Ryan Lochte: Why Are People So Mean to the Olympic Cutie?

Maybe it's the grill. Maybe it's the jeah. But the media loves to hate America's second-best male swimmer

By Leslie Gornstein Aug 08, 2012 1:00 PMTags
Ryan LochteClive Rose/Getty Images

Why are people so mean to Ryan Lochte? He's so cute and fun!
—Kermit, via the inbox

Sure, he's cute. And tooth grills designed by Paul Wall are always superfun, you guys! But in the world of sports media and marketing, Lochte's swagga is not going over well. And that's despite a face that could, potentially, sell a million boxes of Wheaties.

So what is the world's problem with the guy? I drilled down for ya.

Let's start with how Lochte presents himself. We're talking about a man who is 28, drives his Range Rover with one knee, owns a grill designed by Paul Wall, confirms that he pees in pools, claims "Jeah!" as his signature expression, owns 130 pairs of shoes, and wears shirts that say stuff like, "I Heart Breast...Stroke."

He's also publicly stated his regret at having a girlfriend during the last Olympic games ("big mistake") and compared his style to that of rock stars.

Oh: And his mom once said that her son "only goes out on one-night stands." The family has been backpedaling ever since; Lochte now says he wants a girlfriend (#jeah!), but come on. He totally only goes out on one-night stands.

"So sexy," Salon recently said of Lochte. "So dumb." And Jezebel has pretty much summed up Lochte with a single word: douche.

Oh, come on, really, people, what's not to like about the guy?

"I think the media is just calling out what they see," sports publicist Gail Sideman tells me. "He's been flashy and braggadocious."

Lochte has also committed another major sin, at least, in the relatively humble world of swimming: He has, Sideman tells me, stepped to Michael Phelps in interviews, or at least, given that impression once or twice. And that's a no-no in a sport where, she says, performance is more important than flash.

"And then I just saw Phelps being interviewed by Matt Lauer," she observes. "And he said he would rather let his swimming do the talking. And that's the most acceptable way one can answer such a question and not be criticized."

Lochte's face is already making the rounds on magazines, but don't be shocked if he has trouble landing Phelps-level endorsement deals.

"Parents are not going to encourage kids to be fans of Lochte if he's sleeping around," Sideman points out. "And companies won't want to hire him if he's always going to be in the tabloids."

Unless Lochte wants to start his own line of grills?