Games in Beijing was that moment after Lochte’s national anthem, after winning his first individual Olympic gold, in the 200 back. As he stepped from the podium and began his victory march around the deck, he spotted his family in the stands and climbed up to embrace them. He reached his dad first. Caught live on NBC cameras for the world to see was a teary eyed father hugging his boy. Clear as can be, he said, “I’m so proud of you son.”

Now that’s reality.